Some Saskatchewan craft brewers say it's unlikely the province's announcement about growler-fill stations at Saskatchewan liquor stores will boost access to local craft beer.
A Saskatoon brewer says mandatory shipping costs to Regina and the lack of refrigeration at the SLGA distribution centre create huge barriers for their businesses and will compromise their products.
"It is a step in the right direction but the one key element that's missing, that I've been lobbying for two-and-a-half years is direct delivery," said Steve Cavan, owner of Paddock Wood Brewing Co. in Saskatoon.
"I need to be able to take my beer directly to the store that wants it. Right now everything needs to be shipped to Regina and then shipped back but the cost of shipping is pretty high."
On Tuesday Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority Minister Don McMorris announced the province's plan to pilot two growler-fill stations, one in a Saskatoon SLGA store and the other in a Regina SLGA store. The announcement also allows private businesses with an off-sale liquor licence to sell craft beer in growlers, reusable jugs people bring to a store to have filled from a tap.
Cavan said he penned a thank-you letter to SLGA shortly after the announcement, however he disagrees with the government's mandate about how everything sold in SLGA and private liquor stores needs to be trucked to the SLGA distribution centre in Regina before the kegs land in a liquor store.
On top of the trucking costs of shipping kegs to Regina, owner and brewmaster Jeff Allport with Nokomis Craft Ales in Nokomis, Sask., said another problems lies in the distribution centre itself and its lack of refrigeration.
"Why can't I just pull it out of my cooler and take it to the Co-op in Saskatoon or the liquor store in Saskatoon, why do they need the beer to go through the warehouse in Regina where it's going to sit in a warm loading dock," Allport told CBC News.
"I will not do that, that's a compromise for my product to have it warehoused warm."
SLGA reviewing craft beer distribution
A spokesperson with SLGA David Morris, said the ministry continues to comb through a report reviewing craft beer distribution in Saskatchewan, adding more announcements could be coming after the April election. Morris added the distribution centre in Regina is a climate controlled facility with limited space for refrigeration.
Until SLGA allows independent craft breweries to deliver kegs to liquor stores, access to craft beer in SLGA stores will not change. Businesses that may take advantage of this announcement include off-sale licence retailers like Winston's English Pub and Grill in Saskatoon.
Winston's currently stock Saskatchewan craft beers on tap including Nokomis, Rebellion and Black Bridge, and Tuesday's announcement now gives Winston's the opportunity to send customers home with growlers filled with those craft beers.