The Government of Alberta recently sent out a press release touting the success of their legislation regarding small breweries in Alberta.
The release outlined the success of the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program which, in part, provides grants to Alberta breweries.
“Alberta’s farmers grow the best grain and now more Alberta brewers and distillers are taking advantage of that to make the best beer and spirits. Our government is proud to support a successful and growing industry from grain to glass as they broaden job opportunities, help diversify the economy and make great products,” Joe Ceci, president of the treasury board and minister of finance, said.
Currently, there are 21 spirit producers in 19 communities and nearly 60 small breweries — an increase from 45 breweries since the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program was introduced just over one year ago. The amount of beer sold in that time has grown 27%, which equals an increase of 20 million bottles of beer.
Charlie Bredo, co-owner of Troubled Monk Brewery in Red Deer, said the NDP government has been very supportive of the industry.
“I think it has helped that they have brought a lot of attention to the industry through the changes they made,” he said. “When they changed it so there would be a grant program in place for small brewers, it effectively put us on a level playing field with the rest of Canada.”
Bredo said in a perfect world, breweries from all provinces would be able to sell their products throughout all of Canada. This is currently not the case, and it was previously very difficult for Albertan breweries to get their products into out of province markets.
“If you were a brewery in B.C. before the government made these changes, you could sell beer into Alberta. These breweries were growing and taking money out of the province,” Bredo said. “They were adding employment into their economies and Alberta didn’t have that same advantage sending our beer into those jurisdictions.”
Bredo said the government changing tax rates for Albertan breweries allowed them to sell their products at a more competitive price.
“The grant with Alberta breweries puts us on a level playing field with those out of province breweries,” he said.
Bredo added the idea these tax changes are unfair is misguided.
“There’s so much in the news about how it is unfair, but in reality, we can’t sell our beer there, so how is that fair?” he said.
Regarding the burgeoning growth of the industy, Bredo and Blindman Brewing Co-owner Hans Douf agreed that a competitive market will be good for the consumer.
“It is great for the consumer because it is forcing the breweries to produce great beer, reasonable prices, good marketing and all that. For the businesses that don’t have those things, It could be tough for them,” Bredo said.
Douf wasn’t too concerned of an over-saturated market and said the product will be solid due to the added competition.
“If you get in a competitive mind space, you may get a little nervous, but that can be good because it can help each brewery try to create the best product out there,” he said.
Going forward, Bredo said it is important that the government works with brewers to help open up the borders throughout Canada so that brewers can get their products out of and into Alberta.
“That is the next big challenge. It should be just as easy for us to get our beer into their liquor stores as it is for them to get their beer into our liquor stores,” he said.
Douf added brewers now have a strong united voice when dealing with government.
“With our Alberta Small Brewers Association, we are able to have more of a voice to help lobby and change regulations that will help us grow,” Douf said.