Pucker Up Buttercup*

It’s been about 10 years since Cantillon was last available in BC, a wait that is soon to be over as our first shipment of the classic Belgian Lambic has finally arrived.

The ‘journey’ of this particular beer was an economically educational event too, as early 2010 was an interesting time for ocean freight.  Of course, all imported beer is sent over the oceans by ship, as planes are simply far too expensive… and trains don’t work well on water. This, coupled with the recent recessionary rebound sparked some interesting observations on the world of international trade.  We’re not so much complaining as we are observing something shitty that happened to us,  causing unwelcome delay and expense. Diplomatically put, huh?

The ocean freight industry took a huge hit in 2009, losing approximately $20 billion – a large sum that they’d certainly like to recoup. Thus, in 2010 prices for ocean freight began to rise.  Just as world markets restocked their inventories of goods, increasing demand, the freight carriers added surcharges and reduced supply (meaning that they laid-up ships to inflate prices across available boats). All of this served to drive the price of shipments up significantly.

This isn’t necessarily sinister behaviour on the part of carriers, for I would want my $20 billion back too. But fewer ships means less available cargo space, and as a result certain shipments got delayed and consolidation became more difficult. Consolidating shipments – squeezing ours in with someone else’s to fill a container – is important to RainCity Brands because we don’t often ship entire containers of product at one time, especially not products as ‘niche’ as Cantillon. Unfortunately for beer importers, a reduction in freight availability introduces uncertainty in an already uncertain process.

This macro-economic ripple was certainly not something we had considered! So as result the long-awaited Cantillon is still long-awaited. Alas, our physical and proverbial ship has finally come in, and we expect Cantillon to fly through customs and the BCLDB registration process (hahahah). Realistically, the Gueuze, Kriek and Rose De Gambrinus should be on shelves before the end of May. Pucker Up.


*By the way, I stole this title from one of Lee William’s Hoptopia Twitter hash tags (@Hoptopia). Not only is it a good phrase with which to describe sour beers, but it sums up the experience of shipping a container of artisinal lambic beer via a freight industry designed for international mega-commerce.