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Mr. Musicface
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Probably a good deal for folks like me in Ontario who love Unibroue since it will likely mean wider distribution here.

I'm very skeptical about this. The only mention of distribution in the article talks about Sleeman being more widely distributed in Quebec. The problem with distributing beer in Ontario has much more to do with the way The Beer Store sets the rules* than manufacturing. I also recall how the quality of Algonquin Honey Brown went downhill (IMHO) after Sleeman bought Algonquin and made it a Sleeman brand.

I'm waiting to see a statement from Sleeman about what they're planning to do with the Unibroue product line before I believe this is a good thing for people who love U's products.

Aloha,

Brad

* The Beer Store is not a government agency, it's a monopoly owned and run by the big brewers; for small breweries, especially those outside Ontario, it's easier to get beers into the USA than into Ontario.

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Now that is tres interessante. You seem to follow the beer wars pretty closely 'face. Now Sleeman really is one of the big three, with a partial stake in the Beer Store as well they have thoroughly entrenched their market share. As a Guelphite it's of interest and just generally as a concerned Ontarian. Good on them.

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Well, this statement in the article from the Sleeman rep seems to speak to the product issue at least to a degree: "the acquisition of Unibroue and its premium brands will complement Sleeman's current portfolio".

The big difference with the Algonquin takeover is that (if I remember right) Sleeman closed the original brewery and started brewing it at their place in Guelph. Whenever you move a craft brewed brand from it's location, the quality often takes a while to settle. But you have to admit, it's WAY easier to get Sleeman Honey Brown than it ever was to get the Algonquin. The implication here seemed to be that they'd want to continue brewing in Quebec, and they'd be foolish to abandon the expertise there since as I understand it the Unibroue brewmasters were trained in all the Belgian styles, and I'm thinking they're not growing your expert Belgian-trained brewmasters on trees.

As far as getting it into the Beer Store, for me personally that's not a big issue since I almost always buy beer at the LCBO. You're right Brad that there are issues with the way the Beer Store does it's business, but the truth is the biggest obstacle to wide distribution for micro brews generally seems to be the same as for any small-scale manufactured product. I was talking briefly to Michael Hancock from Denison's (http://denisons.ca/) about this last summer. Actually there's a statement on the website now which is basically what he said to me then, so I'll quote:

"I am brewing as frequently as possible, keeping in mind quality, and there should now rarely be any shortages. However, plans for bottling have been postponed until I am sure that the increased production requirements can be met without jeopardizing the supply to my draught accounts."

Basically it's good old supply and demand issue. Michael didn't seem to have any worries about getting the beer into the Liquor Store (he didn't talk about the Beer Store) but he was definitely concerned about his costs and his supply.

Anyway, I'd definitely hate to see the Unibroue brands suffer in quality, but I'd definitely like them to be more widely available (for instance I'd much rather buy a 6 of Blanche de Chambly than overpriced Höegaarden, but just try finding it regularly.) I'm gonna remain optimistic, but I guess we'll see what happens. It's certainly better than Unibroue being bought out by Interbrew or going out of business anyway (they are after all 5 mil in debt).

Peace,

Mr. M.

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Obviously there are people here quite knowledgable about beer. My sense of it is that this is a good thing for both companies, that the acquisition is consistent with Sleeman's repositioning itself as a national player and adding to their brewing capacity throughout Canada's region (ie. Okanagan, Maritime Brewing Company etc.). I also think this deal is different then say the Algonquin situation. I may be wrong but I get the sense they'll retain all of the brewing operations in Quebec, the brewmasters, formulas and packaging will remain consistent. Doesn't Sleeman use Unibroue for bottling in PQ already anyways? One of my local buddies showed me how to read their bar coding and how to identify a bottle brewed elsewhere, (very) occasionally you get a unibroue bottle in with your sleemans.

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I wasn't thrilled to hear this either. Small brewery bought out by bigger brewery is never a good thing. Look at what they did to the Upper Canada line. Didn't Sleeman buy Seignurale a few years ago? Are they still around?

I was never a huge fan of Upper Canada personally, although I had a sneaking fondness for Rebellion but you could never find it anyway. Although I do know people who liked Upper Canada Dark a lot, but you can still get that can't you?

Actually, according to the Sleeman site they are still producing "Upper Canada Lager, Dark Ale, Light Lager, Wheat Lager, Rebellion Lager, Point Nine, Maple Brown Ale and the recently introduced Anniversary Ale" http://www.ale-sleeman.com/corp_info/uc.html although I can't speak for the quality of any of these vs. pre-Sleemans.

Also according to the Sleeman site they are still producing Seigneuriale in Quebec. http://www.ale-sleeman.com/corp_info/seigneuriale.html. But again, that's a beer you could never find in Ontario anyway.

Hey, I'm totally with you guys about not wanting quality to suffer, I like my quality beers as much as the next guy, but great quality beer isn't helping anybody if you can't buy it anywhere!

- M.

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Actually kung I didn't know about the previous Sleeman/Unibroue connection, thanks for the info. Yeh, my reading of the whole thing is basically the same as yours, but I suppose time will tell. Again, I'd much rather see Unibroue survive as a part of Sleeman than a part of Interbrew or Molson, or not at all. At least Sleeman for a big brewer seems interested in a balance of quality AND quanity, and I'm a fan of both where beer is concerned! :P ::

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The only mention of distribution in the article talks about Sleeman being more widely distributed in Quebec.

