Calgary beer importer laments tax changes

A small Calgary-based beer importer says the increase in taxes on beer brought in from outside of Alberta has crippled his business and he wanted consumers to know about it.

Changes thrilled some Alberta breweries, who have long argued Alberta's tax regime favoured outsiders

A Calgary pub manager says some beer producers in other provinces pulled out of the Alberta market with the tax changes that went into effect last October. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

A small Calgary-based beer importer says the increase in taxes on beer brought in from outside of Alberta has crippled his business and he wants consumers to know about it.

Michael Tessier, the a co-owner of Artisan Ales, imports beer from places like Quebec and Belgium.

In October, Alberta hiked taxes on imported beer by five per cent or 21 cents for a case of beer, but that increase was made much larger with revisions to graduated tax rates for small craft brewers.

The change thrilled some Alberta breweries that have long argued that Alberta's tax regime gave outsiders an advantage.

But it's been downhill ever since for some importers, Tessier said.

Michael Tessier says his business dropped by about 60 per cent when new taxes went into effect on beer imported to Alberta. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"I figure I am doing about 40 per cent of what I did before the increase," he said.

"Because of the price increase, products are moving slower, there is a lot of dead stock on the shelves in the stores. We are losing iconic brands that influenced many of the local brewers. Beer is older on the shelves, it has been harder for an agent to rotate stock and maintain freshness."

A Calgary pub manager agrees, to a point.

"We have seen two major differences," said Natasha Peiskar of National Beerhall.

Natasha Peiskar of the National says the tax changes affected her business in two distinct ways. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

"There was a markup on product that was quite significant and not due to what the breweries or the importers were doing [and] we actually saw a decrease in some of the products that were available to us to put on tap."

Peiskar says some of the beer producers they used to work with simply left the Alberta market.

"Some breweries found that the taxation was just insurmountable and it didn't make financial sense for them to come into the province and sell their product when they weren't able to compete with other products on the market," Peiskar said.

Has there been a public backlash though?

"There is actually not a lot of chatter," she said. "A lot of our customers are not informed fully about what has happened."

And Tessier is hoping an education campaign — information cards in some imported beer — will do just that.

Michael Tessier hopes this information campaign will encourage consumers to get involved. (Supplied)

"Just the unfairness of this and it is not us that increased the prices," Tessier said is the goal.

"The only one that is making more money out of this is the government."

With files from Andrew Brown