Taxes. As attributed to Benjamin Franklin, it is one of only two certainties in life.
Since the NDP grabbed the reins of the Alberta government in May 2015, what’s known as a beer mark-up has been implemented.
In an effort to help small brewers in the New West Partnership (NWP) region (B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan), they introduced a “Small Brewer Mark-up” that differs depending on the production volume and weighted average of the applicable mark-up rates. Naturally, those outside the three western provinces were a little disgruntled at the fact that all their beers would be taxed at $1.25, no matter what size brewery the beer came from.
But many protests and threats of lawsuits later, the beer levy system was changed as of July 2016 so the beer mark-up would now be a flat rate of $1.25 per litre for all beers.
Since there is no longer a small brewer advantage, all breweries — no matter their location or size — are now being taxed at the same level. While this doesn’t effect the Molson’s and Labatt’s of the country, it certainly is being felt in Alberta’s bordering provinces.
A quick glance at new price lists from August show breweries in B.C. and Saskatchewan already raising wholesale prices — so why aren’t all the new Alberta craft brewers all in a tizzy?
The new tax program states that Alberta based breweries are scheduled to receive a grant from the government, paid for by the blanket tax increase. The intent is to provide these breweries with monthly stipends, called the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program, based on their level of production.
In total, the government is expecting to dole out an average of $20 million a year over the next decade to all qualified breweries. Alberta brewers are still waiting to see how this will all play out, intent on balancing grant money with the increased taxes. However, they remain confident that the prices will remain level for the foreseeable future.
So what lies in your beer future? Well, that depends.
If your favourite beer comes from a craft brewery in B.C. or Saskatchewan, you will be paying more for it in the coming months. If it comes from one of the new breweries in Alberta, hopefully nothing will change for the next bit.
Alberta may lose a few more foreign beers from its shelves (it already has since October), but with the recent number of breweries opening up in Alberta plus those slated for opening in the near future, you could spend a significant portion of your beer budget on just keeping up with the new local stuff.