Canadian Manufacturing

Battle brewing between Saskatchewan, Alberta over beer markup

Pulling an about-face after announcing it would lower the markup last fall, Alberta now intends to charge an extra $1.25-per-litre starting Aug. 1



REGINA—The Saskatchewan government says Alberta is not playing fair when it comes to changes on charges for craft and small brewery beer.

Starting Aug. 5, Alberta will charge a $1.25-per-litre markup for all beer, regardless of the size of the company or where the beer is made.

Last fall, the government announced it was lowering the markup on beer from smaller breweries in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia as part of the New West Partnership trade agreement with the three provinces.

Don McMorris, minister for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, says the markup will hurt brewers, namely Great Western Brewing, which is based in Saskatoon.

McMorris says Alberta’s move is “offside” with the trade agreement.

He says Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will raise the issue with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley at the premiers meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon, this week.

“We have a regional brewing incentive program and a craft brewing incentive program. Every province does. So if there is Big Rock in Alberta, they get the same as Great Western does. We look at it as trade compliant. It’s even for all breweries.

“This change in Alberta is significant for Saskatchewan’s craft industry and especially our regional brewer.”

The Alberta government says it will bring in a grant program to help craft brewers.

Mike Micovcin, president and CEO of Great Western Brewing, said 60 per cent of his company’s business is in Alberta.

He says his company currently pays 47 cents a litre.

“It’s essentially going to push the price of a case of beer up by close to $7, so it’s not something that we could absorb ourselves.

“We’re going to have to pass it on to our customers and in turn, on to our consumers, so we’re certainly expecting that there’s going to be some pretty significant sticker shock and an impact on our sales and production volumes.”

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