It’s about to get pretty dry for B.C. craft brewers hoping to ship their product to Alberta if the provincial government is unsuccessful in their protest to against a subsidy system that would give Alberta craft beer a huge advantage over out-of-province competitors.
Recently, it was announced that Alberta’s monopoly liquor wholesaler is raising its markup on breweries producing under 20 million litres a year — from 10 cents to $1.25.
“By raising the beer markeup for small craft brewers by over one thousand per cent and only making grant funding available to brewers in Alberta to offset this fee increase, they are clearly discriminating against craft beer products from British Columbia and limiting market access for B.C craft brewers,” said John Yap, B.C.’s point man on liquor reform policy.
Yap said that when the B.C. government cut its markup for craft brewers earlier this spring, Alberta craft brewers were included. In B.C., Alberta’s policy change could have ripple effects for the 118 producers across the province that have tripled sales in the past five years.
One of the local breweries that will be impacted is Arrowhead Brewing Company located in Invermere. Leanne Tegart, co-owner of Arrowhead, said the change that people will see because of this is that the price of their product will have to increase when buying it off the shelves.
“That will in turn hurt us because people (in Alberta) are going to stop buying it. It’s not going to move as quickly, because who’s going to spend three times what something is worth when the Alberta product that is sitting right next to it is still at a competitive price,” she said.
Tegart said she still doesn’t quite understand why Alberta is making this decision but is hoping the right agencies like the B.C. government and BC Craft Brewers Guild are able to fight to prevent this from happening.
“It’s really unfortunate, but it’s just one of those things that once, if everyone gets their voice together, it’s going to be much louder than just one,” she said. “We’re lucky because if it’s up to small people like us, we just don’t have the manpower to invest into fighting these kinds of policies and laws. Having a guild that looks after us is fantastic.”
The other change Tegart said that she could expect through this increase is that their products would be sold at more premium locations where customers are expecting a higher price for a premium product and are willing to pay for it.
Ultimately, she said, there is no way to determine how exactly business will change if or when this increase goes through but notes it will be some time before the dust settles.
“I think it’s hard to say. The coming months will kind of tell us how much it really will effect us,” she said. “There are some people that don’t care — once they love something they’re loyal and they’ll buy it. It will just be interesting to see what really happens if our orders do really slow down or maybe they change.”