Alberta measures ail BC craft breweries

Beer prices to go up, but Alberta brewers to get access to grants

Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild: "You’re putting a wall around free trade in our opinion."

B.C’s craft breweries aren’t feeling the love from our provincial neighbours to the east.

The Alberta Gaming and Licensing Commission announced it is bringing in an increased markup of $1.25 per litre on beer (other alcohols are excluded), effective August 5. However, there are also pending subsidies or grants to be announced in the coming weeks exclusive to Alberta-based breweries, according to Alberta’s Ministry of Finance.

Ken Beattie, the executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild, said the hometown grants could be described as both narrow-minded and short-sighted.

“I think it would be both of those things. The challenge is that when you base something on where the beer is produced versus what the size of the production level is, you’re putting a wall around free trade in our opinion,” said Beattie.

The changes bring more uniformity to beer sales, says Leah Holoiday, spokesperson for Alberta's Ministry of Finance.

"The recent change to the beer markup will bring consistency to all beer products sold on Alberta shelves, regardless of size or region of brewery. With a unique liquor retail model, Albertans will continue to enjoy competitive retail prices and access to more than 20,000 liquor products from around the world,"  Holoiday said in an email response to BIV.

Beattie said his association had no consultation with the government or any Alberta brewery counterparts concerning these measures, which included a gradual markup in its provincial budget last October based on production starting at 10 cents a litre. The gradual markup plan applied to the New West Partnership region, comprising Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Beattie said this further markup hurts everyone in the long run.

“The consumer in Alberta should be outraged if you’re a craft beer consumer because your price just went up almost $2 dollars a six pack for your craft beer ... and your keg price went from $205 to $262. So the consumer is going to be hurt, the hospitality sector is going to be hurt, because they’re going to have to raise their prices and everybody is going to have to be drinking foreign owned domestic lagers.”

Gary Lohin, the brewmaster for Central City Brewers + Distillers echoed Beattie’s sentiment:  the announcement was unexpected and unfortunate.

“Consumers will be forced to pay more for their beer as liquor stores will have to pass on the price increase to them, which is not something that will help the industry as a whole. We do a lot of business in Alberta and offer many of our award-winning beer to consumers so we will be watching the situation closely.”