Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay brewer calls for an end to beer borders

A Thunder Bay brewer is calling for free trade for craft beer.

Thunder Bay brewer wants open borders for Canadian beer

Some of the products from Sleeping Giant Brewery in Thunder Bay (Facebook)

A Thunder Bay brewer is calling for free trade for craft beer.

Canada's premiers were in Whitehorse last week discussing inter-provincial free-trade, but booze has proven to be a tough beer nut to crack as some provinces want to protect the income they make from beer sales.

"First, I'm a beer fan, and do I want to try all the good beers that are being produced all over the country? A hundred per cent," said Matt Pearson, co-owner of Thunder Bay's Sleeping Giant Brewing Company.

"It also allows those breweries that are good, that are doing well, to grow and expand," he said. "I would totally open up the market. I would either remove the tariffs or put tariffs on all the beer, whatever you want to do, so it's a level playing field."

"I understand both sides of the conversation," Pearson added. "I understand why a province wants to protect its brewing industry. They want to foster it, they want it to grow. And by limiting imports, even from other provinces, that will happen — you will foster your own brewing industry."

But, Pearson said, there's an argument to be made for opening up the market for regional brews, and helping breweries grow as their beer flows.

Tariff cuts into cross-border sales

Currently, he said, there's a tariff placed on beer a small brewery sells in another province. As a result, it's not cost-effective, unless a brewery is located close to provincial borders.

"The problem with that is that the large breweries are not having to pay that tax," Pearson said. "They're only targeting the small, local craft brewers that are actually employing Canadians."

Sleeping Giant Brewing Company does not currently sell out of province, but will soon be selling its product in Minnesota, Pearson said.

That's largely due to Thunder Bay's proximity to Minnesota, he said.

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