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Local brewery not buying into buck-a-beer

Thunder Bay's Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. won't budge after the Progressive Conservatives rolled out their plan for lowering the minimum rate of beer prices to $1 on Tuesday.
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Matt Pearson
Matt Pearson, co-owner of Sleeping Giant brewing Co., isn't taking part in Premier Doug Ford's new buck-a-beer initiative. (Michael Charlebois, tbnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY - One of Premier Doug Ford’s most popular campaign promises is coming just in time for the Labour Day weekend.

Starting on Aug. 27, buck-a-beer will return to Ontario, making it legal for breweries to sell a bottle or can of beer for $1. The previous floor rate of $1.25 was installed by the Liberal government in 2008.

The prospect of buck-a-beer has been on the radar of Matt Pearson, co-owner of local craft brewery Sleeping Giant Brewing Co., for a few months.

While other craft breweries in Southern Ontario have expressed worry over the government initiative, Pearson isn’t necessarily concerned.

“Minimum pricing on beer is nothing new,” he said. “We’re not going to see any impact I don’t think.”

Under the new legislature, brewers are not required to charge less for their beer, but are being encouraged by the provincial government. Ford announced on Tuesday that he’s rewarding those who lower their price before Labour Day with LCBO promotions and advertising advantages.

Pearson explained how the costs associated with producing craft beer won’t leave any wiggle room for Sleeping Giant, or other craft brewers, to drop the price.

“[The price] reflects the effort, time, and ingredients that goes into those things,” he said. “You won’t see a craft brewer go after a dollar-beer market. That’s typically not our consumer.”

A can of Northern Logger, Sleeping Giant's flagship beer, sells for $3.05.

Sleeping Giant, like other Ontario craft breweries such as Kenora's Lake of the Woods and Toronto-based Steam Whistle, have announced they won’t take part.

“Will buck-a-beer impact the industry? For sure," Pearson said. "Will it change what we do on a day-in, day-out basis? No.”

Public finance economist Greg Flanagan said although some craft breweries may feel a pinch if large breweries lower their prices, it may not impact the industry on a larger scale.

“Given the costs of production, and level of taxes, it’s doubtful that the $1 limit will have any major effect,” said Flanagan, who studies at the University of Alberta.

“I doubt it will have any impact at all other than maybe a political statement for the government moving toward freer access.”

Craft breweries in Ontario have enjoyed a large spike in sales over the last five years, from $210 million in 2012, to $370 million in 2017, per statista.com.

Pearson believes his brewery has carved out a market in Northern Ontario, and that they will continue to support local.

“If you’re used to drinking higher-quality beer, it’s hard to go back,” he said. “If us as a craft industry keeps trying to improve and challenge the palates of drinkers out there, and educating the people on what actual beer, our market will grow.




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