Small brewer development program growing
Tuesday, Apr 11, 2017 06:00 am
The exponential growth of Alberta’s small brewing industry has prompted the provincial government to increase its commitment to the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program in its 2017 budget.
Introduced in August 2016, the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program has since provided nearly $16 million to help small breweries in Alberta, according to Treasury Board and Finance press secretary Mike Brown.
Brewing is one of many industries he said the Alberta government has invested in to diversify the economy, with $25 million allotted for the small brewers development program in the budget.
“That reflects the fact that there’s a lot of brewers setting up and a lot of good Alberta beer being brewed,” Brown said.
To be eligible for the grant, a brewery must brew less than 300,000 hectolitres of beer annually.
Putting that into perspective, Brown said Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery produces approximately 200,000 hectolitres.
Alberta has 51 operational brewers and brew pubs in Alberta as of February, he said, with 23 new breweries licensed since May 2015.
The program has been popular with brewers but with all the exponential growth of the industry, Brown said it is difficult to know if the grant program is fully subscribed to.
“There are so many breweries just coming online,” he said. “When we launched it, all of the breweries that were functioning at the time signed up.”
Though the funding increase to the program doesn’t add to what is given to brewers, president of Cochrane’s Half Hitch Brewing Company Chris Heier said he was pleased to see government support acknowledge the industry’s growth.
For Half Hitch, he said the small brewers development program grants $1.15 per litre of beer that is brewed and sold in Alberta.
All beer sold in Alberta, however, has a $1.25 per litre tax applied to it, Heier said, which the program essentially reduces to 10 cents per litre for small Alberta brewers.
“Alberta product ends up becoming the cheaper product on shelf,” Heier said.
With the success of the small brewers development program, the provincial government has also decided to craft similar programs to support Alberta small distillers, wineries and meaderies.
“Those details are still being ironed out, but it will be modelled off this initial brewer program,” Brown said.
As a pub owner who keeps a beer-mead product on tap from Water Valley’s Fallentimber Meadery, Heier said this is good news. Since mead is taxed as a wine, he said the cost of putting a pint on tap is twice as much as a beer.
“I can imagine why it’s a more difficult proposition for other pubs to try and carry products like that, simply because they’re paying that much higher rate per keg,” Heier said.