06/27/2011 09:02 EDT | Updated 08/27/2011 05:12 EDT

Canada Beer: The Cheapest Brews In The Country, And What May Be The Most Expensive Bottle

Sheryl Nadler/OpenFile

Michael Robis isn’t used to seeing six men share a single bottle of beer at his pub, but then again most bottles of beer don’t cost $282.50, including tax.

Samuel Adams Utopias comes in an ornate, resealable porcelain bottle and is aged in a combination of bourbon, cherry, brandy, Cognac and Portuguese muscatel finishing casks for up to 15 years. The beer from different casks is blended together to create a unique vintage every two years. Chester’s Beers of the World, the pub Robis manages in Hamilton, Ontario, bought six bottles of the 27 percent alcohol beer when the latest release became available. He has two left.

Who’s buying $300 bottles of beer?

“A group of about six guys pitched in about $40 or $50 each and shared a bottle.” Most people, Robis says, opt to share Utopias.

“It may be the most expensive beer in the country,” he says.

Based on OpenFile’s research into Canadian beer prices, Robis is probably right. The collaborative local news organization assigned reporters in the seven Canadian communities where it publishes—Vancouver, Calgary, Waterloo Region, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal—to gather information about the local price of beer. (Click on a city name in the previous sentence to read the local pricing story and view visualizations of the data collected.)

Where possible, OpenFile contacted provincial liquor boards and commissions to determine the cheapest domestic, indie and imports in stores. They also gathered pricing data for Halifax and Winnipeg, just to make sure they didn’t leave out Atlantic Canada and the Prairies.

The Huffington Post Canada joined with OpenFile to launch the #BeerEhTwitter hashtag to encourage people to share their favourite brew, and to tell us where to find cheap beer in their neighbourhood. As part of our reporting, we asked people, “American or Canadian beer: Which is better?” and it was no contest. We also gathered lots of great responses to the questions “What’s your favourite beer?” and “If you could have beer with anyone, who would it be?”


So where’s the cheapest beer? Montreal and Gatineau in the National Capital Region are tops when it comes to rock bottom beer pricing, and British Columbia and Manitoba are at the high end. (Store pricing information includes relevant taxes and deposit.)

When it comes to a six-pack of beer, in Montreal you can often find a domestic brand close to the province’s mandated floor price, which is $5.96 for a beer with between 5 percent and 6.2 percent alcohol. (Beer sales are decentralized in Quebec, meaning there is a lot more competition and prices vary from one depanneur and grocery store to the next.)

In Calgary, the cheapest six-pack at the store is Bow Valley ($6.87). Just a few years ago, Calgary was reportedly home to the country’s cheapest store beer prices. But increased taxes and higher minimum prices set by the province have seen the cost of alcohol rise almost 21 percent since 2002. Mind you, it’s still more affordable than a lot of other provinces.

At the expensive end, a six-pack of usually affordable brands such as Molson, Coors or Budweiser will run you $11.49 in Vancouver. The best you can do in that city is six Bowen Island lager for $8.45. in Winnipeg you’ll pay $11.25 for six Sleeman Clear, the cheapest domestic brands in that city. The cheapest sixer in Toronto and Hamilton is Laker Lager ($7.95). Ottawa’s Beer Stores offer multiple brands at $9.95, and the Waterloo Region offers brands such as Lakeport, Lucky Lager and Carling at $8.95 for six. It goes to show that within the same province, there are can be notable difference in pricing. (The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission doesn’t sell six packs, but you can get eight cans of Moosehead Dry Ice for $13.89.)

Quebec is also the best place to find cheap 12- and 24-packs. The provincial minimum price of $11.92 for 12 beers of between 5 percent and 6.2 percent alcohol is often offered at larger grocery store chains, even on local labels such as St-Ambroise and Griffon. You can also frequently grab the minimum price of $22.99 for 24 bottles of brands such as Budweiser and Coors, or $23.85 for Blue, Molson and others.

To put it into perspective, that’s roughly the same price paid by Winnipeggers and Vancouverites for a 12-pack of their cheapest domestic brands.

Finally, though no one’s likely to rival the price of a bottle of Utopias in Hamilton, recognition must be paid to Sink the Bismarck! and Tactical Nuclear Penguin, two brews that cost $120 each at Pub Italia in Ottawa.

After blowing your budget on that, you may need to cross the river into Gatineau, Quebec to pick up one of those 60-pack of Coors Light…


OpenFile set out to find cheap deals on bottles, pints and pitchers in each city. Click on the city name below to read more:

Be sure to send a tweet with #BeerEh to let us know about great deals on beer that were missed.

By Craig Silverman of OpenFile