Suds shakeup

Andrew Robinson
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New brews may replace delisted brands at NLC

Vicki Colbourne, category manager for spirits and beers for the Newfoundland Liquor Corp. displays import beers at the Kelsey Drive, St. John’s, location.  — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Passing through the beer cooler at a local Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) outlet, people craving a particular Alberta microbrewery product or a Mexican-brewed cerveza that’s not called Corona might find themselves out of luck.

That’s because NLC is revamping its beer stock. It’s an annual task for the NLC and Vicki Colbourne, the category manager for spirits, beer and ready-to-drink with the provincial Crown corporation.

“We do delist some brands, depending on if they’re slow sellers or not moving, and then we also bring in new (beverages),” said Colbourne.

If you have a taste for something different you can soon look forward to beers selected with the fall season in mind. They will be sold at NLC outlets as part of a one-time order.

Two varieties produced by Alberta brewer Big Rock will soon vanish from the Newfoundland and Labrador market. The current stock of Grasshopper Wheat Ale and Traditional Ale was dwindling as of Friday, with fewer than 20 12-packs of each left provincewide according to the NLC.

Other brands soon to be or already removed from store shelves include Holsten, Sol and DAB.

Colbourne said in some cases, suppliers elected to delist brands. Given the province’s small population, a supplier may choose to do so if the NLC is ordering small quantities of an certain brand.

“It becomes not worth their while to pack it and ship it to Newfoundland,” said Colbourne.

Fans of Big Rock may be surprised to see it leave local shelves given the strong labour market connections between Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta.


But Colbourne said slow sales were a factor in delisting that brand.

“It wasn’t selling very well here, to be honest,” she said. “It was among our lower sellers.”

Colbourne said the perishable nature of beer can make slow sales problematic for NLC.

“Sometimes there’s minimum order quantities, so we might have to order a pallet of product, and it might only be good for six months, and we know that a pallet of product is two years’ worth of inventory (based on past sales). Obviously it’s not viable to bring that in, because we’re going to be left with a year-and-a-half’s inventory that we’re going to have to get rid of, basically, at the cost to NLC.”


New brews

For the fall, NLC is rolling out several brews new to the provincial market — some are available now in select stores.

“In there you’ll see a lot of wheat beers and harvest ales,” said Colbourne, adding some are strictly seasonal products.”

Any brands that tend to do really well and get a lot of hype around them, we’ll look to bring them in throughout the year on a consistent basis.”

Fans of dark beer may gravitate towards Scottish brewer Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil Porter, described by the company as having a chocolately taste balanced by “a hoppy bitterness.”

Two pumpkin ales will be available for those craving a taste of autumn. Howe Sound Brewing’s Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale comes from British Columbia in a one-litre bottle (it’s scheduled for a mid-October release). Mill Street from Toronto is selling its Pumpkin Ale as half of a fall six-pack sampler that will also include its Oktoberfest Lager. The sampler pack is due later this month.

Vermont microbrewery Magic Hat’s #9 is refered to as a “not quite pale ale” by the company. While that brand is new to the province, others are not. Innis & Gunn, Wytchwood Brewery, Krombacher and Faxe are among the brands that will have new-to-Newfoundland beers soon available for sale at NLC stores.

Colbourne said customers make suggestions throughout the year to NLC about what varieties to look out for.

“We take all those serious,” she said. “I keep a record of them, and as I’m talking to suppliers and agents who supply beer, if there’s something that’s being asked for a lot, I’ll mention it to them, and if it’s available to Newfoundland, then we tend to bring it in for the beer show (NLC’s annual Beer Fest), and we tend to give things listings if there tends to be a lot of consumers looking for them.”

NLC also relies on sales agents to inform the corporation on what brands are performing well in other markets or what are “new hot brands” it should consider selling.

“It comes down to customers, us doing our research, and us also trying to fill voids in our market,” said Colbourne.

Providing beers in a variety of styles is something NLC is conscious of, according to Colbourne. Lagers tend to dominate the local market, but she said interest is growing when it comes to other varieties.

Wheat beers are selling well, she said, as are single-serving beers in cans and bottles, given they allow customers the opportunity to sample styles from around the world.

Local beers are also selling well, and the NLC is attempting to strengthen those sales by grouping them together in corporate store coolers. New labels to identify beers based on where they come from are being introduced at these stores — North America, International and Local. Within those sections, beer is grouped together based on brand and style.

Others, such as Coors Light and Corona, get their own space in the cooler due to the amount of inventory kept for those brands.

Twitter: TeleAndrew


Organizations: NLC, Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Big Rock British Columbia Mill Street Toronto Vermont North America

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Recent comments

  • David
    September 30, 2012 - 18:32

    A poipulation of drinkers, yet a population of such taste deprived, over-billed, government-suppressed suckers. Enjoy your immense selection of "world-class suds". If you didn't laugh, you'd cry.

