Beer drinkers who prefer swilling favorites such as Labatt's Blue and Molson Canadian will have to look at switching brands because of a beer distributors strike in the Lower Mainland.
About 300 employees of Brewers Distributor Ltd. in New Westminster walked off the job on Saturday, May 1 in a dispute over wages, resulting in a province-wide beer shortage.
The strike has affected beer stocks at all Squamish liquor stores and cold beer and wine outlets, as well as pubs, bars and restaurants - but most are not too worried about the situation.
"We will obviously experience a shortage of choices in the next one to two weeks, but we still have plenty in stock," said the Shady Tree Neighbourhood Pub's general manager Marco Fanzone. "We were very proactive and ordered a tonne of it. I believe we'll have enough beer to carry us through the strike."
Some Squamish establishments were notified of the strike before it even happened, and were lucky enough to double up on their regular orders. At press time on Thursday, most stores still had Molson and Labatt products, but were beginning to show the signs of depleted stock.
"We still have beer but it's just a matter of time before we run out," said Ocean Port Cold Beer and Wine Store manager Cathy Fenton.
Because of the strike, smaller breweries have been working triple time to fill the demand, but still can't produce enough beer to meet the needs of beer drinkers across the province. Other popular brands such as Sleeman's, Okanagan Springs and Granville Island breweries are hard to come by in Squamish.
"We have Bud, Kokanee and Canadian, but there's a lot of stuff I can't get," said Fenton.
Squamish's newest liquor store, The Chieftain licensed liquor store in the Chieftain Hotel, had accidentally overstocked on the most popular brands, but are in good shape as a result.
"We've got Labatt and Canadian products still in stock," said manager April McNeil. "Because we're a new liquor store, we decided to bring in a lot of stock. It's a bonus for us, because we still have quite a bit of product available."
The strike isn't bad news for everyone however. At the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company, Squamish's only microbrewery, the strike has given them a chance to put their beer on the market.
"We're a microbrewery, so it helps that we make our own beer," said assistant manager Mike Meloche. "We look forward to the demand - hopefully people will find a palette for our beer so it's good for us.
"We're getting pretty low, but we're picking up whatever we can."
Labatt and Molson breweries make close to 90 per cent of the beer sold in B.C., and account for more than 80 per cent of the beer sold in government liquor stores. The two beer kingpins also distribute some of the most popular import brands, including Heineken, Stella Artois, Miller Genuine Draft, Coors Lite and Budweiser.
Until the strike ends, there will be no distribution of these brands to liquor stores, bars, pubs, restaurants and cold beer and wine stores.