Introducing the Beer Boutique, the classier next step in the evolution of The Beer Store.
Who hasn’t stood in line at The Beer Store, staring blankly at the wall of labels that makes picking a brew harder than balancing a 12-pack on your handlebars? It’s far from a magical shopping experience, and The Beer Store owners (that’d be Molson, Labatt and Sleeman) are finally doing something about it.
In a matter of weeks, Liberty Village will get the first slickly designed, 2,700-square-foot Beer Boutique. If it flies, we can expect at least one more location in the city by Christmas. First to go: the wall of labels. Shelves (yes, shelves!) will be stocked with more singles and eight-pack carriers, for the cycling or TTC-ing partygoer, along with beer-appropriate glassware. Roger Mittag, founder of Prud’homme, Canada’s only beer certification program, has been hired to lead tasting and pairing workshops for customers and staff.
Far from depressing and dank, the space is being kitted out by local interior-design firm II BY IV to look like a traditional brewery. Insiders tell us there will be faux-brick walls, floor-to-ceiling copper beams and an 11-foot-long copper chandelier at the centre, hanging over a huge harvest table. (II BY IV would not confirm these plans.)
The dream is that the Beer Boutique will carry more microbrewery brands, which are in short supply at The Beer Store. Craft brewers can’t compete on the beer wall but they’re keen to duke it out on the shelves, where customers can take their time and see the packaging. “The Boutique will have the largest brand offering of any of our stores to date,” brand manager Dave Paterson says, though he wouldn’t tell us exactly what beers would be in the shop.
Cameron’s Brewing will introduce its beach-ready tall-boy lager at the Boutique. Bill Coleman, president and co-owner of Cameron’s, likens the new store to the LCBO, which he loves: “Our sales are better when people can touch, feel and look at our product.”
Some critics have speculated that smaller craft breweries still won’t be able to afford the listings fees associated with being part of the Boutique, and some doubt that it’ll be that much of a departure from The Beer Store. But, hey, at least you won’t need to put on a toque to buy beer anymore.