Have you ever heard of a growler? No, not that. I mean the carefree jug of ale that you can buy at most craft breweries, at grocery stores and even in gas stations. Easy peasy. In New Brunswick, however, the greatest effort is being made to make sure the growler is provided in a singular way:
The $10 varieties have proven the most popular to date, representing the bulk of sales at nearly 3,800 litres, followed by the $12 products, with 1,368 litres sold, and $15 products at 501 litres. The stores have also sold about 1,200 growler bottles at $10 each, and have started allowing customers to bring their own 1.89-litre beer jugs, provided the NB Liquor cap fits the bottles, said Saulnier. On Thursday, the first 100 customers at the three stores will receive a free empty growler jug. Under the pilot, which is slated to run until March 2015, staff are available to fill growlers full-time Thursdays and Fridays, between 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and Saturdays from noon until 8:30 p.m.
Don't you dare show up at 3:25 pm on a Wednesday, you lay abouts! And ten dollars for the empty jug! Good Lord. Happy the man with a growler collection to sell for something less than grand larceny... as in a petty larceny of say six bucks. Sadly, the government owned monopoly clearly had to cut a deal with the local macro brewers as an outlet for Molson, Labatt and Moosehead is guaranteed. And the opportunity is only provided at three stores in the entire province. My favourite line in the whole article is this one from NB Liquor president and CEO Brian Harriman: “[w]e are proud to be the first to offer this increasingly popular format to our customers...” Seeing as (a) this is not true in, you know, the sense of the world and (b) Mr. Harriman runs a state-owned monopoly, the sheer gall of the statement battles with its silliness for first prize.
What we have here is an artifact. The control model that Canadians have excelled at is its purest form in our eastern provinces, aka my old Atlantic home. The cry of the neo-prohibitionists never truly was heard in the heart of Canadians as much as the wee whisper that there was too much good money in beer to leave it laying on the table. Control does not only refer to restricting public access but also ensuring no price undercutting, reducing retailing expenses and limiting what E.P. Taylor would have called - in his business correspondence - unnecessary waste. A deal like that is a anti-competitive business person's delight. Combine that with a government eager to control not only the sale but the taxation of beer as well as the profits from the wholesaling and retailing processes, well, it is a match made in the mythological location of your choice. That force is at play in this situation. In tension with modernity. It's like Picasso in his proto-cubist months. Sorta.
Does this speak to the point of the "pilot project" of 2014-15 like some sort of pointy finger of accusation? Not really. It is true that when one lives in shackles fixed to the wall the freedom of the prison yard appears as a dream come true. Yet, do we not forgive them for they know not what they do? The pressures are great upon the control principle. New Brunswick sits next to looser societies. And it has tried other schemes. Short of joining most of the western world, can we expect more?