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TV Ad Suggests Alberta Beer Reaches New Levels

I don’t have a TV at home. Which means I only get to watch network TV when I travel. When I was is in Banff last week (see my post about it here), I got to watch an Oilers hockey game in the hotel. The game was unremarkable (although ended with the right score). But it was a commercial that caught my attention.

It started with cartoon images and an over-the-top announcer pronouncing the amazing state of what seems to be a hipster. It extolled the state of their beard, t-shirt, a satchel that holds a growler, stout glasses and the popularity of beer. It then does a quick switch to boasting about the fact that all Alberta craft beer is 10% off. It shows a line-up of Alberta beer, including Alley Kat, Wildrose, Blindman, Bench Creek and Goat Locker (which, for the record, is not yet an Alberta beer).

The ad is from Liquor Depot, the largest beer retail chain in Canada and long a dominant player in Alberta.

There are two ways in which this ad is significant. First is that there was even a TV ad promoting Alberta craft beer. That is, I am pretty certain, a first. There have undoubtedly been sales on Alberta beer before – many pubs do it on a regular basis. But no one has done a TV ad for it.

Second, the sponsor of the ad is Liquor Depot. As a large chain its primary focus is selling as much beer as it can, meaning it gives a lot of space to the big, corporate breweries. Most of its stores have more of a convenience store size and feel – good for dash-in, grab a bottle that that thing and get home. Over the years it has had a pretty lousy reputation for supporting local craft (its ill-fated dispute with Big Rock a few years back just being one example). I have walked into many Liquor Depot stores (or their various sister brands) and been unbelievably disappointed by their selection – often walking right back out again.

The ad itself left me a bit cold. It seems to play on dumb stereotypes of hipsters and beer aficionados. But I think it is the first time bottles and cans of Alberta brewed beer have shown up on a TV ad, and during a hockey game to boot.

I write about this because I am convinced, despite the ad’s shortcomings, that it represents a new phase in the craft beer industry in Alberta. Until recently there simply wasn’t enough going on to talk about.

I actually believe that a market existed for Alberta-made beer, but big beer companies like Liquor Depot couldn’t see it. It was too much under the radar and offered too few opportunities for local beer fans to express themselves. The Alberta beer scene is evolving with stunning speed. It is not just the number of breweries popping up (which is impressive) but that most of them are struggling to keep up with demand. Albertans want Alberta beer, and finally they are getting a real opportunity to actually find it.

As a smart corporation, Liquor Depot gets that. They realize there are market share points to be gained by promoting local. This is a good news/bad news development. If all they want to do is capitalize on beer drinkers’ interest in local without committing to increase their selection of local beer, it will end up being a cynical, opportunist move. However, if this is a signal of a new commitment to promote local beer and increase their selection of local beer, then I think Alberta beer will have reached the next level in its development.

I don’t know which it is at this point. In the coming weeks I will make a point of popping into some Liquor Depot stores. I sure as heck hope they will have a bigger selection of Alberta beer than they have in the past. If they don’t, expect a post trashing them for hypocrisy.

5 comments to TV Ad Suggests Alberta Beer Reaches New Levels

  • March 17 2017. My comment . Hi beerguy it’s me again. (the annoying one). Something that’s been on my mind for a while is how Liquer stores display local brews. Here is an example that’s been bugging me for a long time. I shop at a couple off establishments on a regular basis and one of them has all local and Alberta brews front row and center with small tags that say local products as soon as the cooler door opens. I’m trying to be cooperative. Then when I frequent the other establishment with the huge cooler, and trust me this cooler is 75 foot wide by 25 foot deep all they have for shelf space for local brews is a 10 foot wide x 8 foot high space tucked so far away its hard to find. I won’t say who they are but it’s a huge depot and the size of a barn. I know this because today I walked in with a tape measure and and used it. Anyhow I can’t wait to see the look on the guys face when he looks at the security camera and says what the hell is this moron doing. I might now be banned but don’t care. I bought a 12 pack of Monks. Guess what I’m saying is Business should also be responsible for promoting local ? Burp. …. Go to a CO-OP and see how they promote local beer. Maybe their getting it or beer sales are low ? Thanks

    • beerguy

      Good observations. Yes, it is a dog’s breakfast of approaches. Even the stores we admire could do a better job drawing customers’ eyes to the local beer. A far cry from what they do in BC or Ontario.

  • I don’t know if you guys in northern Alberta (government town EDMONTON ) know this but Calgary CO-OP has over 21 Liquor stores in Calgary and have over 400 thousand members.

  • Shawn

    I make a point of avoiding the Liquor Depot in my town, as I find it expensive, and their selection​ lacking. That said, I have heard the Liquor Depot in Brentwood in Calgary has a great selection to go with its growler bar. Co-op and Sobeys seem to to do pretty good at showcasing local beers, they sure don’t show up in the flyers often though.

  • Off Topic. The best words I have ever seen on a blog in the opening statement is, I don’t have a TV at home. Priceless and I have to agree with you on that one Thanks

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