A major supplier of popular beer brands in Alberta, Brewers Distributor Ltd., was the victim of a cyber attack two weeks ago, impacting their ability to process orders from liquor stores.
BDL distributes hundreds of brands, including Canadian, Pilsner, Kokanee and Labatts, to liquor stores across the province.
Though the attack happened on March 25, as of Wednesday evening, the company was still dealing with the fallout.
A voice recording on the company’s phone line said due to IT issues, “Currently, we are unable to address orders from Alberta.”
Bill Walker, a spokesperson for BDL said deliveries are still happening, but not in the normal way.
“We must do everything manually – including taking orders manually, writing down the orders and picking them and delivering them,” Walker said.
The problems are causing local liquor stores to run low on certain beers as their deliveries are running behind.
“The reality is, within another week, we’re all going to start running out of the smaller, less popular products and the value beers,” said Jim Pettinger.
He’s the store manager at YEG Liquor on Kingsway Avenue. Pettinger said he realized something was wrong on March 27, when something went wrong with his beer order.
“Normally the way it works is you place an order, you get an email confirmation, you pay for it the following day and you receive it the next business day,” he said.
Pettinger said he didn’t get the confirmation email and his order never came, despite paying for it.
“We started to discover that they were not business as usual. They’re taking orders from people’s phones, in their homes. They weren’t able to use their computer system.”
The order he eventually placed and received was restricted to only a fraction of the regular product line.
“They were going to be taking orders on an extremely limited number of products. So we can choose from 40 different items, when normally there’s about 200.”
As an example of items he doesn’t have now, Pettinger listed Brava, Miller Genuine Draft and Granville Island beers.
“Most stores don’t carry a lot of product because we can order once a week,” he explained.
But that doesn’t mean the liquor stores will entirely run out of beer. Pettinger said there’s no reason to panic buy and recommends trying something brewed locally.
“There are 100 craft breweries in Alberta. What an amazing time to support local, try something out of your comfort zone and give a shot to somebody that is your neighbour,” he said.
Pettinger is also worried about the security of his information, as a customer of BDL.
“Am I at some point going to receive an email reportedly from BDL saying, ‘Please click this link?'”
In his statement, Walker said BDL is “working as quickly as possible to resolve this,” but could not provide a timeline.
His advice for stores concerned about their supplies?
“If liquor stores are running out then they should get in contact with us,” he said.
Pettinger said he called his BDL representative, as well as contacts at various suppliers and nobody seems to know exactly what the problem is, nor why it’s taking so long to resolve.
“Just no communication. I’m sitting here wondering when I’m going to hear from them,” Pettinger said.
“This could change. I could get a call tomorrow saying we’re back to selling everything, but we don’t know.”