Beer on a Budget

I just got back from the LCBO - one of the government owned liquor stores here in Ontario. A buddy of mine was over earlier today to pick up some stuff I had for him, and he very generously pushed 10 bucks into my hand with a stern warning that it only be spent on beer. Being unemployed with a $0 budget for beer, I was very happy to take his money, and as soon as my wife awoke from her nap I went off to oblige him!

Generally speaking aside from on-site at a brewery, you can buy beer in Ontario either at the LCBO - the government store, or at Brewers' Retail (a.k.a. The Beer Store), which is owned jointly by the big 3 - Molson (Coors), Labatt (Interbrew), and Sleeman (Sapporo). Where I go depends on what I'm looking for. In the old days it used to be pretty cut-and-dried - the LCBO for imports, and the The Beer Store for domestic. But this is not the case anymore since there is now lots of cross-over.

Generally speaking the LCBO does have more imports than The Beer Store, and the Beer Store does have more domestic brands. Mainly megaswill, but it also has a very good selection of craft-brewed Ontario beers. But the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario, in case you were wondering) sells singles, and the Beer Store does not anymore - the one near me used to when I first moved into this house 8 years ago, but stopped shortly thereafter. Actually that is not quite true since they do sell singles of some imports, but not domestics. And I wanted to stick strictly to my $0 beer budget, and knew there was no way in heck I'd ever get a six-pack of domestic for $10, so I figured my best choice was to go to the LCBO.

I knew that roughly speaking I'd be able to get 4 beer for $10. Wow, it was tough choosing! I suppose I could have gone for 3 of the top premium beers, but I knew I'd still be able to get 3 good ones and a so-so for $10. But still it took me about 15 minutes of meandering to decide. During this time one of the employees tried to "help" me. I usually go one of 2 ways when this happens, given that I almost certainly know far more about the beers on the shelves than any of their employees ever will : either, (1) play along out of a combination of politeness and morbid curiosity to see what gems of beer knowledge they might lay on me, or (2) brush them off and ignore them. I was feeling more in the latter mood today, mainly I guess because I was somewhat embarrassed to admit that my main goal was to stick within my $10 budget :-) It was some tough juggling, but I did it.

There was a 6 pack of Waterloo Dark that had been cracked open, and 2 bottles removed. I know that the LCBO does not really allow this (anymore), so I didn't even bother asking if I could buy some of the remaining 4 beers, even though this is one of my all-time favorite beers which in turn is one of the key reasons I bought a few thousand dollars in stock in the company a few years ago. I just did not feel like having that argument with an employee. Even though I usually prefer to support Ontario Micros rather than imports or the megaswill.

Here is what I eventually went with. Hockley Dark in the can, at $2.65. This was a very easy choice - a wonderful beer that reminds me a lot of the aforementioned Waterloo Dark. And brewed in Ontario. It has been a while since I've had one, but I seem to recall it being sort of a lighter Porter. Right next to it on the shelf was Neustadt 10W30 - another darker beer that I'd never actually tried before. So a fairly easy choice as well, given that it is brewed in Ontario, too. A number of summers ago the Neustadt Pilsener used to be a mainstay of mine the odd time I bought beer, and I'd heard a lot of good buzz about 10W30, no pun intended. But now I was at $5.30 so had to find some cheaper beers to fill out the bill.

I noticed that Bass was $2.40 a can, so it was a fairly easy choice. It is the only remaining original example of a Pale Ale. i.e. the only one still being brewed today, that was brewed when the Pale Ale style originated some 150 years ago. I am sometimes disappointed with Bass, but it has been some time since I've had one so I figured I was due. Now I had $2.30 left to find something else. There were a fair number of beers in this range, of course, but not many that I really wanted to drink. I settled for Tiger because I don't think I'd ever had one, and am pretty sure it is a good solid Pilsener style beer, if pretty mainstream.

So $9.90 later and I am out the door, headed home to chill my pressies! I'll report back later as I drink them.