New Brunswick

Beer will be sold in New Brunswick grocery stores beginning Thursday

It’s no trick. Beer will be sold in New Brunswick grocery stores beginning Thursday on Halloween.

Beer comes with price bump of at least 7% over corporate stores' products

Picaroons will be among the craft beer labels available for sale in grocery stores provincewide beginning Thursday. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

It's no trick. Beer will be sold in New Brunswick grocery stores beginning Thursday on Halloween.

And there's a treat for craft beer lovers: Some well-known microbreweries will be among the brands on sale in 66 stores across the province.

When NB Liquor announced the grocery store rollout in June, the big domestic beers were expected to be the first to hit shelves in October.

But the liquor agency tweaked its plan to include a selection of craft beer and popular imports. 

The New Brunswick Craft Alcohol Producers Association applauded the decision in a release Wednesday.

"This is an important new retail channel for both consumers and producers," president Sean Dunbar, who owns Picaroons, said in the statement.

Sean Dunbar of Northampton Brewing Company, which makes Picaroons, applauded the decision to included craft beer in grocery stores. (CBC)

"The addition of beer to grocery stores follows the very successful introduction of wine and cider products. New Brunswick now leads the region on providing consumers wider access to local craft alcohol."

The initial offering will include 10 craft beers from seven breweries, with more to be added next year, Dunbar said.

'There's a pretty large portfolio'

Graystone, Grimross, Pump House, Trailway and Picaroons are among the New Brunswick microbreweries granted extra exposure in grocery stores, next to more "mainstream" labels, like Moosehead, Coors Light, Molson and Budweiser, according to NB Liquor spokesperson Tom Tremblay.

Corona, Stella Artois, Heineken and Guinness are among the imports, and there will also be domestic premium beers, such as Michelob Ultra, Belgian Moon and Shock Top, as well as some coolers, such as Mike's Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice. 

"There's a pretty large portfolio," Tremblay said. 

"Customers want the convenience and accessibility, so expanding this channel, the grocery store channel, you know, it really helps customers to be able to pick up enough beer to drink, in addition to wine and cider, when they're completing their grocery run."

Tremblay said NB Liquor changed its mind on the kinds of brewers that would be included in the initial offering after discussions with craft brewers.

"We just wanted to ensure that craft brewers had the capacity, the production level and the sales volume," he said, "and we wanted to make sure that everyone was able to roll this out and it to be, you know, efficient."

A trial run

The rollout is part of the agency's "beverage portfolio," which will also see an updated wine selection available at the same grocery stores that currently sell wine and cider, the Crown corporation said earlier this year.

It will be available in Loblaws and Sobeys chains, as well as their independent stores.

"This is a test trial run, but we are confident that this is what consumers want," said Tremblay, adding the corporation will reassess the sales plan in the new year. 

He said it will also be reassessing the selection to meet consumer needs. Spirits, however, are not being considered as this time, he said.

NB Liquor says its grocery store sales will not cannibalize its corporate store sales. (CBC)

Tremblay said beer will be sold as singles and six packs and, as such, shouldn't cannibalize sales at corporate stores. 

"The consumer still will go to a corporate store to pick up the whole pack, two-four and other sizes," he said. "So we don't anticipate that it will affect too much on our corporate sales."

Grocery store beer will come with a seven per cent minimum price increase over the corporate stores.

Loblaws said its New Brunswick stores are excited to add beer to the mix, especially local products.

"We will be a new destination for craft beer drinkers," Mark Boudreau, Loblaw Atlantic's director of corporate affairs, said in a statement Tuesday. "Customers visit our stores for all the ingredients and flavours of a great meal, and now we can serve that need even better."

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