Get your fill: Saskatchewan craft beer being poured in liquor stores

People in Saskatchewan can now have their empty jugs of beer filled in two government liquor stores.

Growler fill stations now open in two SLGA stores

The first four craft beers available at Regina's growler fill station. Each beer is made in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

People in Saskatchewan can now have their empty jugs of beer filled in two government liquor stores.

The province made the announcement of the pilot project fill-up stations back in March.

The change allows jugs — known as growlers — to be filled with craft beer in public and private liquor stores.

SLGA spokesman David Morris says the craft industry was pushing for the fill stations and the new taps give people a chance to try Saskatchewan craft beer more easily.

"The craft industry has really taken off across North America and here in Saskatchewan. There's a lot of great craft products that aren't otherwise available. They're only available on tap in local bars and micro breweries," Morris said.

There are two SLGA locations: Quance Street in Regina and 8th Street in Saskatoon. 

Customers can bring in their own clean jug with a cap and have it filled with one of four Saskatchewan craft beers. The SLGA stores are also selling 32 oz (0.95l) and 64 oz (1.89l) glass jugs which can be filled at the two locations.

Morris said the taps will rotate every month with four different beers from across North America, but one tap will always be from a Saskatchewan craft brewery.

Craft beer gaining popularity

On Friday afternoon, there was a steady stream of customers getting their growlers and the smaller howlers filled. 

"I love the craft beer and there are so many great things happening in Saskatchewan right now with craft beer. I think it's really great and I think it's going to be really popular," said customer Rob Reynar.

It's not a science experiment. A growler is filled at Regina's Quance liquor store. (CBC)

Reynar compared the rising popularity of craft beer to the increase in popularity of wine in the early 2000's.

"I would love to see it at more locations. I think once people try it they're going to think it's a great way to buy beer. You get to try something new all the time."

Local brewmaster excited about growler project

Mark Heise is the brewmaster and vice-president of Rebellion Brewing Co. in Regina.

His product is one of the four in the Regina store. Heise said it was a proud moment seeing his beer recipe being poured in a liquor store.

"We've been advocating as far back as three years ago, before we even had a brewery, for stuff like growler fills and pushing craft beer," Heise said.

"Having your product in an SLGA store really legitimizes us as a business and our product. We're not just this weird, niche, beer geek kind of flaky stuff. It's the real deal." 

Mark Heise is the brewmaster at Rebellion Brewing in Regina. His product is one of eight Saskatchewan beers available on taps in liquor stores. (CBC)

Rebellion's brewmaster said SLGA has been supportive of the craft beer industry but would like to see more support to help grow the industry.

"A brewery in Saskatchewan can only produce around 5,000 hectolitres — that might sound like a lot of beer in a year. It's nothing. Big breweries are producing 200,000 hectolitres a year, but the way we are taxed for producing beer, we can't grow beyond that."

Heise said the province could up the amount local craft breweries can produce before they are heavily taxed which would allow those companies to grow. Heise said most other provinces allow up to 25,000 to 35,000 hectolitres before the taxes become too costly.

"We'd be hiring a whole lot of people who are buying homes, paying taxes. It all just feeds back into the economy. That's the message we're trying to convey."

"We are not looking to avoid taxes, we're looking to grow and prosper the economy of the province."