Local brewers question Ontario pricing strategy for beer. (Contributed)

Local brewers question Ontario pricing strategy for beer. (Contributed)

Ridge breweries don’t support ‘buck a beer’

New Ontario premier announces new minimum price for beer

The newly elected premier of Ontario’s promise to drop the minimum price of a bottle of beer to one buck, is just raising eyebrows in this part of the country.

On Aug. 7, Premier Doug Ford announced he was bringing back, “Buck a Beer” – changing the minimum price set by the province there from $1.25, to $1, effective Aug. 27. The news release making the announcement doesn’t say if that price is for a can or bottle of beer.

Michael Kirkland, brewmaster with Ridge Brewing Co. on Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge, said brewers couldn’t make any money selling their product at that price. Only the big multi-national breweries would be able to offer such a price, he added. By contrast, a four-pack of craft beer can sell for $14, he added.

“It’s just a political game, really.”

Kevin Fulton, at Silver Valley Brewing, in downtown Maple Ridge, agreed, only huge scales would allow selling beer at such a low price.

“You’d have to be very big. Your production size would have to be extremely large, bigger than most craft breweries.”

Nevertheless, in B.C., the minimum retail price for a 341-ml bottle of beer isn’t far off from the new rock-bottom Ontario price. In B.C., the minimum price for a bottle is currently $1.09, or $6.53 for a six-pack.

Jeff Guignard, executive-director with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said the cheapest price he can find is Pacific Western Iron Horse, which sells for $7.29 for a six-pack, or a $1.21 a bottle.

Minimum pricing is established to ensure booze isn’t being sold at rock-bottom prices to the detriment of the general population.

Guignard questions the Ontario strategy as well.

Consumers in B.C. are not asking for cheap beer either, he said.

“There’s no massive push by consumers to get it to a buck a beer.”

Trying to get the minimum price to a $1 bottle makes no sense and doesn’t recognize the realities of beer production, he added.

“There’s not a large segment out there that is necessarily going to be buying exclusively the value brand.”

“It’s not something we would in any support … just because it cuts profitability for everybody … it’s a lower quality product for consumers, which I don’t think they want.”

He noted that craft beer now occupies 25 per cent of the market.

Despite the craft-beer craze, Budweiser, in all its variations, is still the most popular beer in B.C., with 18 per cent of the market, he added.

And Lucky Lager is the most popular beer on Vancouver Island, he added.