Cross-border budget beer


With all this talk of Trump’s tweets about Canadians going to the US to smuggle cheap shoes (WHAT?) I figure now is a good time to discuss geography. I always used to laugh when people said they’d drive over the provincial bridge to Quebec for beer. “Surely,” I thought. “You can’t save enough to warrant the trip!”

Of course, I didn’t really think much of it until I realized how much entertaining we have been doing this summer. Despite the fact that most people bring their own alcohol we’ve been burning through a lot more beer than we typically do. Looking over our budget, a lot of our entertainment budget was spent on alcohol. So on a whim, I checked the Flipp app to see if there were any good beer sales going on.

Wait, WHAT?

Those of you who live in areas where booze is cheap may think that is an average price for beer. But let’s see how much three of those beers are in my province:

Corona (incl tax but not deposit)

Stella Artois (tax/no dep)

Heineken (tax/no dep)

So with taxes and no deposit (we are assuming we will return the cans) every case purchased in Quebec costs $33.99 after tax where the beer purchased here is $45.50-$49.50. So that means a savings of $11.51 to $15.51 a case. That is an incredible savings. So if you take the 25 minute trip over the border and stock up, every run can save you a pile of money. In our case (no pun intended) we ended up purchasing 10 cases today, which means we saved $138.61 (accounting for the variation in prices). That is a ridiculous amount of money for essentially a one-hour trip.

The haul

We also bought 4 different wines you cant get in our province for $76.95 including 3 litres of grapefruit wine cooler that was a mere $22.98. Comparable versions on this side of the border are about $100.

The biggest question though: it is legal? The answer to that is both yes and no. Although police have been known to crackdown occasionally, it really is really rare and often is relegated to underage drinking as the age of majority varies province-to-province.

All-in our little trip took about an hour and saved us approximately $162 making the trip absolutely worth it when beer goes on sale and if you can afford to buy in bulk.

While I won’t get into the reasons for such a disparity in pricing, this video, “Straight Up” does a great job of exploring the history of alcohol in the province of Ontario. It’s a fascinating look at how prohibition-era ideas about alcohol still dominate us today:

Straight Up: The Issue of Alcohol in Ontario from Peter Lenardon on Vimeo.

Finally, with Doug Ford campaigning on a-buck-a-beer platform – and winning the provincial legislature last week – it will be interesting to see what happens over the next little while. Given at how they were selling beer for $10 at the Ontario PC after party, I hope that isn’t a sign of what’s to come (beer is the least of the issues in this province, honestly). Still, for those of us who live near a border, it won’t matter as much unless prices rise in both places.