Better (a little) late than never, the craft beer scene in our province has exploded in the last few years. Due in part to shifting regulations and shifting trends, we can all be thankful for the plethora of tap rooms to visit, unique beers to sip on, and opportunities to join the community. And one thing is for sure - the community is strong. Alongside the brewers we have the best farmers, maltsters, retailers, bars, restaurants, and of course beer enthusiasts around - the perfect blend of resources, passion, and camaraderie. It’s common for breweries to share knowledge and help each other out - with the consensus that when the industry is better, we are all better.
So how do you give the vast amount of breweries in this province the opportunity to make progress collectively? Well, in 2012 a few genius minds from 11 breweries came together to create the Alberta Small Brewers Association (ASBA) with a mission to establish an identity for beer in the province while tackling government markups on beer.
Fast forward to 2019, there are 109 licensed breweries in Alberta, and the ASBA has made significant progress in uniting the industry. But what does progress look like, and how does the ASBA contribute to this industry?
With so many breweries, it can be hard to communicate a unified message. The ASBA facilitates this for its members. “The way I see our organization is with two pillars. The first is government relations, working with the AGLC and the provincial government to give the 109 breweries one voice to advocate for the things that matter to our industry,” says Lauren Reid, Marketing and Events Manager at ASBA. “The other is Marketing and Events, to again use one voice to communicate with the consumer to build awareness about Alberta Beer, why we matter, and what makes us different.”
Working with the government to advocate for small brewers is no small task. Part of the reason so many breweries have exploded onto the scene in the past few years is because of changing regulations. In 2013, the AGLC removed the minimum production limit that had required new breweries to have a production capacity of 500,000 litres of beer. This means Albertans can now start smaller operations without having to operate a massive production facility. With the changing landscape of breweries in this province, government regulations have been continuously adapting to what citizens, consumers, and entrepreneurs need - thus ASBA advocacy is essential.
Part of spreading the prophecy of Alberta Beer is putting on events to showcase the quality of our beer and build awareness with consumers. Here is a glimpse at some of the events the ASBA organizes each year:
A provincial wide celebration of Alberta-made independent beer, with more than 80 events in 15 locations around the province.
Last year, for the first time ever, Alberta breweries were served exclusively at K-Days in Edmonton. There were 27 breweries serving beer in 6 locations.
For the past two years, the ASBA has made it possible for beer lovers to drink Alberta craft beer at the Big Four Roadhouse. Last year there were 32 breweries beer being served over two weeks.
The convention welcomes 500 people for three days of networking, learning, and celebration.
The awards celebrate and promote excellence in beer produced by small, independent, Alberta-owned breweries.
What better way to promote collaboration within the industry than to brew a beer together? Each year the ASBA organizes Unity Brew, a brew day where everyone is invited. Last year 50 breweries and five different maltsters took part in brewing an Alberta Maltsters Red Ale at Blindman Brewing.
“We pride ourselves on being a collaborative industry, and even though the industry is growing, the collaboration isn’t going away. There is definitely a shift toward diversification, and a focus on quality, but collaboration is at the forefront.” - Lauren Reid, Marketing and Events Manager at ASBA.
The Alberta Craft Brewing Conference is taking place this week, giving businesses the technical information and networking opportunities to help propel them forward them in the industry. During the annual conference, “We focus on three tracks. The first being operations - financing, business planning, strategic planning, etc.” Says Reid, “The second being sales and marketing - how to tell your story, tourism pieces, brand awareness. We always do a panel with local businesses around sales. We work with larger chains, smaller liquor stores, and restaurants to help them communicate what they are seeing in the market and to keep our hand on the pulse of the trends to help breweries sell their beer better. The third track is of course brewing. Its technical, we talk about everything from souring beer to quality assurance using experts in these fields.”
The focus of the Alberta Brewing Awards is to celebrate the quality of Alberta beer. To celebrate the breweries that are pushing the envelope and doing it well. “It’s to encourage really high quality beer to be produced in our province, and one of the reasons is so that consumers have the stamp of approval on their beer to know that the beer they are drinking won an award, judged by a panel of judges with great credentials.” Says Reid. “It adds legitimacy to what we are doing in this province.”
To find out more about the Alberta Small Brewers Association, visit their website.
By Rebecca Skinner