In Quebec, new certification will show which beers are actually from independent brewers

After a decade of steady growth, Quebec microbrewers are on the defensive as they fight to retain their turf in bars and supermarkets.

Trou du Diable sale to Molson worries some local microbrewers

Shawinigan’s Le Trou du Diable microbrewery has been bought by Molson. (Radio-Canada)

After a decade of steady growth, Quebec microbrewers are on the defensive as they fight to retain their turf in bars and supermarkets.

Big brewers are buying out independent breweries and keeping their shelf space in retail operations — reducing the space dedicated to actual independent breweries.

Shawinigan's Le Trou du Diable microbrewery sale to Molson is cause for concern for the president of the Association of Microbrewers of Quebec, Frédérick Tremblay.

"If Molson uses Trou du Diable to strangle more local microbreweries on their own territory, it will get very difficult," Tremblay said.

In 2007, microbrewers had 4.5 per cent market share and a decade later that number had grown to 10 per cent.

Now, it looks like some big brewers are eating away at those gains.

New certification allows an 'informed choice'

To try to protect its industry, the Association of Microbrewers of Quebec is creating new labels that will certify when a product comes from an independent brewer.

"It's important for consumers to easily identify products made by microbreweries so they can make an informed choice," Tremblay said.

The new logo will be on beers made by Quebec microbreweries beginning in early 2018. In the United States, microbreweries already have a logo that identifies independent producers.

The new seal of the Brewers Association in the U.S. emphasizes the word 'Independent' (Brewers Association)

The logo features an upside down beer bottle with the words "Certified Independent Craft."  Independent is also in a larger font, a deliberate emphasis.

"The benefit of 'Independent' is that it's unassailable," Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association for Small and Independent Craft brewers in the U.S., said earlier this year.

"That's the one thing that the large brewers can't do is claim that they are independent of a large brewer so there is a purity in that word."

In Quebec, some local microbrewers aren't as bothered by the recent sale of Le Trou du Diable.

Luc "Bim" Lafontaine, who was a brewer at Montreal's Dieu du Ciel and now works at Godspeed brewpub in Ontario, said microbreweries are bound to keep being bought out.

"I'm happy for them. They're friends. They worked hard," Lafontaine said of Le Trou du Diable owners.