I did a little more digging (BTW I had a meeting cancelled so I have some spare time this morning in case anyone is thinking "does fugggin' Musicface just read about beer all day?") off of the Sleeman site, and found this statement in the press release about this:

André Dion, Chairman, President and CEO of Unibroue stated, "The purchase price per share offered in this transaction is fair to Unibroue shareholders while providing the marketing strengths of Sleeman to expand the distribution of Unibroue’s unique craft brews in Quebec and elsewhere across Canada."

So there ya go, there's (hopefully) your good news. Of course it's all corpspeak, we'll see what it really means for beer lovers like us in the end.

- M.

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I'm not looking at this from the distribution side because living in Ottawa I've always had access to Unibroue, through both the LCBO and Beer Stores and the depanneurs just over the bridge. I definitely see how you can be excited about that.

And yeah, I think the Upper Canada line has suffered in quality since being bought out.

And in general I think independent is better than corporate no matter what the topic of discussion. Molson and Interbrew had to start somewhere.

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Sure ollie, I agree indie is better than corporate, but corporate is better than dead. With Unibroue 5.5 million in debt, chances are they weren't gonna last forever without a bailout.

You can sometimes find Unibroue in decent LCBOs in Toronto, but it's usually just the 750 mL champagne-style bottles. It's pretty hit-and-miss. And they're almost non-existent in the bars, especially on tap.

- M.

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And they're almost non-existent in the bars, especially on tap.

This has much more to do with the nature of the beer than the nature of beer distribution: with the exception of Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue beers don't turn over fast enough to get through a keg before they go stale, so they don't put their beers in kegs. (I heard this from a Unibroue rep at a Unibroue beer dinner...mmmm...)

Aloha,

Brad

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I think you can get more than just Blanche de Chambly on tap in Montreal. I'm pretty sure I read mention of other brands on tap in Jamie MacKinnon's Great Lakes Beer Guide. I may have even sampled them but I don't trust my memory.

And if Unibroue was gonna go down anyway, then I'm happy for the buyout.

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That actually makes sense, I have on the odd occation run into Blanche on tap but not the others. Thanks for the info Brad.

But that said, I could easily see Blanche turning over as quickly as say Höegaarden, which is extremely common on tap. If it had distribution with the Sleeman brands (the way Höe does with Stella, Becks and *cough* Blue) then we could potentially see it all over the place. That's the sort of thing I'm hoping for.

- M.

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Yeh actually ollie you got me thinking about it a bit more, and I remember that C'est What often has Raftman on tap. It's listed on their page at http://cestwhat.com/otherbeer.asp.

That said, I could totally see what Brad is saying for the stronger brews like Maudite & Fin du monde. Since they are like 8 or 9%, they probably wouldn't go through the volume as quickly (or else they'd tend to go through customer's with liver failure more quickly, either way it's bad for business!)

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I think I had a Big Rock beer on tap once that was 8%. That was at the old Cock Robin (?) pub in the Byward Market. Doesn't high alcohol beer preserve itself? Or is that a different matter entirely than whether it goes stale or not?

Thank god I have this thread to distract me from obsessive thoughts about the game tonight. Although it's not really working. ::

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I think it also has to do with whether the beer is "live" or not. Hand-pumped "real" ales and beers on lees aren't pasteurized or carbonated, and so (IIRC) need to have their kegs topped up with nitrogen (air won't work, as it'll help spoil the beer, and CO2 won't work, because that'll carbonate the beer). I think most bars with draught beer use CO2, and so would have to install extra gear to handle different beers, and, except for specialty bars (like the Arrow & Loon here in Ottawa, or C'Est What in Toronto), most non-mass-market beers won't sell enough to justify the expense to the bar owner.

Aloha,

BRAD (Beer Response, About Draught)

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I think it's the staleness. When you go to a u-brew, the beer you brew there without perseratives is best consumed within 3-4 weeks, after that it starts to go skunky. That's the main reason I don't do it more often myself, although I might crack out my old "Frontier Golden Lager" that we had at May 2-4 last year again this summer, that turned out pretty nice.

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I think it's the staleness. When you go to a u-brew, the beer you brew there without perseratives is best consumed within 3-4 weeks, after that it starts to go skunky.

Not in the case of Unibroue beers: check out Maudite, for instance, and look at what's listed as "Shelf Life". (Note that this is in-the-bottle life, which is different from opened-and-pouring-from-it bottle or keg life.)

Aloha,

Brad

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Wow, 5 years! Impressive.

I think you're probably right Brad. BTW, interestingly beers like Guinness in a can use a "widget" to release nitrogen to release some of the CO2 disolved in the beer the same way it would when it comes out of a keg so you get the same quality of head. http://www.howstuffworks.com/question446.htm

Ah I love being a beer geek! :)

- M.

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See, I'd love to be able to get Terrible here regularly - I think I've only had it at the Beer Fest. I've never tried Fringante, and I'm not a fan of cherry so Quelque Chose doesn't do much for me.

I think right now I've got some Big Rock Warthog Pale and perhaps a Cameron's Auburn or two in the fridge. Perhaps I'll grab a Maudite (if I can find it!) on the way home to round out the selection... ::

- M.

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