Craft beer eyes VQA-style designation to promote local brews

B.C. craft brewers are backing a plan for a special designation for B.C.-based craft beer.

Ken Beattie says designation would have to start with definitions of what qualifies as local craft beer

The BC Craft Brewers guild would like to see a VQA-style certification for B.C. produced beer. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

B.C. craft brewers are backing a plan for a special designation for B.C.-based craft beer, but say for a program to work, it would have to be less strict than what is currently in place for wines with the VQA designation — allowing brewers to source ingredients from outside B.C.

The final report of the B.C. Liquor Policy Review recommends the government consider establishing a quality assurance program for craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits, similar to the VQA, or Vintners Quality Alliance, program — which currently guarantees wines are made in B.C., with 100 per cent B.C. ingredients.

"Let's promote local. Let's have it in its own section. When you go to Ontario … on the floor in the displays is local craft beer," Ken Beattie, the executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, told On The Island's Gregor Craigie.

Beattie said the VQA program could provide a "blueprint" with which to do that, but said demanding 100 per cent local ingredients would be a tall order as it's difficult for breweries to come by the volume of grains and hops they need for production.

"Wineries are on agricultural land also so they're growing their own ingredients. Breweries are — you know, in Victoria I don't think Vancouver Island [Brewery] and Philips [Beer] have space to have a barley field and a hop field," he said.

Beattie said it will take a bit more work to figure out what will work for craft beer — and how craft beer is actually defined within B.C.

"We just want to be supporting local industry, which the government has said they're interesting in doing. It's just a matter of getting everyone at the table with the pressing policy changes — that's kind of thrown a wrench into the ability to focus on what the next level would be."

To hear the full interview with Ken Beattie, listen to the audio labelled: Could craft beers and spirits earn VQA-style designation?

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