Penticton breweries see effects of liquor changes

The latest change to B.C.’s Liquor regulations is already having an effect, according to one Penticton craft brewery.

Martin Lewis

The latest change to B.C.’s Liquor regulations is already having an effect, according to one local craft brewery.

In November, the province announced plans to relax regulations for the government-run B.C. Liquor stores, allowing them to carry unlisted products from the six closest craft breweries in a move to address consumer demand for local craft beer.

For Bad Tattoo Brewing, and other Penticton breweries, that means up to 11 new locations that can sell their craft brews.

“The private stores, we have been able to sell into forever. Our biggest trouble  has been trying to get listings in government stores. It is really difficult, we had only been able to secure one listing,” said Martin Lewis, co-founder of Bad Tattoo. “We had one listed product, our (Westcoast IPA).”

The  launch of the province-wide new program means that all 196 B.C. Liquor Store locations are now accepting up to 12 more non-listed products from their six closest microbreweries producing 15,000 hectolitres or less, annually.

“In our industry, we tend to think that anything that relaxes government regulations is a good thing,” said Patt Dyck of the Cannery Brewing Company, who said the changes might have more of an effect in the Lower Mainland with a higher concentration of craft breweries.

Dyck said a positive aspect is the ability for B.C. Liquor Stores to be able to carry some of their special products, like the Triathalager they brew each August for the Challenge Penticton triathalon.

“It just makes sense for all liquor outlets to be able to sell that in the time frame when those athletes, their families and supporters are here,” said Dyck. “It has the possibility of being a positive thing for us. We will just have to see how it plays out as we go forward.”

Lewis said the important message for consumers is that they can now go into B.C. Liquor stores and have a wider range of choice.

“You already have those range of choices at most of your private liquor stores,” said “It is just another opportunity for us, and we need every opportunity we can get.”

Bad Tattoo’s beers are now available in 60 restaurants and more than 250 liquor stores across B.C., including government stores in Osoyoos, Princeton and Merritt.

Of the 113 breweries in B.C., more than 75 per cent are craft breweries. According to provincial statistics, craft beer sales in B.C. have almost tripled in the last five years, and the trend is accelerating, with craft beer sales from small-scale breweries at B.C. Liquor Stores increased by more than 50 per cent in a three-month period this summer.

“This is a thriving industry in our province and we want to help ensure its growth continues. British Columbians clearly enjoy craft beer,” said John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform. “Our government recognizes the need to help this industry be successful.”

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