Beer lovers rejoice! Local Okotoks breweries are about to get a heady financial boost from the provincial government.
Two suds aficionados in the Foothills region are looking forward to the cash injection because it will help them and other microbrewers hone their craft and grow.
Small beer brewers who make under 300,000 hectolitres or 1.01 billion fluid ounces of beer every year are eligible for grants under a new program called the Alberta Small Brewers Development courtesy of the NDP.
The owner of local small brewer, Six Corners Brew Works, told the Okotoks Western Wheel that it will help him and others compete with bigger companies. Luke Wooldridge said he’s hoping to expand by opening a brewery in Okotoks’ Southbank Business Park. He produces well under the limit and has everything brewed in Saskatchewan, inconveniently so. Another brewer, Jochen Fahr, said provincial cash will allow small producers to price product competitively, especially when product is up against beer from other provinces.
Fahr’s company is called Brauerei Fahr. He is hoping to build a facility in nearby Turner Valley and is looking for investors. He’d like to break ground in 2017.
Currently in our province there are 40 small producers brewing up 250,000 hectolitres of suds annually. Since spring of last year, there have been 16 new brewers granted licenses to make beer in our province.
A provincial spokesperson said that the province is an ideal location for craft breweries to make their product with excellent potential for growth. Alberta is projecting to provide $12 million in funding in 2016 to get the program off the ground, with $20 million in grant money available for beer producers in Alberta in 2017.
The province attempted to encourage growth in the craft brewery industry in 2015 when it introduced a new set of mark-up rates which were funded by beer producers outside of Alberta and east of Saskatchewan. By last fall, Alberta discontinued the rate which was paid by craft beer brewers in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan to 10 cents for every litre produced by companies brewing under 10,000 hectolitres a year. The mark-up rate would rise as production rose, going up to $1.25 for those producing less than 200,000 hectolitres. Brewers in Manitoba and provinces east were changed a flat $1.25 mark-up and challenged the incentive plan. In fact, Steam Whistle, a craft beer maker in Ontario, went to court and was successful in its challenge. So now that all producers have to pay that rate, the government had to come up with another way to encourage craft breweries in Alberta.
Factoring in grant money, Fahr says he believes at the end of the day, he will pay a 10 cents per litre mark-up on his product.
The provincial program will have a spin-off affect in Alberta, with barley growers and farmers reaping the benefits of an expanding craft brewery industry.
The program was introduced by Rachel Notley’s NDP government and is not supported by the opposition. The Wildrose says incentives to small brewers is a slam against larger producers and that the provincial government seems to be picking winners and losers.
At any rate, the winners all around will be Okotoks residents who love their beer.