A Note from Chris
Good Beer is Worth More Than a Buck
So, what exactly is the buck-a-beer challenge? A simple answer, with a somewhat complicated outcome. In a nutshell, the Ontario government has lowered the minimum price that beer is allowed to be sold for and have challenged breweries to sell beer for as low as $1 per bottle/can. This has created a great deal of “buzz” in Ontario (pun most certainly intended), or has it? Well, in Ford’s campaign, it was a huge deal, and this resulted in proportionate coverage from mainstream media, responses from breweries and questions from the public.
The result of the challenge though? In my opinion, it appears to have fallen flat. So why is that?
Let’s start with our stance on the matter. Below is a social media message that we issued after getting questioned as to whether or not we were going to participate in the challenge by many of our followers/media outlets.
One thing I want to be clear about is that we don’t take a hostile stance toward this program/challenge. The Ontario government has been a big supporter of Ontario Craft Beer and the breweries in the province. WBC and the OCB hope to continue working with them to remove barriers within the province and ultimately benefit the consumer as much as possible (sorry if I didn’t phrase that right OCB, I tried).
I cannot comment for all breweries, and I don’t attempt to. However, I am confident that many share similar values to ours. Our brand rests on the pillars of high quality, locally sourced, and traditionally brewed beer, providing a safe, sustainable, and fun place of work for our staff, supporting the local communities and reducing our environmental impact. These values are not conducive to the budget or low price market space. We position ourselves as a premium craft beer/brewery and believe we provide that. We already make incredibly minimal margins (if any) on our beer, and if we were to sell ALL of our product for only a dollar per unit, we would be out of business within a month. The fact is that costs for breweries have been increasing at an accelerated rate. These costs include, but are by no means limited to, Ontario beer taxes which increase every six months. Taxes alone for a can of beer are approximately 50 cents.
What many people do not realise is that previously the price floor was only 25 cents higher (CHECK THIS). As you probably all know, we did not try to sell our beer for that price, and our pricing was in line with what we hope you believe the quality of our product is. What I find quite amusing is that there weren’t any products sold for $1.25, with the closest being approximately $1.47 (check this). So, if nobody was trying to sell for as cheaply as possible before, why lower the price now?
One argument is to encourage breweries to provide beer for a lower price to benefit the consumer. A proposed incentive to breweries for lowering the cost of beer is offering advertising space in return for accepting the buck-a-beer challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, beer at a lower price is excellent all round – as long as its sustainable.
Another argument is that it’s telling the population what they ‘might’ want to hear to attract votes. I couldn’t comment with certainty over this; however, considering that nobody sold at the previous price floor and that nothing was done to help reduce the cost to produce beer, I certainly think this argument has some validity.
So here we are, a couple of days before the Labour Day Weekend and a few brands have gone live with “buck-a-beer” compliant products, albeit only for a limited time. Why is that? In my opinion, because it’s not sustainable, even for the biggest of breweries.
Has this challenge harmed anyone or caused reason for real complaint? I don’t think in a significant way. For us, it really is a moot point. I’m only commenting because we get asked a lot, and I also find the discussion interesting. It does pose the question as to whether it encourages underage drinking, binge drinking and alcoholism as well as whether it is a diversion away from a more pressing political agenda. These are all topics worthy of considerable discussion.
I’m very interested to see how the new Ontario government continues to work toward benefitting the beer consumer with future initiatives, and if they make sense for our business, they’ll have our full support.
I’ll finish by commenting on a slightly different topic that arose due to our non-commitment to the “buck-a-beer challenge”. We, and other craft brewers, were recently accused of accepting government handouts while not taking the new government up on the challenge mentioned above. My feedback to this is short and straightforward. All of the government funding that we have received is calculated based on economic impact and is often only a percentage of the dollar value that we have to put forward to secure the funding. The support from the government has been fantastic on these projects, and they have resulted in significant job creation and other economic benefits.
I’m always interested in any questions, comments, alternative viewpoints etc. so please feel free to respond.
Annual Staff Day
The brewery and pub will be closed Tuesday, September 4th at both Riverside and Lakeside to give ourselves a little time to rest, relax, and get tossed around by the Ottawa River. We would like to thank our staff for another amazing and busy Summer. Cheers!
Dry Hopping: What is all the fuss about?
By Head Brewer Sean
With astrolabe showing strong sales, I’d like to talk about my decision to not dry hop this beer. That’s right. No dry hopping with all that aroma still there. First, let’s delve into what dry hopping is and why brewers do it.
Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to beer post fermentation. Sometimes people will add them during fermentation and some will wait until it is done. The reason for adding hops at this juncture is to add aroma (and some small flavour) to the beer. This will get it to another level of hoppy greatness… but does it?
Most brewers will tell you that dry hopping is essential to their IPAs and APAs. I however, am of the opposite opinion. With oxygen level being the biggest factor in aroma and flavour degradation, why would you want to add any when you have a nice closed system keeping it all out? I think this is just an old school way of thinking of hopping. I’m sure some brewers will think otherwise but I base my opinion on trial and error. I’ve always gotten better flavour with adding more hops to the end of the boil than I do adding them post ferment.
This is what I do for Astrolabe. I add a lot of hops to the whirlpool to get all the flavour and aroma for this beer. And it works perfectly.
Anybody out there feel differently? Do you feel dry hopping is essential to making an aromatic beer? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Cooking with Beer
Astrolabe Mango Chicken
By Chef Paddy
Best Paired with Astrolabe Session IPA
Astrolabe BBQ Sauce
½ cup of tomato paste
½ cup of white vinegar
½ cup of corn syrup
½ cup of astrolabe IPA or your favorite ale, lager or stout
½ cup of mango juice
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tbsp. of smoked paprika
1 tbsp. of chili powder
1 ½ of garlic powder
2 tbsps. of onion powder
1 ½ tbsps. of kosher salt
2 tbsps. of soy sauce
1 cup of pureed mango
2 tbsps. of corn starch
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pot, whisk.
Bring to a simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 min.
Let stand to cool.
Chicken, Brussel Sprouts, and potatoes
1 red onion
2-5oz chicken breasts
1 lb. of baby red potatoes
1 lb. of brussels sprouts
2 tbsp. of salted butter
1/2 bunch of cilantro
3-4 garlic cloves (chopped)
2 sprigs of rosemary (chapped)
3 tbsps. of vegetable oil
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.
Slice mangos, onions and avocado into thin strips and set aside.
Slice potatoes into halves. In a mixing bowl, toss potatoes in vegetable oil, garlic, rosemary and salt & pepper.
Place on a lined baking sheet, bake for 20-25 min.
Cut brussels sprouts into halves. In a medium sauce pot, boil 2L of water, cook sprouts for 4-5 min or until tender. Strain and set aside.
Preheat your grill/BBQ to 400F.
Cook chicken breast to about halfway (internal temperature 100F) and coat with astrolabe BBQ sauce, turning and saucing every 2-3 min until an internal temperature of 168F is reached.
Grill brussels sprouts for 2-3 min on each side, toss in butter and salt & pepper.
Place sprouts, potatoes and chicken on a plate, cover with slices of avocado, red onion, and mangos. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Serves 2-3 people.