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Beyond the Pale hosts screening of new doc exploring Ontario’s archaic liquor laws

By Tobi Cohen on August 27, 2014

With the popularity of craft beer exploding across the capital, not to mention everywhere else, a new film exploring Ontario’s archaic liquor distribution laws is sure to get micro broupies fired up when it makes its Ottawa debut Thursday.

The independent documentary called Straight Up: The issue of alcohol in Ontario, seeks to answer tough questions like: “Why can’t we open a craft beer store of our own?” and “Why does the Ontario government allow three foreign-owned companies to operate a near monopoly on 80 per cent of the beer sales in the province?”

According to their successful Kickstarter campaign pitch, the Kitchener, Ont., duo behind the film admit there were no “simple answers.

“Ontario’s got an interesting history when it comes to alcohol retailing,” said writer and videographer Peter Lenardon, who made the film with sound engineer and fellow craft beer fan A.J. Wykes. “We want to tell that story with this documentary.”

They argue the beer market is “subject to a lot of restrictive and seemingly arbitrary rules emanating from multiple pieces of legislation and old government institutions” and that the province seems preoccupied with maintaining its control.

The documentary features interviews with academics, the Wine Council of Ontario and a number of Ontario craft brewers including Steve Beauchesne, co-founder and CEO of local favorite Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company.

While Ottawa’s Beyond the Pale Brewery isn’t featured in the film, the company has teamed up with the makers of the documentary for the screening which will take place tomorrow night from 7 to 9 p.m. at Orange Gallery on City Centre Avenue.

Founder Rob McIsaac said Beyond the Pale will be hosting the event and supplying the refreshments. The night will include a cocktail hour meet and greet and a Q&A with the producers after the screening. Attendees will also be invited for a tour of the brewery’s yet-to-open new digs at its larger City Centre location.

McIsaac said he heard about the film through friends and made the pitch to the producers to come to Ottawa to screen it.

“The laws surrounding liquor distribution in the province are of current interest to us as we plod through our expansion and get into a position to distribute our beer more broadly,” he said.

“The Brewers Retail doesn’t serve the same purpose that it did when they were initially licensed for sales and distribution.

“Today you have the private interests of a few multinationals creating a barrier of entry for Ontario microbrewers, the group the initial law was designed to support,” he added. “It isn’t right.”

Tickets for the event are $25 and are still available through the brewery or online. Watch the trailer below:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/91932775[/vimeo]

Straight Up, The issue of alcohol in Ontario, will be screened at Orange Art Gallery (290 City Centre Ave) on Thursday, August 28, 2014 from 7-9pm.