Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How can Nova Scotia be more Craft Beer Friendly

I have done a little travelling of late and thought to myself, what could be done to make Nova Scotia craft beer friendly? These is just my thoughts and opinions of what I think would serve craft beer fans as well as local breweries and is by no means a criticism of any particular organization or company. By example the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) who gets a lot of ire has done a lot of good too, like less tax on provincially produced microbrew and a grant to the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia for the purpose of developing marketing and other strategies. 

One thing I could never understand is the NSLC, a retailer that controls sales of  beer in the province and it also regulated it. I am not claiming any funny business but it does set up the corporation for potential conflicts of interest. Although not well publicized I am hearing regulation powers are moving to The Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division (AGFTD) of Service Nova Scotia. This is a development I am watching closely. 

Craft brewers in NS who want to get on the NSLC shelf can not always get there. The NSLC has minimum requirements on amount of product that puts having shelf space for smaller producers out of reach. I would like to see a program where the five closest NSLCs to a small brewery would have open SKUs to take product directly. This would facilitate smaller producers access to serve the area where they produce and even larger ones for selling their seasonals. 

One program our northern neighbor of New Brunswick has, that I would like to see here, is a Growler Program. Instituting this in some or all of the 34 NSLC stores that sell craft beer again would open a channel for brewers from around the province to get their beer to consumers. Further it could also bring other Canadian brewers here for beer lovers to partake. There is already a bulk wine program in effect so it is not a stretch to see this happen.

Craft brewers from across the country, US and world want to bring their beers here but getting in to the NSLC is incredibly tough and many brewers give up totally or only bring a small portion of their line on a seasonal listing. I would like to see more access for craft beer to make it onto shelves here. This would take a big change at the corporate level. My opinion is a rising tide rises all boats, access to craft will increase curiosity and desire to drink more craft.

The experiment with private stores in Halifax has opened five stores here and given craft beer drinkers in this area a "taste" of different beers and what could be possible. I would like to see this program expanded to other areas of the province to add extra variety. The new stores could collaborate to lessen transport costs of shipping to the province. Going one step further, why not open grocery stores to allow them to sell beer as they do in other provinces. 

A very easy thing for us to do here that was suggested to me by Emily Tipton is let NS brewers sell other brewers beer at their retail stores. The sale of beer is already happening so why not. This would allow beer to make it to places that is wouldn't otherwise. This was poorly implemented in New Brunswick and was so restrictive only 2 brewers can do it.

A general streamlining of licences and policies would be helpful too. To brew, give samples and serve requires a federal licence and three provincial licences on top of all the other permits that have to be acquired.

On the brewing side it would be good to see brewers making the jump from homebrewing to professional brewing "apprentice" for a short period in a profession brewing operation to highlight differences in a food grade operation and, hopefully, help in the brewing process and beer quality.

Lastly, the government of Nova Scotia's treatment of brewing over wine is puzzling. A Beer Canada study shows brewing has triple the economic impact of wine and spirits combined. Even with this information the Liberal government charges brewers 150% more in remittance tax for beer that is sold directly to customers at their stores, private stores and bars than is charged to wine and spirits makers. This amounts to $400,000 dollars a year currently that is being diverted from creating jobs and improving infrastructure. To add insult to injury to the brewers, who generated 16 million dollars in sales and employs over 300 people directly, in the latest Liberal budget they set aside $3.5 million dollars for the wine industry. 

That is my brief thoughts on making NS more craft beer friendly. If you would like to hear more buy me a beer next time you see me at a local craft beer bar.