Alberta craft brewers applaud lifting of production limits

Small brewers in Alberta are applauding a move by the Alberta government to lift mandatory production minimums, which they say will help more brewers compete in the market.

Regulation required brewers to produce 500,000 litres/year in order to sell commercially

Alberta leads the country in beer sales, with a seven per cent increase over the past year, and now small brewers are celebrating a move that is expected to allow them to enter the commercial micro-brew market. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)

Micro-brewers in Alberta are rejoicing the province's decision to drop a minimum requirement for producing beer.

The move is expected to  help small companies get their product to market and compete with the dynamic micro-brewery cultures in provinces like British Columbia. According to Statistics Canada, the sale of goods made by the Canadian brewing industry has increased by more than 15 per cent over the past 13 years — and small brewers are eager to enter that market.

It's such a big step for Alberta ...- Geoff Switzer, craft beermaker

"It's amazing," said Geoff Switzer, who makes beer with a group of friends in Red Deer. "It's always been a huge stumbling block for Alberta, like with the way the explosion of craft beer breweries in B.C. has gone."

Numbers released earlier this year by Statistics Canada suggest Alberta is leading the country in beer sales, with a year-over-year increase of seven per cent. 

However, the province had for years maintained that a brewery needs to produce a minimum of 500,000 litres per year in order to be able to sell commercially.

Change is 'great for consumers'

Those in the industry say the changes will help grow business and provide what consumers want.

"It's great for consumers and it's great for local business so all in all I think it's great," said Manjit Minhas of Minhas Craft Brewery. "The [Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission] is really listening to it's stakeholders and it's consumers. it took them a year to do this and come out with the recommendations" she said.

Minhas says her company brews beer in Calgary but has also been forced to brew in the United States, as certain types of brewing weren't allowed in Alberta.

 The changes to beer regulation lift those restrictions and will allow more types of beer to be produced.

"We actually just came out with an apple ale but we had to produce it in our Wisconsin brewery so we're really excited and I'm sure we'll be producing in the spring and summer in our brewery here," Minhas said.

Brewing industry larger than dairy industry: report

In a report released last month, titled From Farm to Glass: The Value of Beer in Canada, the Conference Board of Canada says Canada's domestic brewing industry is bigger than the dairy industry and 3.5 times larger than Canada's wine and spirits industries combined.

According to the report, while Central Canada is the brewing hub of the country — making up 71 per cent of the brewing activity — Alberta is the brewing hub of the Prairies.

Beer consumption supports close to 13,000 full-time equivalent jobs in Alberta, which is more than half of the 20,000 beer-related full-time equivalent jobs combined in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

B.C. has roughly 72 breweries and the provincial industry employs roughly 18,000 people, and hop-heads in Alberta say they hope the lifting of minimum production requirements will produce more jobs and enhance competition in the industry.

Beer is Canada's most popular alcohol product and brings in $5.8 billion worth of tax dollars for municipal, provincial and federal governments every year.


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