  • John Lenin
    September 25, 2012 - 08:42

    Always love trying new beer brands ... BUT please, please, please Ms. NLC do NOT discontinue Faxe 10% ... i have been buying it for years and do not know what I'd do without it?!!

  • Rosalie simon
    September 24, 2012 - 11:19

    I like breezers. My fiancé likes breezers too.

  • Ronnie Racer
    September 21, 2012 - 15:57

    Im always shocked at the beer prices in NL ...can get a 24 in Gatineau for the price of 12 in St. John's. vive le cheaper beer !

  • Real IPA Fan
    September 20, 2012 - 10:06

    NLLC is much better now than say 15 - 20 years ago but it still lags far behind organizations such as the LCBO in terms of price, quality and selection. They have very few decent India Pale Ales (IPAs) to choose from which is a major sore point for me when I come home to NFLD for a vacation. BTW - Alexander Keith's doesn't count because it is not a real IPA. Bravo Zulu (Navy speak for right on) for stocking "La Fin du Monde" from Unibroue though. I recommend that you stock Muskoka - Mad Tom IPA, Phillips - Hoperation Tripel Cross Belgian IPA, or Flying Monkey's - Hoptical Illusion IPA. These beers all come from outstanding microbreweries across Canada. Better yet, I would like to see more homegrown microbreweries in NFLD offering a diverse selection of beers for local consumption.

  • EDfromRED
    September 20, 2012 - 03:49

    The only thing the NLC cares about is gougeing it's customers. Why does't the local media report how outrageous the prices of liquor are here? Hmmm, must be afraid the NLC ad's will dry out. Well, at least their bribes are out in the open.

  • Anon
    September 19, 2012 - 18:04

    if the NLC was really concerned about slow beer sales then they would consider charging a reasonable price for a beer. We can't get 101 or 85 or 90 proof whiskeys, we don't get anything that could be affordable and frankly I don't think the NLC gives a crap about their customers because they're always going to sell lambs, yellow-tail and coors light no matter what else is in stock or what it all costs. We need to privatize the liquor industry or start out-brewing the government because nothing's gonna change and no one cares about the common citizen or what he has to pay for a friggin drink.

  • sc
    September 19, 2012 - 14:39

    The NLC may talk about providing a wider choice of beer to consumers but there is little evidence it will turn this talk into action. During the past 3-4 years I've sent several emails to the NLC recommending new products and asking to have the selection improved. (I have yet to receive a reply to any of those emails). I have talked to various store managers about bringing in different beer and none of them even know who I should contact at the NLC regarding the woeful selection we have here. Not only do we not have the variety that those in other provinces enjoy, we often end up paying considerably more for the same product. (One beer from the UK brought in for beerfest cost about 50% more than it was in BC). I understand that the NLC cannot bring in every beer that every person would like to see on the shelves. However, it seems that it only wants to provide us with the mass-produced domestic 'beer' and will do everything possible to restrict our access to craft or imported products. As others have suggested, I suspect there is a sizeable group of people who would welcome the opportunity to try different beer. If the NLC is not prepared to supply customers with what they want, then it should allow customers to bring it into the province themselves from elsewhere in Canada provided it's for their own consumption. Instead, the NLC insists on upholding the antiquated liquor laws that the federal government has abolished.

  • trappist
    September 19, 2012 - 11:49

    The NLC hands down has the poorest selection of beer in the country, matched with some of the highest prices. Excluding the mass produced run of the mill lagers, one would be hard pressed to find 30 to 40 different types of beer at a NLC outlet. New beer arrivals are almost non existent, unless one counts Michelob, Kokannee or some flavoured version of Bud or Coors as “New Products” The current new beer listings contains beer that were previously available with the only exception being the mass produced Shock Top. I not sure having a previously listed product or a different can size counts as something new, that is unless you are the NLC. The article refers to asking staff for beer that's unavailable, I tried that some time ago asking for a common beer that wasn't available, the clerk looked at me like I had just arrived from a different planet. The NLC needs to seriously need to reevaluate the variety and supply of beer. The province is missing out on a substantial amount of revenue, due to the poor selection of beer. The NLC's approach to craft and world beers borders is almost nonexistent and borders on incompetence. Nobody expects every beer at all stores, but at the very least they could trial different beers in a few select stores to judge the markets response. The beer selection and market in NL is years behind the rest of North America.

    • X
      September 24, 2012 - 07:55

      Watch out NL, Keystone Light is available now at the NLC!

  • prufock
    September 19, 2012 - 10:18

    I applaud them for bringing in new brands and trying new things, however this article makes it sound like I'm going to be losing some of my favourite beers. No cervaza other than Corona means Dos Equis is being delisted.

