Friday, March 13, 2009

NB Liquor's new "Selection Lager"

Selection LagerWho would have thought that the making and selling of a new beer brand would be so controversial?

On March 12, 2009 NB Liquor released their new "Selection" brand of Lagers and light beers. ( The controversy around this is surprising. Almost 5000 hits on a Google search shows that people are certainly interested in this story.

The premise behind the brand is to provide a low cost alternative to the traditional brands and increase the market for domestics.

I must admit that a lager is not my preference for beer. For a good quality and tasting beer I usually go for a Picaroons and if I'm looking for, ermmm... larger consumption, I have been drinking Rickards Honey Brown lately. I'm certainly willing to give a new brand a try though so laid out the $18.67 for a pack of 12 tonight.

So, how is it? Well, I would describe it as similar to Molson Canadian. It does have its own distinct flavour though. It is very sweet and fruity flavored and I taste a strawberry after taste. Very little hop flavor. Very light colour. Fairly refreshing.

If that strikes your pallet then you will probably enjoy it. I can see this as a good hot weather beer. Sitting on a beach, baking in the sun and ice cold. It doesn't do well warm.

It only appears to be available in cans. That's disappointing because if I don't have a glass I definitely prefer a bottle. It's probably less environmentally friendly for that reason too.

So what do I think? I think that everyone in the province should feel it to be their civic duty to buy at least one box, drink it and decide for themselves. After all, who am I to say what you'll like...



  1. I haven't tried it yet.

    I'm surprised about the government's flimsy argument about it being competitive with the liquor in Quebec, which costs almost 50% less, I think. This isn't close to being competitive - it's just another source of revenue for the government, which the beer manufacturers are up in arms about - and I have to agree with their uproar; however, I'm still gonna try it!

    I heard a report on CBC the other day that the only places in the world where government produces beer is China or North Korea or some similar place.

  2. The beer business in New Brunswick is heavilly regulated and controlled. No big deal since this is really not much different than any other province.

    Past history has clearly indicated that although the day to day beer business is run by NB Liquor, the overall strategy of the beer business is controlled by Moosehead breweries. It has been an unstated goal of NB Liquor to protect Moosehead from Bud, Labatt, Molson and anything elsse that might erode their market share.

    So without knowing what we know now, at the time of the launch of Selection Beer, it was a very safe bet to say it was Moosehead's idea. It turned out to be true. There was no public tender for the Selection Beer contract, it was given directly to Moosehead.

    NB Liquor has tried to "smokesreen" the raison d'etre of Selection beer...i.e low cost beer for New Brunswickers by New Brunswickers, everyday low cost for consumers...etc...

    But essentially this is a very anti-competitive move by NB Liquor. The everyday low price of 18.67 per 12 pack can does not compete with Quebec prices at all so this will have no impact on "beer bleed" as NB Liquor CEO Dana Clendenning christined the purchase of beer in Quebec by New Brunswickers. What it does do is allow Moosehead to have a beer prominently displayed at the lowest price allowed in every corner of this province at no cost to them. In fact we, the taxpayers, pay them to make the beer so it can be sold back to us.

    In case you don't know, prominent display locations in NB Liquor stores are very expensive to reserve, in the order of a few thousand per month according to the marketing policie available at So if Selection beer is prominently displayed for 12 months (it has been for 5 months straight since the launch in March) it would should cost around $40,000. Not much you say for big breweries...I agree. The real savings for Moosehead come in the fact that they do not have to pay for the discounting of Selection beer. Normally, breweries have to pay 100% of the cost of discounting below mainstream price. The mainstream price for beer in New Brunswick is $20.99 for 12 pack cans. In other words the cost to sell beer at $18.67 is $2.32 per case sold. Lets say, on average NB Liquor sells 200 cases per store per week for 12 months of Selection beer. There are 48 stores. This adds up to well over 1 million dollars. I have not included the 70+ agency stores in NB that would sell Selection beer as well. This sure would account for a few hundred thousand in discount costs.

    If you take into account, display space cost, discounting cost and other marketing costs (NB Liquor has a Selection beer website), print adds etc..) New Brunswickers have lost out on a couple million dollars that would have otherwise been paid to NB Liquor.

    The 2 million dollar opportunity cost of Selection beer will have an impact. It will result in price increases for wine and spirits.

    If you are beginning to think that the consumer is really getting screwed here, you are on the right track. Don't forget to think about Pumphouse and Piccaroons. Their tax dollars are being used by a Crown Corporation to directly compete with them. Incredible but true.

    The numbers used above are estimates but I think very reasonable estimates. NB Liquor has so far refused to release any sales figures for Selection beer or how much they are paying Moosehead to make it.

  3. Thanks for the comment anonymous. You seem to have done your research. Interesting stuff.


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