Alcohol reforms mean better access to local craft beer

Taras Manzie
President and CEO
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company

Locally-made craft beer is a reflection of where it comes from. Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is proudly Ontario’s northernmost brewery. Our brewing heritage is born out of the very place that we call home, right here on the northern shores of Lake of the Woods.
We employ 66 permanent, full-time and part-time staff: providing living wages, benefits, and company matched contributions for retirement plans.
In the busy, summer months and at the height of tourism season in cottage country, across rural and remote northwestern Ontario, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company employs more than 125 people in all sectors: hospitality, food and beverage, tourism, marketing, finance, retail, manufacturing, brewing, shipping, transportation, and community development.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is committed to fresh, local, handcrafted beer.
We are proud of our local brewing heritage and pay homage to the great people of the north that made Lake of the Woods beer, and to those that drank it.
People in these parts have been supporting the local beer scene since 1898.
Today, the brewers at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company use the same simple ingredients used by the local brewers of the past–fresh, Canadian Shield water, malt, yeast, and hops. That’s it.
We are not alone. Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is a member of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association and we are a part of a greater community of craft breweries, expanding from only a handful in 2003, to almost 300 today, in communities large and small right across the province.
Today these breweries employ over 2,200 people with quality, local jobs in communities across Ontario, especially in rural and northern Ontario. These locally-owned craft breweries account for 1 out of every 3 brewery jobs in the province.
These local businesses have generated over 9,000 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.
All told, Ontario’s craft beer sector is generating almost $2 billion in economic growth each year for communities just 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 TBS is only two percent of total sales, yet it has grown to 13 percent at the LCBO, and over 15 percent in the new, but limited grocery outlets.
It shows what can happen when consumers are given a proper shopping environment.
That’s why we are thrilled that the Ford government is working 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 also allow Ontario’s craft beer industry to grow and reach its true potential, equal to other jurisdictions like British Columbia and Alberta.
Opening up the alcohol system is long overdue and would allow Ontario’s consumers, rather than foreign-owned monopolies, to choose what they want to drink.
These changes are good news for the people; providing more choice and convenience for consumers.
But they also mean helping our locally-owned breweries grow, create more jobs, more investment, more tourism, and even more spin-off economic growth throughout the communities we call home.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is poised and ready to take full advantage of a more open and accessible market. On March 28, Minister Greg Rickford (Kenora-Rainy River MPP) announced a $1,000,000 financial contribution from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, supporting Lake of the Woods Brewing Company’s business expansion and the construction of a big brewery in Kenora.
With a $400,000 grant and a $600,000 repayable loan, Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is one step closer to opening a state-of-the-art LEED certified brewing facility in Kenora, bringing even more jobs and a stronger economy to the Lake of the Woods region.
With progressive government action leading to competitive and open markets–there is a strong signal to local, SMEs that Ontario is definitely open for business!