  • Bitter
    September 19, 2012 - 10:13

    I spent 6 months trying to get NLC to do a special order. Nothing fancy, just stuff that you could get in other Canadian provinces. But all the time and effort came to nothing. So many of us have tried to do what Colbourne suggests - that is to make suggestions on what to stock. But nobody at NLC seems to be listening or putting in the effort to change what is on the shelves. I agree with Gambrinus - I hope this means a new attitude, but I worry that it's just a lot of hot air. If the special orders department can't get their act together, what hope is there for a general change in approach at NLC?

  • Frank M
    September 19, 2012 - 09:29

    I visited a small liquor store in Fort Mcmurray looking for a certain beer. The owner told me he didn't have it but he would bring it in for me. That would never happen with the NLC. The NLC may not be able to make money on small volumes of craft beer like Big Rock, but a private retailer probably would. They do everywhere else. Halifax has several private beer and wine retailers that have done well selling products not stocked at the Government stores. The 'Social Responsibility' defence of the status quo is a red herring. We already have private retailers for beer (they are only permitted to sell Newfoundland and Labrador made products). The NLC currently has 276 listings for beer. Most of which are the same products in differant formats, 6 packs 12 packs, cans or bottles etc. The NLC lists 3317 wines. Very few of them are the same product in differant formats. The beer consumer is a second class citizen at the NLC. It the NLC doesn't want the business (or cannot make a profit with its bloated bureaucracy) open the market to free enterprise. We still cannot get ONE SINGLE IPA at the NLC.

    • AB Beer
      September 20, 2012 - 10:20

      The Fort McMurray liquor store can only bring in the product if the product is first registered and available from the AGLC. It's not that the store will go to the brewery, the store will go to the licensed AB distributor (prbablyy Connect Logistics) and if it's available and in stock, they will add it to their next order and "hope" the person comes back in a week or so to buy it from them. Otherwise, the beer product sits at the liquor store until someone buys it.

  • Gambrinus
    September 19, 2012 - 09:00

    About time, NLC! I and others have been trying for a while to do special orders, trying to expand the range of available beers. I don't quite understand why it has been so difficult; why, for instance, you can get trappist beers in Nova Scotia (which, incidentally, have a very long shelf life) but not here. Or why Propeller and Pickaroons, beers by our Atlantic neighbours, can't be brought in. Or why small batch special orders seem so difficult to organize. I hope that these moves signal a new approach to beer orders and stocking, and that NLers support it. Break out of the India rut and try some of the amazing beers being made around the country and the world!

    • Frank
      September 20, 2012 - 10:52

      They have a monopoly! Why should they care about making you happy? That's not their's their job to waste our money & er, I don't know what else they do! Work at a very slow pace? Introduce 5 beers a year?

  • Chris
    September 19, 2012 - 08:17

    It's sad that the NLC still treats Newfoundlanders with kid gloves when choosing their new beers. Do they not think that the craft beer movement (a fast growing industry in the rest of North America, even in hard economic times) is something to even start to think about being a part of? Why don't they try some of the popular styles associated with craft brewing? Craft IPAs, stouts, porters? To have an entire provence not even offer the fastest growing and most popular beer style among many beer fans (the American IPA) is just sad. Garrison brewing is just over in Halifax and they make some great IPAs. The rest of the country has multiple Canadian craft beer choices, with more appearing everyday (think of "Hops and Robbers" IPA form Double Trouble who have gotten to BC, NS, AB, and other parts of Canada from their base in Ontario). Sure, Newfoundlanders love their lagers. So did the US about 20 years ago when the craft beer boom started. The NLC is stripping Newfoundland from the beer choices is should have and leaving its beer selection the laughing stock of the rest of the country. Not having the key craft beers styles (even just to try) is not something that the admittedly good Howe Sound Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale can fix. Get an IPA NLC. Get with the times. Beer is more then fizzy yellow liquid.

  • Llewellyn
    September 19, 2012 - 08:13

    Magic Hat's #9 is exciting. Good to see them doing something; trying to bring in a few new brands.

  • George S.
    September 19, 2012 - 07:29

    Someone needs to rein in the Province's crown corps and agencies. First the NLC, a monopoly, has an expensive loyalty program: AirMiles. A monopoly with a loyalty program - think about it. Sheer brilliance. Last week, the Rsearch & Development Corp (RDC) announces a funding grant for a company that developed an algorithm used for naked short selling of stocks, among other functionss. Naked short selling is illegal. More brilliance. How the heck does Dunderdale believe she has only the best inside the threshold of government and associated entities?

    • Austin E
      September 19, 2012 - 08:15

      Can we get Two-Buck Chuck in NL? Charles Shaw wines.

    • prufock
      September 19, 2012 - 10:16

      I agree that the liquor monopoly is bad for the customer. NLLC even goes so far as to set minimum pricing on their products as a way to encourage "responsible drinking." There is a reason you can get beer so much cheaper in other provinces and countries.