Trouble brewing: Is Canada’s craft-beer industry headed for a spill?

20200125_104529In an ice-fishing hut on Gull Lake, Alta., in 2014, Graeme Bredo, a pharmacy student, turned to his brother Charlie and asked if he wanted to start a craft brewery. The provincial government had recently removed limits that required brewers to produce 500,000 litres (or more than one million pints) per year to sell commercially. Beer aficionados Charlie and Graeme thought the easing of regulations created the perfect opportunity to join a skyrocketing industry.

Troubled Monk Brewery poured its first suds in 2015, making it Red Deer, Alta.’s second craft brewery. The city of 100,000 people now has five. “The industry has grown so quickly,” says Charlie Bredo, who previously ran an electricity retailing company. “It just exploded.”

The craft brewing industry has been on a decade-long tear, with an ever-accelerating pace of expansion. Bredo’s home province added 42 breweries between 2018 and 2019 alone – a 60-per-cent jump. Nationwide, the number more than doubled in the last five years to 972 breweries in 2019, up from 383 in 2015, according to IBIS World, a market research firm. Another 200 breweries are expected to open over the next year, according to the Canadian Craft Brewers Association. This wild success has bred anxiety.”