Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay's love affair with Labatt Crystal continues as company debunks cancellation rumour

Thunder Bay's Crystal beer drinkers won't have to find a new brand after all. Despite recent rumours to the contrary, Labatt assures the lager is not, in fact, being discontinued.

Labatt says high demand has led to a shortage in Thunder Bay, but more Crystal is on the way

Carlo DeAgazio, an 'avid' Crystal drinker in Thunder Bay, Ont., is the proud owner of several pieces of vintage brand memorabilia, including this backpack and sweater. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Thunder Bay's Crystal beer drinkers won't have to find a new brand after all. Despite recent rumours to the contrary, Labatt assures the lager is not, in fact, being discontinued.

Earlier this week, rumours were going around on online forums suggesting Labatt would be killing the brand, which is a staple in the northwestern Ontario city's bars, curling rinks and local garages.

CBC News has confirmed with Labatt those rumours were, in fact, false. 

"Due to the high demand for Labatt Crystal we are currently out of stock, but we're working quickly to ensure product is restocked and available in Thunder Bay," a spokesperson for the brewery told CBC News.

That will come as a relief to those who drink Crystal beer — described by the Beer Store as being "specially brewed for a mild lager taste" — in Thunder Bay, which has a long history with the brew, going back to Prohibition and a famous publicity campaign in the 1980s aimed at workers at the city's paper mill and Bombardier plants. 

An acquired taste for a discount beer 

"When you're young, it's an acquired taste, I guess you could say," Carlo DeAgazio said. "That was just the one that I actually enjoyed at the time. And then ever since then, amongst my group, it was just always front-and-centre."

"I just didn't really like thinking about what beer I was going to get. It was just automatically, 'I might as well get a case of Crystal.'"

And DeAgazio certainly heard the rumours of Crystal's purported demise, saying he got several messages from friends about it. And while, had it been true, DeAgazio said he'd likely simply switch to another discount brand like Busch or OV, he was still relieved to hear Labatt's reassurance that Crystal wasn't going anywhere.

"I would say that's very good news for me because I wasn't really ready to not have a Crystal in the future," he said. "Especially over Christmas holidays, that sort of thing. I'm buying cases of Crystal the whole time anyway."

"It would have been a bad day if it was true that it was being discontinued, so I am pretty pumped to hear that it'll still stick around for a while anyway."

Despite rumours to the contrary, Labatt says Crystal beer is not being discontinued. (Kris Ketonen/CBC)

DeAgazio did have one request for Labatt, however: bring back cans.

"That has actually prevented me from buying as much Crystal as I normally would, outside of going out," he said. "But I like to go out once or twice a week. Anytime I go to a restaurant, if it has Crystal, that's always what I'm getting. I very rarely stray from it."

"At home, I'd probably do more of the OV, Busch nowadays, only because of [the] convenience of cans."

Crystal may be a historic favourite in Thunder Bay, as the city has since become known for its craft beer scene, which has grown to five different breweries in recent years. That includes the Sleeping Giant Brewery, which has been open for nearly a decade.

In an email to CBC News, Don Lammi, manager of the Port Arthur Curling Club, said Crystal beer does still sell, but demand is lower than other brands, including Moosehead, Labatt 50 Ale, Bud Light, and Lakeside Kolsch.

"With the ever increasing-diversity of product out there, people are changing in general their beer habits," Lammi said. "We have 25 different beer products here, as well as a couple of drafts, so there is more choice than ever."