File photoA view of Left Fields Farm near Sorrento, which is home to Crannog Ales, Canada’s first certified organic farmhouse microbrewery.A view of Left Fields Farm near Sorrento, which is home to Crannog Ales, Canada’s first certified organic farmhouse microbrewery.-Image credit: File photo

Brewery owner has concerns about new liquor rules

Crannog Ales owner concerned about possible industrial sprawl

Crannog Ales owner Brian MacIsaac is hopeful but not yet ready to lift a tankard in celebration.

Changes the previous Liberal government made to regulations governing the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) put Canada’s first certified organic farmhouse microbrewery in jeopardy.

Related link: Concern brewing over ALC changes

A Nov. 9 Ministry of Agriculture media release maintains a change in regulations has all alcohol producers in the ALR operating under the same rules, levelling the playing field for British Columbia brewers, mead makers and distillers.

“The updated regulation enables all alcohol producers to operate within the ALR, providing they source at least 50 per cent of the primary farm product used in their alcohol (e.g., grapes for wine, barley for beer, honey for mead) from their own and other B.C. farms,” reads the release. “We have heard loud and clear from local governments, the BC Chamber of Commerce and industry that these changes were needed to make things fair and equitable, and to support opportunities for economic growth in our province’s agricultural sector,” said Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham.

The change amends a 2015 regulation that created different rules for wineries and cideries than other alcohol producers, and led to calls for policy change from the BC Chamber of Commerce, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Craft Distillers Guild of British Columbia.

Minor amendments made to the agricultural land reserve and subdivision regulation now require breweries, distilleries, meaderies, wineries and cideries operating in the ALR to either (a) produce at least 50 per cent of the primary farm product used to make the alcohol on the farm where the production facility is located; or (b) if the farm on which the facility is located is at least two hectares in area, produce at least 50 per cent of the farm product on that farm and/or under a three-year minimum term contract with another B.C. farm. Businesses that do not meet the regulation’s requirements can still submit an application to the Agricultural Land Commission for consideration.

Related Link: Craft brewery owners question ALC rule changes

MacIsaac is concerned the new regulations may lead to some not-so-welcome changes such as opportunities for industrial sprawl.

“My concern is about making sure light industry on any ALR property would take up the smallest of percentages, including infrastructure such as pavement,” he says, noting he wants to make sure rules are stronger and “make more sense.”

Set on a 10-acre farm, MacIsaac says the reason Crannog Ales does not operate a lounge is because it would require more less-impermeable structures such as paved driveways, septic fields, etc.

“It’s fine if you have a small building, but it can keep on growing to what I call industrial sprawl,” he says. “Instead of having a farm with a brewery, you have a brewery with a small farm view.”

While expressing confidence in the NDP government, MacIsaac says he would like to return to an older system in which local government has a key role instead of the current larger, centralized approach.

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