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Cyberattack behind Manitoba beer shortages

A half-empty beer fridge is seen at the B.C. Liquor Store on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
A half-empty beer fridge is seen at the B.C. Liquor Store on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. Simon Little / Global News

A computer virus is behind a shortage of brews seen at some Manitoba beer stores.

Signs posted at vendors across the province warn customers about limited stock after the province’s largest supplier of beer was hit with a computer virus late last month.

Brewers Distributor Ltd. (BDL), which supplies popular beer brands across western Canada, was the victim of a cyberattack March 25, and it’s impacting the company’s ability to process orders from liquor stores.

Bill Walker, a spokesperson for BDL, told Global News deliveries are still happening, but not the way they normally would.

“We must do everything manually – including taking orders manually, writing down the orders and picking them and delivering them,” Walker said.

The problems mean local vendors are running low on some beer brands with deliveries behind schedule.

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“The major distributor of beer in Manitoba has got the virus, and that makes it difficult for us to get product,” Scott Jocelyn from the Manitoba Hotel Association said Monday.

“It’s limiting what we can offer for our customers.”

Signs warn of beer shortages at Manitoba vendors.
Signs warn of beer shortages at Manitoba vendors. Joe Scarpelli/Global News

A spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries said they’re working with BDL to manually process orders to help make sure beer vendors, licensees, and Liquor Marts receive shipments.

The MLL says the supply chain problems are primarily impacting larger domestic brands.

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Jocelyn said the timing of the cyberattack couldn’t be worse for hotel owners already facing financial strains amid COVID-19.

“One of our last components of our business that’s still operating is our retail beer network,” he said. “We’d love to see them get it back to normal.”

In an email, Walker said BDL is “making progress on the cyber issue“ but could not provide a timeline.

A boon for craft brewers

While it’s not good for vendor owners, local craft brewers — who handle their own distribution — are benefiting from BDL’s woes, says John Heim, president of Winnipeg’s Torque Brewing.

“We are doing a lot of home deliveries now and taking advantage of some of these supply chain issues that Canada’s running into,” Heim said Monday.

“Liquor stores and the better cold-beer stores are offering local options that might ease you into sort of being able to try something that’s local that might be comparable at a similar price.”

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Heim says that because they’re smaller, local breweries like his have been able to pivot more easily than the big beer companies during the changes brought on by the pandemic.

When keg sales dried up as restaurants and bars closed, for instance, Heim said Torque simply started canning more of its beer.

And with home delivery now an option, sales are good, he says.

READ MORE: Home-brew boom — More people in B.C. making their own beer amid COVID-19

“It may actually become a division of our long-term business plan,” he said of home delivery.

“We’ve found that instead of going to their favourite watering holes, people are having a couple on their deck instead.”

–With files from Sarah Ryan

Sip and sing along with the Winnipeg Beer Choir
Sip and sing along with the Winnipeg Beer Choir