Shoppers at provincially approved farmers’ markets can now crack open a brew or sip a bit of vodka.
“We’re really excited with the news. It offers us the chance to expand our customer base and reach out to different sales channels,” said Marty Shaw, general manager of Ribstone Creek Brewery in Edgerton.
The move puts craft beer makers and distilleries on the same footing as meaderies and wineries, which have been offering samples to customers at farmers’ markets since 2008.
“It’s really bringing the policy in line to allow other small manufacturers the same economic opportunity,” said Michelle Hynes-Dawson, spokesperson for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
“There’s been a lot of changes that have been happening the last few years when it comes to craft beer.”
Being able to offer samples at farmers’ markets, where the focus is on locally grown and locally made products, will work well for Ribstone Creek since its beer is brewed in a town of about 400 people, said Shaw.
“I think it’ll be a good fit for us to be showcased at those types of venues,” he said.
Shaw and others at Ribstone Creek are hoping to be involved with tastings at local farmers’ markets around Edgerton, an hour’s drive southwest of Lloyd-minster. But the company also wants get into farmers’ markets around Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer to promote its brews, which are sold across the province and have won numerous awards including a gold medal at the 2017 Canadian Brewing Awards for its “session ale.”
“We are always trying to bring out new exclusive beers that are available just in Edgerton in our tap room,” said Shaw.
The provincial rule change came after a lot of discussion with stakeholders, said Hynes-Dawson.
Craft brewers tend to be small business owners, and farmers’ markets offer a low-cost way to grow their customer base.
“It really provides another opportunity for small businesses to be able to get out, and turn new people on to their Alberta-made products,” she said.
More than ever before, patrons of bars and restaurants are asking for Alberta-made liquor and craft beer, she added.
“The distillery industry is quite cool as well because for the first time, we’re seeing a lot more different rums or vodkas or whiskeys and all sorts of things that are produced right here in Alberta.”
Local craft brewers and distillers are also a boon to farmers because they highlight the quality of Alberta-grown grains.
The new change, which went into effect Aug. 15, allows each farmers’ market to make its own decision whether or not to approve beer tastings, and which breweries will be allowed at their market.