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All photos by Evan Thornton.

Rideau Centre LCBO: Reborn and better than ever

By Evan Thornton on May 2, 2016


It was a hole in the wall with the worst selection in the city, and when they closed it no one complained, which may just be a first for a store of its type.

A favourite feature: the shrine to cold Beau's. All photos by Evan Thornton.

A favourite feature: the shrine to cold Beau’s. All photos by Evan Thornton.

I speak, of course, of the old Rideau Centre LCBO, the late and completely unlamented bottle shop that may have saved many a dinner party from going boozeless, but never managed to endear itself to its customers. We were equally appalled by its short selection and its long lines at the till. (What were the employees tasked with if they weren’t staffing the checkout, we asked ourselves? Certainly not stocking the shelves!)

So last October it was relief all around when the renovated Rideau Centre — oops, the renovated “CF” Rideau Centre– opened its doors to a brand new LCBO outlet and the shelves were revealed to be positively brimming with what we all can’t get enough of nowadays: Ontario craft beer, and lots of it.

But after a few weeks it became clear that it wasn’t just that bit of extra space and a change in catalogue that was at play in the new location. No, someone who knew and loved craft beer was clearly curating the selection to make it one of the most interesting and in-depth selections of Ontario craft we’ve seen.


Craft beer at eye level, cheap suds down low. Not your dad's Beer Store.

Craft beer at eye level, cheap suds down low. Not your dad’s Beer Store.

Inquiries were made and we came up with the name of the employee responsible. His name is Tim Wilson, and he’s a veteran LCBO staffer, having started with company back in 2003.

Happily, he’s agreed to talk to us, and answer a few of our questions.

Apt613: Everyone used to complain about the old Rideau Centre liquor store, how meagre the selection was– for everything. You don’t have a lot more room now, yet you’ve found room for a ton of Ontario craft. How tough was that to implement?

Tim Wilson:  When the L.C.B.O decided to build the new location in the Rideau Centre, they already had a craft beer section pre-planned as sales in that division of the market are soaring and craft beer sales in that location of the city are really trending. Loving craft beer myself, I was happy to bring what I know to the table in helping redesign what craft beers we carry and having a turnover of new beers coming in all the time, at the same time recognizing regular staple brands we should always carry. The Ontario Craft Beer section in the Rideau Centre is better than it’s ever been!


Have you personally tasted all the craft you stock?

TW:  No, I haven’t personally tasted all the craft we stock, some of it just doesn’t appeal to me, but when you’re choosing a beer portfolio you have to appeal to a larger audience and cater to what’s trending to stay relevant.

Can you tell us a bit more how tasting on the job works? You don’t actually spit, do you?

TW:  Representatives from the the various wine and beer merchants schedule tastings with managers for store tastings where they educate the staff on the product and company bio. Small presentations are done by individual companies explaining who they are, where they are from, what their product is and made of, and how it’s made. We are offered (not required) small samples(one per person) to taste the product so we have a sense of what it is when we sell it, spittoons are provided for us and we are encouraged to spit.


Ok, you get to work with craft beer all week so it’s probably on your mind a lot. What are your favourite spots (with craft taps) for kicking back with a quality pint on the weekend?

TW:  Living in Hintonburg, Ottawa, we have such a great range of choices available to us, but just to name a few great spots to hang out for a craft pint, you have The Hintonburg Public House, 10Fourteen, and Supply and Demand. And not far away there is two six {ate} in Little Italy — and of course when I’m on Elgin it’s the Manx.

Final question (cue drum rolI)… your very favourite Ontario beer is??

TW:  It’s a cross between “Rye Guy” from Beyond the Pale Brewery here in Ottawa, “Lake Effect” from The Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke or Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale from Beau’s Brewery in Vankleek Hill. I guess I don’t just have one favorite!