Changes to liquor act won't open more beer taps 0
Delirium Tremens has spread in popularity throughout Canada. Keg sales increased by nearly 50% in 2011. It is available in bottles in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In Ontario, it is only available on tap. (Supplied)
With the recent changes to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, it’s an excellent time to reflect on some of the difficulties that the new amendment will face.
Essentially, wine may be brought or shipped to another province for personal consumption. The caveat here is that while this interprovincial transit is now possible, it is only allowable at the discretion of the province into which the wine is being imported.
To sum up: federal law says it’s OK, but your province might decide it’s not.
The real difficulty here is that Canada is an extraordinarily large country. It may not seem that way conceptually, but you’ll change your tune if you try walking across it. In practice, the provincial agencies in charge of the regulation of liquor all have different sets of laws that have developed over the course of decades. In addition to the laws which have been set out, it’s important to remember that even though these are government agencies, they all possess a distinct corporate culture. It’s a case of divergent evolution.
Allow me to use an illustrative example.
The Huyghe Brewery in Melle, Belgium makes a universally popular beer called Delirium Tremens.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the beer, it falls into the Belgian Strong Ale category. It pours a pale golden colour with a copious bone white head. It comes up to about 8.5% alcohol and gives off aromas of apple, pear and banana due to the three separate yeast strains that are involved in its fermentation and conditioning. It’s fairly sweet on the palate with some pronounced tropical fruit notes and a small amount of boozy heat and a dry, spicy, lingering finish. It has periodically been suggested as the best beer in the world.
Delirium Tremens has spread in popularity throughout Canada. Keg sales increased by nearly 50% in 2011. It is available in bottles in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In Ontario, it is only available on tap.
The reason for this is not specifically a legal one. According to Chris Layton of the LCBO, the agency is entirely aware of the regard in which the beer is held.
“However, as an agency of the provincial government that is mandated to promote social responsibility and encourage moderate consumption, it would be sending a very contradictory message to offer a beer with the name Delirium Tremens,” Layton says.
Delirium Tremens is, somewhat unfortunately for Ontario residents, named after a medical condition periodically experienced by those going through the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. It can manifest in seizures, tremors and hallucinations. The little pink elephants on the label are a dead giveaway.
“The last thing the LCBO in its capacity as a promoter of responsible consumption would want to do is to be insensitive or be seen to be making fun of a serious alcohol-related medical condition,” Layton says.
Ultimately, while I don’t agree with the decision not to shelve Delirium Tremens in Ontario, I will concede that it is probably, at the very least, the result of a well intentioned policy. Its presence on shelves does not seem to have greatly upset people in other provinces. In some ways it’s a very silly problem, especially since Ontarians can enjoy it on tap.
My point in telling you this is that while it may now be theoretically legal to ship wine from one province to another, the practice will be determined by a number of separate agencies whose methods and scale and whose laws and corporate culture differ greatly. All of these factors will effect the adoption of the amendment.
People have suggested that the interprovincial shipping of beer should have been included in the amendment. For once, I’m entirely content to let the wine people go first and discover the pitfalls so we can revisit the issue later with more information.