United States president Herbert Hoover famously called the Prohibition of alcohol the “Noble Experiment)” and it seems that the effects of this “experiment” have never really left us as there are a variety of archaic rules and regulations left in place throughout the U.S.A. and Canada seems to have followed suit.
While I often lament the poor state of liquor laws in my area, I am fully aware of why and how they still exist. Recently our government made an announcement of sorts that it is willing to consider making some changes to some of these antiquated liquor laws. I am hopeful for the future, and am even trying to become an active participant in these changes.
The alcohol industry in North America has been dominated for over a hundred years by the mores of a bygone era. Explaining them to non-residents is a long and complicated process that results in confusion, laughter and disappointment.
A read through the antiquated regulations in many areas reveal throwbacks akin to Victorian England with a strong note of fundamental Christian beliefs. From the inability to purchase alcohol on Sundays, in some areas, to the limits of the amount of alcohol by volume in some products, and finally the intentional poisoning of alcoholic products by government decree, there abound a multitude of rules and regulations aimed at controlling the drinking, purchasing and production habits of the population as a whole.
While each area has differing rules, they generally cover a few basic areas.
- Who can purchase alcohol. (age restricted of course)
- Where alcohol can be purchased. (dedicated stores only in some areas)
- Where alcohol for sale can be obtained. (in some areas from a government controlled entity)
- What types and strengths of alcohol can be purchased. (some areas allow beer only up to a certain strength)
- Who can produce alcohol and whom those producers can sell to. (some are forced to use a middleman, barring direct sales)
The list of these rules goes on, and a complete list is beyond the scope of this article. Indeed, it would be beyond the scope of most books and dull for most folks to read.
If one were to try and generalize these rules into a workable meta-description, it might be best to consider that these rules are designed to follow a Victorian/Christian/Temperance ideology to control the alcohol related habits of the population. To a large extent these rules and regulations are geared at controlling and minimizing the use, production and misuse of alcoholic products. Their effectiveness though, is a matter of debate as historians and research has attested to.
In the recent announcement for my area, there were speeches from the two local breweries and the one semi-local, as well as the minister responsible. A desire for changes to the rules was mentioned by all, however hidden in the press release were some alarming details.
With a little digging around it was possible to find the MANITOBA CRAFT BREWERIES STRATEGY INDUSTRY ADVISORY COMMITTEE and from there it was simple to analyze the composition, competencies and concerns of the committee.
Several things practically leap off the page upon a simple examination. Closer examination reveals a fascinating read.
Here are some observations made by myself and others.
- The committee has no women members
- The committee has no concerned citizens/or consumer representation
- The chair of the committee (representing the government corporation) has a background that is not in the liquor business. Indeed he has been in the business for less than two years
- The other representative from the government corporation has a strong background in gambling
- One representative of the provincial Hotel Association which has a exclusive sales arrangement with the Province and is essentially a lobbying organization
- One representative of a hospitality financial analysis interest group owned by several local restaurants and pubs
- One beer, spirit and wine distribution company that represents both craft and macro beverages
- One member is a lobbying group for the provincial restaurant and foodservices association
- One member of a national foodservice lobby group representing the geographical area of Manitoba and Saskatchewan
- One General Manager of a local brewery
- One President and Brewmaster of a local brewery
- One Owner of a tenant brewery that has hopes of opening a local estate brewery one day
- One Owner of a civil engineering and construction service and consulting company that once tried to open a brewpub.
Shameless Self Promotion
I want in on this process. As noted, there are many interest groups on this committee and some members whose involvement is puzzling to say the least. I believe that I offer transparency, an educated viewpoint, and a general interest towards nothing more than improving the situation for craft beer in the province.