Buck-a-beer a Bust: Ontario craft brewers reject Ford’s challenge

Surrounded by towering stainless steel brewing tanks and flanked by cabinet minsters Vic Fedeli and Todd Smith at Prince Edward County’s Barley Days Brewery, Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday that his government is lowering the minimum cost for cans and bottles of beer to $1 from $1.25, fulfilling an oft-criticized campaign pledge.

Technically, Ford’s new catchphrase is intact: it’s a promise made, promise kept. But despite the craft-friendly optics, and Barley Days enthusiastic support, several Ontario craft breweries, on whom Ford is counting on to make his promise a pocketbook reality, have come out against the challenge, saying its financially unfeasible and poorly thought out.

Ottawa-based Dominion City Brewing Co. responded with its own buck-a-beer challenge: Instead of attempting to sell beer for a buck, it intends to donate $1 of every sale to help aid refugee resettlement in Canada.

No tax incentives or subsidies are included as part of the scheme, however, Ford said he plans to provide participating breweries either partially or wholly discounted promotions in the form of aisle-end displays, extended shelving and advertisements at the LCBO. According to the media kit for its Food and Drink magazine, single advertisements run from $11,720 for a one-third page ad up to $45,708 for a double-page spread inside the front cover. According to the LCBO’s business website, aisle end displays cost from $105 to $310 per display per store, and extenders cost $53 to $76 per extension per store.

Despite the generous help Ford promised toward marketing their products, the $1 floor is likely still too low for most breweries (none of which were selling beer at $1.25). A recent Toronto Star report pegged the minimum possible cost of producing a can of beer at $1.39, which only includes the ingredients, labour, packaging, taxes and cost to clean the tanks afterwards.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Barley Days remains the sole brewery to take up the challenge (and even they’ve only committed to it for a limited time).

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