British Columbia

'Levelling the playing field': B.C. agriculture minister looks to help craft breweries

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham hinted at changes for craft breweries that grow on Agricultural Land Reserve.

Craft breweries in B.C. that follow strict land use guidelines may see changes, says minister

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says the Ministry is considering changing policies to be more fair for local craft breweries that struggle to meet their regulations. (CBC)

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says the province will consider relaxing regulations to make it easier for craft breweries to operate on the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Regulations in the province require breweries, distilleries and meaderies to have at least 50 per cent of their products grown on their farm in order to operate on ALR land.

Wineries and cideries don't have to abide by this provision. They are allowed to source from different vineyards in B.C. to make that total.

"I'm exploring looking at leveling the playing field because we certainly don't want to take opportunities away from business to flourish here in British Columbia," Popham said at a press conference Thursday.

Persephone Brewery CEO Brian Smith called the move positive.

Smith has been advocating for changes to the ALR regulations after the Agricultural Land Commission rejected his application earlier this year to exempt his craft brewery from the current rules. 

"It's exciting to see ... the B.C. agricultural sector [moving] forward with the B.C. craft beer industry," he said.

Persephone Brewing's Gibsons CEO Brian Smith is encouraged to hear that the Minister of Agriculture is looking to make Agriculture Land Regulations similar to those for wineries and cideries. (@persephonebrewing/Instagram)

Beer is made using four ingredients: water, grains, yeast and hops. One of Smith's arguments for an exemption to the ALR rules was it was difficult for his brewery to grow the volume of raw ingredients required to create its signature brews on its 11 acres of land.

If the government relaxes regulations, he says there will be more incentive for local breweries to source ingredients from across the province.

"There is no doubt in my mind that when the ALR regulations change we will see more hops grown in B.C. and more barley grown in B.C. and more barley malted in B.C.," he said.

The Tap and Barrel, along with Philips Brewery and B.C. Hop Co., have collaborated on to make a 100% B.C. made beer called Lumberjacked Pale Ale. (CBC)

It was a desire the minister herself highlighted when she unveiled what's being dubbed as a truly "made-in-B.C." beer at the press conference.

All the ingredients for Lumberjacked Pale Ale come from B.C., including locally-grown hops and barley sourced from B.C.'s Peace Region and Vancouver Island.

The Fraser Valley used to be known for its hop growing, but competition from the U.S. put an end to that with the final hop farm closing in the region in 1997, according to a provincial study of the industry done in 2014.

But growers have been reappearing and hope to convince craft brewers, which have boomed in B.C., that they can provide hops as good as U.S. producers, and more local.

Popham said her government was committed to making sure industry had access to quality locally-grown products.

"We grow the best things in B.C.,"she said. "We process the best things in B.C."

With files from Tamara Rahmani and Chad Pawson