Small distilleries, cideries, meaderies and cottage wineries say they have an exciting future at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market.
On Dec. 8 the province gave manufacturers the green light to sell their product at a reduced markup rate.
On Saturday one Alberta winery and meadery happily poured samples to people at the St. Albert Indoor Christmas Market.
“It’s fantastic, not just for wineries and meaderies, it’s also a testament to AGLC’s own ability and willingness to be modern regulators for the benefit of all consumers in Alberta,” said Evan Chrapko, owner of Birds and Bees Organic Winery and Meadery.
The small business is based out of Brosseau, about 150 kilometres east from Edmonton. It has been a vendor at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market for almost a decade.
Chrapko was one of the forerunners in advocating for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Association to loosen its regulations to allow cottage wines into farmers’ markets across Alberta.
He said this is another step in the right direction.
“There will be more money left, we were looking to hire more staff. It’s very labour-intensive when you do your product organic,” he said. “You can’t take any shortcuts with chemicals, so we can use all the help we can get. This will allow us to make our production more efficient.”
Additionally, he said the business would have more funds to hire employees to staff booths at more farmers’ markets across Alberta.
Minister of Finance Joe Ceci said in a press release that the program will allow manufacturers to “hire staff, expand production and reinvest in their businesses”.
The markup rate for spirits will be reduced from $13.67 per litre to $2.46 per litre, while refreshment beverages, such as ciders and coolers, will drop from $1.49 to $0.32 per litre.
Markup rates are rates that liquor licensees pay the AGLC when liquor is purchased.
While beer wasn’t included in the program, Richard Spilsted, owner of the Beer Factory in St. Albert, said the changes would help small manufacturers be successful.
“I think it’s wonderful. The AGLC is relaxing the regulations. I think they’re sort of re-examining all of the rules governing the manufacturing and retail of alcohol, and really they’re removing the silly rules,” he said. “So it’s really stimulating our industry.”
He said the AGLC‘s loosening regulations have led to breweries across Alberta to multiply almost threefold.
In the summer the province announced that craft beer would join the liquor roster at approved farmers’ markets across the province.
The local brewpub currently takes advantage of a subsidy, where the business is given a rebate for the grain they use. He said the subsidy helps the Beer Factory sell its beer at a lower price.
He said that he hopes the markup rate would eventually include small beer manufacturers such as himself.
“It would lower our cost on the beer, which means that we could lower our prices even more to consumers,” he said.