Be it farm labour legislation, carbon taxes, or the minimum wage, there is little doubt Alberta’s Notley NDP government have had trouble steering a straight path toward maintaining political popularity among a majority of the province’s voters.
While avoiding the straight path, not unlike the unsteady gait of a bleary-eyed imbiber making their way home from the local public house, the NDP may have finally hit upon a course of action that could stand to meet with enthusiastic cheers and clinking steins of suds from even the most dyed-in-the-wool opponent of Rachel Notley’s new left-leaning regime — a provincial grant program supporting the burgeoning microbrewery industry, soon to be bringing locally-sourced beers to a watering hole near you.
While hop-heads across the province can now rejoice with a mirthful glint in their sallow eye at the prospect of a new variety of glistening pints, about to pass from their bartender’s supple wrist to their parched gullets — we need to remind our fellow non-teetotalers that the program is as much about promoting small business opportunities in the province as it it is about bringing countless gallons of barley-laced bliss to the good people of Alberta.
Which is not to say that isn’t a consideration. Even Finance Minister Joe Ceci has jumped aboard the barley train of late, making a recent appearance at Theoretically Brewing Company in Lethbridge to sample some of the watery wares on offer and speak to media about the new grant program for small-scale breweries.
Ceci, who is currently on a cross-province tour of some of Alberta’s newest craft breweries, recently commented to the Lethbridge Herald on being tasked with this most arduous of summertime duties: “It’s tough. But somebody’s got to do it.”
Once a hallmark industry across the province, large-scale breweries in Lethbridge, Calgary and other Alberta cities have been closed by their multi-national owners in recent decades, which for many years has left a huge void in the province’s once-proud brewing tradition. Now, however, all of that may be starting to change.
Alberta’s nearly 40 small brewers produce more than 250,000 hectolitres of beer annually. Since May of last year, more than 16 new breweries have been licensed to operate in the province.
Beginning August 5, Alberta-based brewers who produce and sell no more than 300,000 hectolitres in Alberta annually will be eligible to participate in the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program. The grants, which will be allocated based on sales volumes of Alberta-made beer sold in the province, are intended to give small brewers the flexibility to invest in their businesses, enabling them to increase production capacity, launch new products, develop new markets, make important capital improvements and create jobs.
All of which means good news for the province’s small business environment at a time when Albertans are still grappling to get by in the wake of a recession, not to mention a great choice for generating good political vibes for the less-than-lily-white reputation of the NDP, who would probably now agree with the worthy Plato’s assessment about the much-beloved beverage: “He is a wise man who invented beer”.
And for those of us that love to indulge our passion for the pint — be it a lager, pilsner, or whatever wets your whistle — remember that there’s no such thing as a bad beer.
It’s just that some might taste better than others.