Brown’s among first Ontario grocery stores to sell beer

(Photo: Todd Brown, owner of Brown’s Independent, in front of the new beer display.  Photo by Barry Gray.)

A sign went up on the outside of Brown’s Independent Grocer Monday night: “Beer Here!”

They’re among the first grocery stores in the province to sell beer in-store.  Sales started Tuesday morning at 9am after weeks of behind-the-scenes preparation by store staff.

Outside of Brown's, with Beer Here sign. Photo by Barry Gray
Photo by Barry Gray


Owner Todd Brown told last week that he was encouraged by the selection of beer that would be on sale, and the convenience the service would provide for customers.

For now, you’ll be able to buy six-packs of beer including a mix of local and larger breweries (see below).  Prices will be the same as at the LCBO.

Many of the staff at the store who are over 18 years of age have done Smart Serve training to prepare.  That means you’ll only be able to buy your beer at designated check-out lanes.

Hours of sale will be restricted too: 9am-11pm Mondays-Saturdays, and 11am-6pm Sundays.  The beer section is covered by a canopy with curtains that will hide the display outside of the legal hours.

Beer display and sign showing hours for sale. Photo by Barry Gray
Photo by Barry Gray


Store manager Jeff Mitchell sent along some info about what beers they’ll be selling initially.

“We are mandated by the provincial government to provide craft brewers with at least 20% of our shelf space. As a store (and even Loblaws as a whole) we didn’t feel that was sufficient enough, considering the amazing craft brewers in the city and province. That said, we are hoping to provide at least 50% of our shelf space to craft brewers. To launch the program, we are dealing with a somewhat limited selection, but that will expand over time,” says Mitchell.

The initial line-up of craft beer includes:

  • Beaus – Lugtread, Tom Green Beer, Nordic Pale Ale
  • Amsterdam – Boneshaker
  • Steamwhistle Pilsner
  • Flying Monkeys – Hoptical Illusion
  • Nickelbrook – Headstock IPA
  • Muskoka – Mad Tom and Detour (arriving next week)
  • Side Launch Wheat Beer
  • Great Lakes Brewery – Pompous Ass and Canuck Pale Ale
  • Conductors Craft Ale
  • Collective Arts Brewing Rhyme and Reason
  • Double Trouble Hops and Robbers
  • Lake of Bays Spark House

Mitchell says they’ll be announcing a couple of Ottawa-based brewers within the next week or so.

“Because the program was launched so quickly (we only found out about 10 days ago) the appropriate buying agreement between Loblaw, the LCBO and the craft brewers has yet to be arranged. That is why we are starting with the top selling items from the LCBO’s inventory,” he says.

Domestic beers will include:

  • Coors Light
  • Molson Canadian
  • Budweiser
  • Labatt Blue
  • Mill Street Organic and 100th Meridian (not considered “craft” since their purchase by Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Imports will include:

  • Corona
  • Stella Artois
  • Grolsch
  • Becks
  • Lowenbrau
  • Heineken
"Beer. Here!" sign at Brown's Independent
A big “Beer. Here!” sign at Brown’s Independent went up on Monday night.

9 thoughts on “Brown’s among first Ontario grocery stores to sell beer”

  1. While I’m excited that small and craft brewers, I’m considered about a bunch of things here:

    1) “small” brewers might be owned by the cartel. I love that word, cartel. It so precisely describes the beer industry in Canada. Talking about price fixing. Above and beyond the taxes.
    But what I think is that we will not see 20% of real actual craft beer at all. It’ll be much less, with shelves overflowing with the same old boring domestic slob, like “Molson”, “Buddweiser”, “Labatt”. I might be nice on a super hot day drinking an ice cold one just to wash down that thirst, but other than that, those beers aren’t exactly very enjoyable, unless the goal is just to get drunk and that’s it. And why do craft brewers get merely just 20% (minus the fake “small” owned or indirectly controlled by the cartel)? That 20% has to be divided up with those small struggling companies, so they hardly get any space at all!
    So right away, this smells of corruption right there!

    2) This is probably the big experiment here. Can this work. How to solve the problem with young shy cashiers having to scrutinize when some young adults are trying to check out. To ask for ID or not to ask for ID. The LCBO and beerstore, it’s what they do. What in grocery stores? Are the cashiers getting training? And if they do, just this round to make it look right as a startup? But what about a few months from now, when staff turns over. Will they get training also? Is there any training at all, other than a few pointers by a manager?
    I bet a whole bunch of young guys and girls will get access to beer that would otherwise not have. I can picture a few myself. They’re in their puberty phase, with their overboard parties with the howling and laughing and just flat out stupidity as if they’re drunk without even drinking. So now, they’ll add beer to the mix I’m sure. Lovely. Who’s going to pick up the cans across the country side, quarries, parks, schools, etc. Plus there is public safety. Some of these kids are breaking road laws in ways that you would not believe.

