The provincial government is pouring more money into the craft brew industry through new funding for a program launched last year, to help bolster business.

The announcement was made at the inaugural Alberta Craft Brew Convention in Red Deer on Wednesday.

Event organizer and Executive Director of the Alberta Small Brewers Association Terry Rock said: “I think brewing can be a signature industry for our province if we really work on it.”

Rock explained that the industry is quickly gaining momentum.

“Three years ago Alberta had 18 brewing licenses, now we have 54. So that's triple in three years, and I'm aware of at least 30 more breweries in the planning stages for our province,” Rock said.

But it’s not just the number of people brewing unique beverages that’s growing.

“The craft brewing industry recognizes one of the most valuable components in a bottle or keg of beer is barley, and we happen to grow the best barley in the world, right here in Alberta,” said Art Froehlich, a long time member of the craft beer community, and agricultural investor.

Froehlich was a guest speaker at the convention, and he says the timing for the industry is right.  More than 400 people attended the conference, from brewers big and small, to barley growers and equipment suppliers. Froehlich says those numbers are a testament to how much Albertans love their beer.

“We're very independent here, we're very entrepreneurial here.”

Some of the success of local brewers is due in part to the province’s support. In the 2016/2017 budget the Alberta Small Brewers Development Program was announced, with $16 million in funding being provided to help grow small business.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci made a trip to the convention to announce the government will be adding another $25 million in the 2017/2018 budget. “We're really seeing a development in the number of people working in this area, the number of products available, and some of the best local products.”

He added plans are in the works to create a similar program for small distilleries and wineries.

For small family startups like Cochrane-based Half Hitch Brewing Company, the convention was a perfect opportunity to work with like-minded people, in keeping the industry moving.
Owner Chris Heier said. “We want to see the whole craft beer industry grow, as long as the whole industry is growing, everybody benefits out of that.”

He explained that although the market may seem competitive, he’s received nothing but support and knowledge from other craft brewers and hopes he can pay-it-forward to future businesses similar to hit own.