New Brunswick beer drinkers may be celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a cold pint, but it's unlikely that glass is filled with the provincial brands of beer, Selection Lager and Light.
It's been one year since NB Liquor unveiled its own budget beer, which was designed as a low-cost beer aimed at keeping beer drinkers buying a local brand instead of going to Quebec or Maine.
NB Liquor aggressively marketed its Selection brands over its first year, even giving away whisky with it for a while to boost sales.
'You never see anybody buying it and you never see anybody drinking it. So I just figured that was it but I guess not.' — Craig Pinhey, wine and beer critic
When Selection was launched last March, drinkers bought about 7,008 cans of it per day. For the last six months, that number has been at 4,284, down 39 per cent.
Nora Lacey, a NB Liquor spokeswoman, said the Crown corporation believes the Selection Lager and Light experiment is doing what it wanted it to when it was launched last March.
"It's helped to stimulate the sales not only of Selection, but also to stimulate limited time offers for other products in the domestic category," Lacey said.
NB Liquor said it's still pleased with Selection despite the falling number of purchasers.
The Crown corporation also plans to continue marketing the government suds for at least another year.
Experiment sours critic
One beer and wine critic said he believes the experiment has gone stale.
"You never see anybody buying it and you never see anybody drinking it," Craig Pinhey said. "So I just figured that was it, but I guess not."
When Selection was first put on NB Liquor shelves, New Brunswick became the first province in Canada to market its own brand of beer.
New Brunswick's policy of socially responsible pricing means that the lowest allowable price for 12 cans is $18.99.
But in Quebec, the lowest allowable price is much lower. Beer drinkers across the border can get 24 cans of beer for $25.
Dana Clendenning, the liquor corporation's president and chief executive officer, told a legislative committee in January 2009 that NB Liquor was losing about $12 million in sales annually, primarily to Quebec.