Provincial inroads for local brewery: Sask and B.C. next?

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The sky is the limit, it appears, for Dog Island Brewing of Slave Lake. The little business that grew out of a hobby is now shipping its product all over the province and has about a dozen people on the payroll.

“We’ve got sales people in Edmonton and Calgary,” says Ben Fiddler.
“We’ve got about 60 outlets, provincially.”

A new labelling system helps get the canned product out more efficiently.
Fiddler says DIB is producing about 60 hectolitres a month on average, “but it increases every month.” A hectolitre, by the way, equals 100 litres.

What else is new?

“We’re going to be doing cider,” Fiddler says. “And distillation.”

Distillation means spirits, such as vodka and gin.

The Dog Island arsenal of craft beers has grown to about 14 varieties. The newest, Fiddler says, is called ‘Lip Pointer,’ which is proving to be quite popular with the local crowd.

“We sell out within a couple of hours,” he says, adding it was a hit at a recent beer show in Banff.

Another product is a porter (dark beer) that has been aging for nine months in wooden barrels.

So things are good, but they could be better. Access to other provincial markets is difficult, with those much-talked-about trade barriers. Fiddler says the Alberta government is on side and trying to help get Alberta brews into Saskatchewan and B.C. Premier Rachel Notley confirmed as much in a chat with The Leader last month when she visited the Northern Alberta Elected Leaders’ conference in Slave Lake. She spoke enthusiastically about Alberta’s craft brewing industry. She said it is struggling to break into other provincial markets, and the government is working to open those doors.

One way it did that was to slap a levy on imported beer, which was challenged in court and struck down. Fiddler says the playing field remains tilted in favour of non-Alberta producers, since the Alberta market is more friendly to importers than vice versa.

But if and when those markets open up, and DIB products are as popular there as they are becoming in Alberta, look out. They might have to get a bigger shop.

The canning line at Dog Island Brewery; a new labeling system makes the process more efficient.
Old Town Porter, a specialty product from Dog Island Brewery in Slave Lake.

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