Manitoba pours out a new strategy for craft beers

From farmers fields, distilleries and to the hospitality industry, the province is hopping to build on the recent successes of local breweries and the newly launched Growler Bars.
From farmers' fields, distilleries and to the hospitality industry, the province is hopping to build on the recent successes of local breweries and the newly launched growler bars. 1:29

From farmers' fields, distilleries and to the hospitality industry, the province is hopping to build on the recent successes of local breweries and the newly launched growler bars.

In the first six weeks of beer growler sales at seven locations in the province, there has been more than 10,000 jugs filled. Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries said sales are three times what they had projected.
Almost boxed: Beer bottles wait to be boxed at the Half Pints brewery. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

The six-month pilot project is part of an effort to showcase local breweries and craft beers to more Manitobans

According to Half Pints president and brewmaster David Rudge, those efforts are working.

"Business is shifting from how people are consuming our product," said Rudge. "It's almost a panic situation. We had to add to production and delivery. We used to have shifts from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and now it's basically 5 a.m. to midnight just to keep up." 

Business growing

Rudge also said that business as a whole over the last three years is up double digits each year.

Rudge humbly noted that they are modest numbers but indicate consistent growth.
Half Pints' growler filling station is located at the front of its store at 550 Roseberry St. (Brett Purdy/CBC)
Empty bottles head into the filling station for Half Pints St. James Pale Ale. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

Half Pints is currently the only brewery locally that has it's own growlers and filling station on site. Rudge, who is now a part of the newly announced industry advisory committee, hopes that will change.

"I would really like to see us sort of plant the seed, get things going and hopefully that we will enjoy the successes, and come along with the successes of other breweries that are going to come along and open up and be successful at the same time," said Rudge. 

"If everybody is out there talking about the same sort of thing, giving the same sort of education and a similar idea of what it means ... to craft a beer, consumers and people at home, just regular Joe beer guys, will start to understand, 'oh yeah, there is a whole different way of doing things.'"

The province has said the craft beer industry in Manitoba is behind other jurisdictions in terms of options for consumers, and even mentioned developing a strategy to target that industry at this year's throne speech.

'We grow the best barley in the world': Lemieux

Farmery and Fort Garry Brewing were on hand at the announcement Tuesday for the establishment of an industry advisory committee to steer promotion and foster growth in the industry.
Ron Lemieux, the minister responsible for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, checks out a growler bar filling station on Friday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"It's more than just beer; what we are talking about is jobs and economic growth that has huge potential," said Ron Lemieux, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Sport and Consumer Protection.

"We are talking about the value added. We grow the best barley in the world for beer in Manitoba and we have to take advantage of that."

That economic growth has a trickle down that isn't lost on Rudge.

In the past year alone Half Pints has added 16,000 litres of fermentation space and 8,000 litres of storage space.

Half Pints, which started eight years ago with just two people, now has 12 full time employees and may be adding another full time job in the new year.

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