B.C. craft breweries are facing a new obstacle as Alberta launches a new grant program for craft breweries in their province.
This comes just weeks after the Albertan government changed its beer tax system – moving away from the graduated mark-up rate for small craft brewers.
Under the new policy a fee of $1.25 per litre will be charged for all beer starting Aug. 5, regardless of where it’s made.
Alberta says the new grant will help offset the markup – but only to local craft breweries.
“We’re subsidizing small breweries in Alberta,” says Gary Lohin, a brewmaster with Central City Brewing.
The craft beer business in B.C. has grown a lot – with more than 100 small breweries now in operation around the province.
But Lohin says the changes will negatively affect many local breweries.
“That grant is coming in the backs of craft brewers in British Columbia. If you are going to subsidize it’s got to come from somewhere, it’s coming from B.C. craft brewing,” Lohin adds.
He says B.C. already helps Alberta by getting all of their barley from them.
B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for Liquor Reform Policy, John Yap, says it has made an effort to keep the playing field leveled for all craft brewers in Western Canada who sell in B.C.
But things might change.
“We are evaluating whether this is compliant with our existing trade agreements under the New West Partnership, and exploring next steps with a view to ensuring appropriate market access for B.C. Breweries,” said Yap in an email to Global News.
B.C. Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director, Ken Beattie, says the move by the Albertan government is setting up barriers.
“This is building a wall and making it very difficult for craft brewers from any other place than Alberta to do business in Alberta,” says Beattie.
If it becomes too difficult, many B.C. craft breweries have said they will just sell their beer elsewhere.
With files from Nadia Stewart