Ontario craft beer brewers launch campaign for less red tape, bigger market share

The campaign by Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), dubbed “Great Beer. Better Access,” is encouraging fans of craft beer to participate in the province’s consultation on private retail sales as it looks to expand alcohol access beyond the LCBO and The Beer Store.

The province’s consultation period wraps Feb. 1.

“The current framework is limiting the natural growth of craft beer,” said OCB president Scott Simmons.

OCB, which represents about 95 of the province’s 270 small-scale brewers, wants the province to reduce red tape that the group says is hampering their ability to expand.

CBC Toronto reached out to the minister of finance for comment, but has not received a response.

Currently, craft breweries can have a maximum of two retail locations, but an indefinite number of production facilities.

“We’re maxed out,” said Dustin Jones, who founded Blood Brothers Brewing in Toronto with his brother in 2015.

Last year, the company produced 350,000 litres of beer, which, according to Jones, is a small operation. Blood Brothers sells online and in Toronto bars, but the limit in retail outlets is a consideration for them.

Jones, who is not a member of OCB, is hoping the province will consider other retail models.

‘It’s just far too cumbersome’

“We would love to see … specialty shops in Ontario,” he said.

Craft beer accounts for eight per cent of all beer sales in Ontario, according to Simmons.

He thinks that number could more than double if breweries didn’t have to deal with multiple ministries or apply for various licences. Right now, craft breweries have to apply for special licences to sell at farmers markets, a process that doesn’t apply to those selling craft wine or ciders.

“It’s just far too cumbersome,” Simmons said.

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