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Munchies

Why This Brewery Is No Longer Giving Its Employees Free Beer For Life

Since Labatt opened its Edmonton brewery in 1962, the company has maintained a policy of giving pensioners a gift card good for a case of 12 Labatts each week until they die.

by Wyatt Marshall
Nov 15 2016, 6:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Daryl Fritz

Perhaps the central theme that guided Donald Trump to victory in the 2016 election was a longing for the revival of good old American prosperity, a time when a solid factory job meant a steady, growing paycheck and financial security for life. "Make America Great Again," it went, and to the surprise of many, the voters flocked to the polls and granted him victory.

Time will tell if it is ever possible to return to that era, but up north in Canada, one of the coolest vestiges of those times is ending. As reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Labatt brewing will no longer give free beer for life to retired brewery workers.

Since Labatt opened its Edmonton brewery in 1962, the company has maintained a policy of giving pensioners a gift card good for a case of 12 Labatts each week until they die. The perk could actually extend beyond the brewery worker's life to cover his or her spouse, who would inherit the case-a-week card until death. But now, Labatt will be cutting the distribution in half in 2018 before phasing it out entirely by 2019.

"With the escalating costs associated with maintaining a full benefits package, Labatt made the reluctant decision to discontinue our free beer allotment to all retirees in Canada," Charlie Angelakos, a Labatt Spokesperson wrote in an email statement to MUNCHIES. "We only came to this decision after benchmarking a range of Canadian beer and consumer packaged goods companies."

But not every employee is buying it in light of Labatt's rising sales.

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"I just think it's nickel-and-diming of our retirees that put in a lot of work for many, many years," Jim Stirr, the local union president, told the CBC. The policy engendered goodwill toward the brand beyond their working years, and Stirr said he felt pride in serving as a sort of salesperson for the brand, giving it to friends and bringing it to parties.

Labatt, which was independently owned until 1995, is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. In recent years, hourly wages are down $10 for new hires to $24 an hour.

Labatt isn't the only Canadian brewer to put a sunset date on its free beers for retirees. In 2009, Molson announced it was cutting down its monthly beer allotment for former employees from six dozen (!!!) to one dozen per month. Molson stopped giving out free beer to retirees in 2014, but news reports at the time made it clear that current workers would still get a case of cold ones per week.

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At Labatt, current employees will continue to enjoy a free case per week as well—a great perk, but not quite as sweet a deal as a golden ticket for lifetime brews. Time to pour one out for an era gone by.