Posted on September 6, 2012 by Marina

In the last 5 years, the craft beer industry grew by 200% in LCBOs across the province.

That’s a significant number indicating that the consumer is more than ever interested in exploring craft beer. Cheers to that!

In keeping up with this demand, the presence and selection of craft beer has inevitably grown throughout the store chain.

Ever wonder what’s it like to be a resident beer ambassador at your local LCBO?

Paul Irvine, from the Guelph store at Speedvale & Stevenson gives us a look inside.


LCBO Store #325 (Guelph)

How did you get started in this industry and what is your current role within the LCBO?

I started at the LCBO in the summer of 1996 at our store in Elora under the tough love program of Paul Walker, who is still in charge there. I started as a casual and I progressed through the system and became a full time employee in December, 2000.  I have been working at our store in Guelph since then. My current position is senior Customer Service Representative and resident Beer Ambassador.

For someone who has never been to this Guelph LCBO, what can you tell us about this location that makes it unique?

This store is located in north east Guelph in a very diverse area. Many of our customers are of European background. We also serve a large number of new Canadians. The store is convenient and easily accessed.

Our store is newly renovated and the new product portfolio in Micro and Craft beers fully compliments our previous existing brands. We are seeing immediate growth in these beers and also the previously carried imports. Craft and specialty sections have expanded from approx 4-6 feet to over 20 feet.

The Craft beer segment within the LCBO has increased over 200% in the last 5 years with Ontario Craft Beers leading the way – what do you think is the main reason behind this?

Consumers are more diverse and more educated about world beers. Consumers are more willing to try new and different beers thanks in part to the LCBO’s selection and the availability of single formats.. We are also seeing an increase in the number of female customers.

From your common interactions with beer enthusiasts, what have you found to be the trends of what people look for in a beer?

Our customers seem more willing to try new, distinct, varieties. There is also an awareness and appreciation of Natural ingredients and our Organic and Gluten Free assortments. Consumers are more aware and educated about the products they consume.

What is the most common question you are asked on the job?

-Is this product available in singles?
-Is this (insert item) available through the LCBO?

Consumers are aware of many other beers around the world and would like to see more at LCBO.

What are your personal suggestions for someone who is looking to explore and experiment with craft brews?

Before making any suggestions, I would determine a consumer’s personal tastes and then try to match craft brew suggestions.  I would suggest they start with a light summer type beer and then progress to the bigger, hoppier or European style.

I would also recommend customers:

      • try single format first.
      • try to match them up with a variety “pack of beer”.
      • And take a tour of local breweries that are receptive to tours.

Where do you see the Canadian craft beer industry in 2015?

We know that craft beer sales are up 45 per cent since 2011 and up 200 per cent over the last five years.  If craft breweries maintain their autonomy from the big multi-nationals, they very well could see growth to 40 to 50 per cent of beer sales provided there is a continued expanded selections and continued focus on high quality standards.