Although it formed last year, the fledgling Alberta Small Brewers Association only really got a solid start on becoming the voice of the province’s growing craft beer industry this spring when it appointed Greg Zeschuk as the organization’s first executive director.
Beer In Canada chatted with Zeschuk as the ASBA approached its first annual general meeting, and the new face of Alberta microbreweries told us that Alberta is a hot spot for craft beer.
“We have tons of craft beer, but it’s not necessarily from here. That’s one of the challenges we’re facing,” Zeschuk said in an interview.
The ASBA was founded in 2013 in the hopes of changing some of the outdated laws affecting Alberta’s craft beer industry, which we have noted before is lagging behind other big provinces. But Alberta’s microbreweries hope regulations are changing in a way that will encourage the industry to grow.
Currently, Alberta has approximately 15 microbreweries and brewpubs scattered across the province. It’s a small number compared to the more than 60 in both Ontario and British Columbia. Alberta craft brewers have been campaigning for changes in regulations, which they say provides breweries from outside the province with more benefits than those within Alberta.
But it’s a slow change — and one that the ASBA expects to play a role in.
Zeschuk said that although Alberta has the most free market in retail, it also has the highest regulatory structure for brewers.
“Proportionately, we’re still way behind other jurisdictions,” he said. But despite that, the craft beer movement is growing within the province.
Recent changes by the provincial government are welcomed by the ASBA, but Zeschuk indicated it’s only a start for Alberta’s brewing industry. He noted that B.C. is aggressively trying to make its brewing industry stronger, whereas he indicated that he’s not sure if Alberta has a priority to support local beer.
It’s a sad irony, considering Alberta is one of the largest producers of barley in the world.
What is the ASBA’s biggest challenge in helping to grow the industry it is becoming the voice of?
“I think it is awareness. You can complain until you’re blue in the face about government regulation and competition, but I think it’s awareness,” Zeschuk said.