Vibrant and growing industry: in praise of Alberta beer

To the Editor:

When I reached legal drinking age in Alberta, there were three beers available in my local bar. Lethbridge Pil, Canadian and Blue. If you were really lucky you could get some Extra Old Stock.
Not so today. Over the past year I have visited numerous towns and cities in Alberta where I have sampled many excellent locally produced beers. Bench Creek Brewing in Edson creates an impeccable white IPA that you can drink on their lovely patio in the woods. Trolley Five in Calgary produces the very tasty “First Crush”.
Lethbridge’s Coulee Brewing provides a wide range of delights in their interesting brewpub. Situation Brewing in Edmonton, Last Best and Dandy in Calgary and Hell’s Basement in Medicine Hat are a few more spots I recommend.
And of course, here in Slave Lake we have our beloved Dog Island Brewing that not only crafts excellent beer but also provides a much-needed local gathering place.
Over the course of the last few years, the Alberta beer scene has exploded. From 18 craft breweries in 2014, there are nearly 50 today with another 20 expected to open in 2017. These breweries not only provide employment, they also support local products and provide a sense of community wherever they operate.
Years ago I drove by Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton. They had a sign out front saying they had 300 kinds of beer. Today, Sherbrooke Liquor – whose beer manager is former Slave Laker Stephen Bezan – sells 1,500 varieties of beer. The Underground on Jasper has 72 beers on rotating tap, including Albertan, Canadian and international brews.
Mr. James, in last week’s Lakeside Leader (Premier Notley’s trade protectionism), wrote that Albertans are suffering from “decreased selection” when it comes to beer choices due to the actions of our current government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Mr. James further complains his favourite upscale beer from Quebec (which also subsidizes its provincial beer industry) once cost $17 and is now up to $24. Apparently it’s an infringement on his human rights that “protectionism” is making him pay more for Quebec-brewed beer than the stuff brewed in his own back yard. Mr. James gets no pity from me. If the Alberta government wants to give tax breaks and subsidies to local brewers in order to create business opportunities for Albertans like Chad and Ben, I think that is a good thing. Alberta’s craft brewers provide vibrancy to small communities. They afford greater choice for people like me who love to shop local. They help diversify the economy. That is good for all Albertans. Except maybe the fancy pants ones for whom Albertan products aren’t good enough.

Nicola Ramsey
Slave Lake

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