To The Editor,

In 2006, Beau’s served its first pint of Lug Tread, a beer we called Eastern Ontario’s own.

We are proud to call this region home, proud to employ 150 local people full time, and proud of the award-winning organic craft beer we brew. We are dedicated to making the best-tasting beer possible and it being certified organic.

Over the past 12 years we have seen craft beer drinkers support this commitment, and we have happily witnessed the number of Ontario craft breweries grow from only a handful to almost 300, in communities large and small right across the province.

Today, these breweries now employ more than 2,200 people, in good-quality jobs, close to their homes. This is especially impactful in rural and northern areas of the province. These locally owned craft breweries account for 1 out of every 3 brewery jobs in the province.

Like Beau’s, these local breweries generate additional, indirect jobs through increased tourism, new restaurants, reclaiming historic sites as new breweries, supporting local festivals, as well as manufacturing, packaging, construction and agricultural sector jobs through a commitment to sourcing local products. The number of those indirect jobs is approximately 9,000.

All told, Ontario’s craft beer sector is generating almost $2 billion in economic growth each year for communities like ours. This has happened in an environment where the current retail model has limited people’s ability to find, try and experience the outstanding local craft beer brewed right here at home. Ontario craft beer share at The Beer Store is only 2% of total sales, yet it has grown to 13% at the LCBO, and is up over 15% in the new, but limited grocery outlets. It shows what can happen when consumers are given a proper shopping experience.

That’s why we are optimistic about the Ford government promise to expand consumer choice in Ontario’s alcohol retailing system by making it available in more places. This would mean craft beer lovers would have more access and choice to locally made craft beer on more local shelves. It would be exciting to see Ontario’s craft beer industry grow and reach its true potential.

Opening up the alcohol system is long overdue and if done right, would allow Ontario’s consumers, rather than foreign-owned monopolies, to choose what they want to drink. It will be vitally important that any changes made are done with care to ensure a fair competitive market, and with care taken to protect our fledgling industry. We are also hopeful that these changes will consider areas that craft beer has long been kept from, such as sports stadiums.

Beau’s has been a long-time advocate for changes to the alcohol system that provide more choice and convenience for our customers. These changes should also help the locally owned breweries craft breweries of Ontario take root and grow, creating more jobs, more investment, more tourism, and even more spin-off economic growth throughout the communities we call home.

Steve Beauchesne, co-founder and CEO of Beau’s Brewing Co.