    1. Hi Joe,
      If you stop by the store, you’ll see the selection of craft beer is legitimate and a lot of the brewers are part of the Ontario Craft Brewers trade association. Steam Whistle, Collective Arts Brewing, Flying Monkeys, Lake of Bays Brewing, Muskoka Brewing and Beaus are all independent breweries serving up amazing craft brews. Mill St Organic and 100th Meridian are available, but the store doesn’t consider these to be true craft beers since they were purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev a few months ago.

      While the domestic varieties may not be for your taste buds (or mine for that matter!) there is still a significant demand for them and it make sense for the store to serve as many customers as possible. I imagine you’ll see the product offering change and evolve over the next few months, but i’m sure there will be something there for most people.

      Part of the licensing and legislation requires that any cashier selling beer must be 18 years of age and have SmartServe certification. SmartServe is an Ontario training program that works with the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission to provide the service/hospitality industry with responsible alcohol beverage training. The course takes approximately 4 hours and a test that requires a score of 80% in order to gain certification. This past week, Brown’s has been working furiously to have as many staff members (not just cashiers) full trained and certified. As of right now, the store has nearly 75 employees trained, or in the process of training. I imagine that is more than most other stores that received their licensing, or even your typical bar/restaurant in the province.

      If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to stop by the store and speak to Mr. Brown, the owner, or myself (Jeff Mitchell) Store Manager or Mitch Anderson, Store Manager.

      1. Hello Jeff, thanks for the reply. I am excited to hear that the independent craft brewers you mentioned have their products at Browns. I look forwards to sampling them from time to time, and I hope that there will be continuous efforts to give other small brewers also the chance to showcase their awesome products. What I was fearing is what we see at the Beerstore, where it’s almost only the cartel selling the big labels and pretend-little labels. The LCBO does better.
        It is nice to have this third option. I just hope it’s competitive and not just marked up products using fancy packaging. For instance, a 500ml can of a good local Ontario IPA should cost around the 2.50 to 3.50 mark. I’m not really interested in how the majority of the product displayed in the photo of this article is selling 4 fancy looking beer bottles for 16.95 from the looks of it. I’m not fooled by fancy seasonal packaging with prices to match.
        But I’ll check it out and give it some time.
        I am also relieved that SmartServe certified cashiers can only be the ones selling alcohol.

        1. Hi Joe!
          The big display you see at the front is Beaus Lugtread, one of the biggest craft brewers that brew out of Vankleek Hill. They’ve done a fantastic job of helping out so many other small brewers in Ottawa. I know that they even gave one start up brewer their old brewing equipment! Beaus only packages 750 mL bottles, which is just about double the size of a normal “tall boy” can, which could explain the price discrepancy. We have their seasonal varieties as singles and their more popular Lugtread as 4 packs, which is how they sell their beer at the LCBO. They throw on the fancy bow this time of year, but it doesn’t effect pricing. Also, everything we sell is legislated that it must be the same price as the LCBO and The Beer Store, so you should see fairly consistent pricing all around.
          Take care!

          1. I bit late of a reply on my part, but… I’m officially impressed with the beer selection. There is a nice variety. It was very convenient to pick up a few along with the groceries.
            I hope that at some point the Ashton Pub figures out its packaging and makes an appearance also…

  2. The selection of craft beer is actually above what I had expected… good on ya’ Browns. My favourites from the LCBO are on the list (Boneshaker, Headstock, Rhyme and Reason).

    Now lets just hope we see a bit from the under 30km crowd …. Covered Bridge and Ashton have fantastic products (and are good people to boot).

    1. Hi James,

      We are pretty happy with the selection for day one of the launch, but we are even more excited to add some more local favourites.

      Ottawa has a ton of great breweries and we look forward to being able to bring them to customers in Stittsville. The licensing only allows us to sell cans, 6 packs and bottles with less than 750mL. That eliminates any local breweries that only sell growlers (like Covered Bridge and Ashton) unfortunately. However, there are a lot of other great local breweries that sell cans and bottles. Keep an eye out!

      Any other questions or concerns, stop by and chat with us!

  3. As the On Premise Territory Manager for Lake of Bays Brewing (and a regular grocery shopper at Brown’s! ), I’m delighted to see our Spark House Red Ale at Brown’s YIG. Todd, Jeff, Mitch and their team have put together a great display of craft beers that includes Spark House and a number of other brands from our friendly competitors.
    I’m also pleased to see the Loblaws family of stores committing to 50% of shelf space dedicated to craft. That’s great support. You will also kind Lake of Bays Spark House at the Kanata South Canadian Superstore on Eagleson at Cope and Loblaws at College Square at the corner of Baseline Road and Woodroffe Avenue.

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