Canadians Flock to Buffalo, NY for Better Beer

Wednesday The Buffalo News published an article titled “They’re here for the beer” which addressed the growing phenomenon of Canadians “tourists” visiting our fair city for better beer.

Canadians in the Blue Monk in Buffalo

Writer Andrew Z. Galarneau tells of a bus trip that was organized to bring more than 50 Ontario beer lovers to The Blue Monk, our new Belgian beer bar/restaurant on Elmwood Avenue.

Cass Enright, an advertising executive who maintains (an Ontario beer guide) explained that the stringent Ontario regulations have left many beer enthusiasts parched for new beer experiences. “It’s probably the most talked-about top on my Web site: The ongoing challenges Ontario drinkers have to get the beers they want to drink. The yardstick is always Buffalo, because it’s only 90 minutes away.”

They come to browse a selection of hundreds of kinds of beer. The extensive selection is made possible by the explosive growth of the craft beer industry in recent years. It’s crazy that Toronto, although multiples times the size of Buffalo, only has a fraction of the selection.

So why can’t Canadians get the beer they want? It’s because there are really only two retailers. The government’s Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) outlets and The Beer Store (which is conveniently run by the large beer companies Molson, Labatt and Sleeman.) Although brewers can approach the Beer Store for shelf space, the entry price is often too steep for small American companies. The LCBO makes it difficult for American brewers to meet their requirements and it’s next to impossible for short-run seasonal beers to ever make it onto the shelves, seeing as they have to be submitted for inclusion a year before they’d appear on shelves. Labels have to be printed in French and English. The process of making it onto the shelf is long and tedious, one that most small craft brewers can’t afford.

Enright lamented, “Right now the only (American) craft beer you can regularly get at the LCBO are Brooklyn Lager, Sam Adams, Southern Tier IPA and Anchor Steam.”

Poor Canadians.

Troy Burtch, the director of sales and marketing for Taps (Canada’s beer magazine) explained “Right now, America, in beer circles is considered one of the best if not the best brewing nation – certainly the most experimental.”

Harry Heatherington, a network administrator from Toronto claims that he’s spent a lot of money on beer in Buffalo in the last five years. Five figures worth, in fact. He even has to rent a car to make the trip.

Personally, I think it’s unfortunate that these guys (and gals) have to go to such extremes to enjoy the great craft beer selection that I take for granted. Until they’re able to reform the way the beer business functions, they’re always welcome here. The more beer lovers hanging out in our town, the better.


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