BY RYAN WELLICOME
Lacombe’s own Blindman Brewing Company feels positive about the new Alberta Small Brewers Development Program put in place by the Alberta Government.
The program, put in place last week, offers brewers that produce no more than 300,000 hectolitres (30 million litres) the ability to receive provincial grants to help their business.
“Along with other small brewers we are excited that the Alberta Government has done this for us,” said Hans Doef, an owner at Blindman Brewing.
“For Alberta brewers it is going to make a positive impact.”
The grant program has been put in place in order to offset cost for small brewers – a cost incurred by a new across-the-board markup taking effect Aug. 5th.
The markup, collected by the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission (AGLC), is $1.25 per litre of all beer, regardless of its production origin.
Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said the universal markup was introduced in order to, “Level the playing field.”
Accordign to Ceci, the grant program could see $20 million coming back to small brewers annually.
He said it will help brewers grow and expand while helping to grow the local craft brewing sector.
The new markup replaced a graduated markup system that was based on a brewery’s size – the smaller the brewer’s production, the smaller the markup.
“It was a scare when we heard about the $1.25 markup without getting any concrete grant program specifics,” said Doef.
The provincial government instructed the AGLC to introduce the markup in July while at the same time assured brewers the grant program – in the works at the time – would help offset that cost.
The grant program will allow small brewers to gain a significant portion of that money back.
The monetary amount that a brewer can receive is capped at $12 million per brewer and is on a sliding scale based on sales numbers.
Doef said the program would help get Blindman back to the markup scheme they once had.
“It’ll get us back down to that initial bracket that we were in, but it will go a roundabout way to do that,” he said.
“It’s more complicated but it gets us to the same end goal.”
The new universal markup has received opposition from small brewers in Saskatchewan and British Columbia because it will make it harder to access the Alberta market.
As the universal markup affects all beer regardless of it origin, it will create higher costs for out of province brewers to sell in Alberta markets.
Out of province brewers do not receive provincial grants and, therefore, feel as though Alberta brewers will have an unfair advantage.
This could cause some brewers to re-evaluate their place in the Alberta market.
Doef said the possible cut in competition could be good for Blindman and other small brewers in Alberta.
“We can probably grow a bit faster because some of these B.C. and Saskatchewan breweries are going to be having a harder time getting into the market now,” he said.
“Some of those taps and accounts could be more readily available from the start.”
Blindman Brewing opened its doors in late 2015 and has seen success since it began operations.
Its Kettle Sour and Blindman River Session Ale both won silver awards at the Canadian Brewery Awards held in Vancouver in May.