Craft beer entrepreneur Mitch Biggar is meeting with New Brunswick Liquor Corp. today in an effort to overturn a new rule he says will kill his Florenceville-Bristol business, the Railcar Brewing Company.
“My wish is they would reverse this policy and then hold stakeholder and public meetings requesting input on policy change,” Biggar stated Tuesday in an email to CBC News.
Last month NB Liquor’s board of directors approved a new policy requiring craft beer start-ups in the province to sell 10,000 litres of beer through the Crown corporation before obtaining a Brewery Agency Store (BAS) licence.
A BAS allows brewers to sell their products from their brewery for off-site consumption by individual consumers or restaurants.
In an email obtained by CBC News, Brian Harriman, the president and chief executive officer of NB Liquor, stated: “The intention of the threshold of 100hl before being allowed to sell growlers is not to stifle entry into beer or to force product through our system. It is to ensure people entering the category are able to financially support and produce quality products, which have consumer demand and which are safe for the public.”
But Biggar said a rule enforcing a minimum brewing capacity does nothing to guarantee a brewery's financial stability or the quality of the beer.
“In fact, it hinders start-ups because bigger and more expensive equipment will be needed to meet the quota,” states Biggar.
“In my opinion not being able to sell for offsite consumption will impede on the tourist aspects of breweries. Why stop for a tour if you can’t buy our products onsite?”
Industry observer criticizes rule
Craig Pinhey, a sommelier and industry observer, says the new rule will stamp out small start-ups in New Brunswick.
“They are purveyors of local fresh unpasteurized food. Beer is food, it’s like baking bread. It’s like a farmer’s market. That’s what we’re talking about here. They are not big corporations,” says Pinhey.
“It’s great for the economy. It’s great for tourism. It’s great for the consumer. A policy like that doesn’t make sense from a small business standpoint and I’m pretty sure every politician in this province wants to promote small business.”
The July 18 email from Harriman states NB Liquor will work with brewers to reach the 10,000 litre minimum.
Biggar says he hopes today’s meeting will accomplish discussion on more than that.
“It was not fair to change the agreement behind a closed door meeting with no public or industry consultation," he said.
CBC News is awaiting a response from NB Liquor regarding what prompted the new rules. It is expected this afternoon.