Edmonton

Non-alcoholic beer selection nearly quadruples at AGLC since 2012

The AGLC says their list of products in the non-alcoholic beer category has gone from 12 items in 2012 to 44 this year.

44 products now available as demand grows

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis says more non-alcoholic beer options are moving through their distribution centres. (CBC)

Non-alcoholic beer shelves may be looking a little more crowded in Alberta.

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis says their list of products in the non-alcoholic beer category has gone from 12 items in 2012 to 44 this year.

"We've seen the [amount of] product codes rise … slowly but steadily over the past decade," said AGLC spokesperson Heather Holmen. "Notably the past four to five years, we've seen the most significant growth."

Non-alcoholic beer products don't have to be registered for sale with the AGLC, so Holmen said it's hard to say just how many are on offer in Alberta.

In demand

Alberta is home to Canada's only dedicated non-alcoholic craft brewing company, Partake Brewing.

Company CEO and Founder Ted Fleming started the brewery in 2017, a decade after he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

"I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, and giving up alcohol was part of that," Fleming said. "I did try the non-alcoholic beer that was available and at the time, most of it wasn't very good in terms of taste and quality.

"Someone like me who did enjoy craft beer just really had no options at that time."

I decided I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, and giving up alcohol was part of that.- Ted Fleming , CEO of Partake Brewing

Partake sells about 800 to 1,000 cases of their beer in Alberta each month, he said.

The company has two beers listed with the AGLC. Based on the current market, Fleming said they're planning to offer four products by this fall.
Partake Brewing is Canada's only dedicated non-alcoholic craft beer brewery. (Partake Brewing)

 

"As a company, we've certainly benefited from the advertising the big companies like Budweiser, Heineken and Coors have put into the space. That's driving a lot of people to the non-alcoholic shelf," he said.

"There's a growing demand because you wouldn't see those big companies make those investments without there being data behind it."

Village Brewery in Calgary is also stepping into the market, launching their first non-alcoholic beer last month.

"It wasn't until we released it that we realized how truly big that market could potentially be," said Eric Daponte, marketing and events coordinator at Village Brewing.

The company has already distributed about 6,000 cans to Calgary Co-Op grocery stores, he said.

Drinking culture changing

Last fall, the AGLC launched a series of commercials titled No Excuses. One ad depicts a woman in a bar setting, eventually crawling under a table to leave.

The agency said the ads are aimed at creating a culture of moderation.

Kaitie Degan said she appreciates the ads because her organization, Sober Saturdayz, is trying to shift the culture around consuming alcohol in social settings.

"If people don't see you drinking, it makes them uncomfortable for some reason," Degan said. "When you talk about non-alcoholic beers, people don't get what the point of it is and you have to show them the difference."

Degans said people who attend her events are there for various reasons, including alcoholism or religious beliefs, or they're just looking for a more comfortable social setting to have a night out.

Kaitie Degan, right, attends a Sober Saturdayz event in Edmonton. (Kaitie Degan/Sober Saturdayz)

"Alcohol is the easiest way to let loose or to be more social … but no one's ever really themselves when they drink," she said.

Sober Saturdayz partners with bars in Edmonton to host events that feature non-alcoholic beverages.

Degan said she imports dozens of non-alcoholic beers, spirits and wines from around the world for the events.

About the Author

Tanara McLean is a producer and journalist at CBC Edmonton. She grew up in Red Deer and has spent her entire career in Alberta, working in print, radio and television.

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