Alberta’s craft spirits sector is poised for explosive growth as consumers seek small-scale, locally-produced products.
Alberta’s Palliser region is home to some of the best ingredients in the world, with excellent market access into Alberta’s major cities. Experienced distillers in Alberta and British Columbia are seeking new places to make their spirits.
A small group of local investors would have the means to bring distilling to their town. With such a meteoric rise, world-class ingredients, available talent, market access, and some local investment dollars, a craft distillery is a real possibility.
There are 24 craft distilleries in Alberta, with nearly 80 in British Columbia. This indicates there is room for about 60 more distilleries in Alberta. Craft distilling is growing at an astronomical rate of 30% CAGR, part of a larger trend of consumers seeking locally-produced, high-quality food, beverages, and other consumables. Driven by millennials entering their prime earning years, this trend shows no signs of slowing. Craft distilling is a sustainable way to bring food manufacturing to communities of all sizes.
World Class Ingredients
Alberta’s Palliser region is where some of the best malting barley on the planet is grown. Combine a fast-growing potato sector in Southern Alberta, an abundance of native- and farm-grown botanicals, microclimates conducive to growing hops, and increasing interest in craft malt, and Palliser-based distilleries will have no problem finding the best ingredients for their spirits.
When the Government of Alberta changed the regulations around craft brewing in 2013, it released a cascade of craft brewery openings across the province. Those regulations also reduced the barrier to entry for craft distillers. And while Alberta craft brewing continues its ascent, craft distilling in the province has momentum of its own.
There is an opportunity for investors to draw on this existing talent pool of craft distillers to handle the day-to-day operations and ensure their community is known for high-quality spirits. If distilling is a passion, three-week courses are offered at working distilleries across North America.
What others are saying about craft distilling
I don’t feel that craft distillers in Alberta are really competing with one another. There’s enough market out there for everybody to be successful.
When we secured a space in Canmore there were only three craft distilleries in the province … Now there are 19 [with more in the works]. I am truly hoping we will be able to see collaborations between distilleries.
There has been a slight cultural change with people drinking less and moving to quality products. This has also helped open the opportunity for producers of premium, craft spirits.
Oh my God, there is so much demand locally. I’m getting emails and phone calls from Whistler, Vancouver Island, Comox. They’re all saying they want two cases. Stat.
Rosemary is a 90 minute drive to 1.2 million people in Calgary, with Brooks 15 minutes away. Five serviced industrial and commercial lots are available for $10,000 each. With inexpensive land and over one million Albertans within 90 minutes, Rosemary is an ideal location for a distillery.
The village even has a frisbee golf course running throughout the community!
Median Age: 31.5
Empress is situated in one of Alberta’s most interesting locations, near the confluence of the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan Rivers. Remote and charming, minutes from Highway 41, the village is on Travel Alberta’s map as a badlands destination. With abundant serviced land within village boundaries, a distillery could pay homage to its scenery, drawing cyclists, river and outdoor enthusiasts, bringing pride to the town while selling spirits province-wide.
Participation Rate: 53%
A Consort distillery could tap into its strong ties to the backbone of Alberta’s economy: the oil industry. Located at the junction of highways 12, 41, and 886, two hours East of Red Deer, a distillery here would have strong provincial market access into the entire population along the Highway 2 corridor, including Calgary and Edmonton.
Median Age: 39
Another community in close proximity to the Highway 2 corridor, and two hours from Calgary’s 1.2 million residents, a Hanna-based distillery would benefit from high-quality local ingredients and low-cost commercial land.
Participation Rate: 66%
Low Corporate Taxes
Alberta’s corporate tax rate is 11%, which is the lowest in Canada. By 2020, Alberta’s corporate tax rate will be 8%.
Alberta Investors Tax Credit
The Alberta Investor Tax Credit (AITC) offers a 30% tax credit to investors who provide equity capital to Alberta small businesses commercializing new products.
Community Futures Small Business Loans
Community Futures provides customized, affordable loan options for small business owners and entrepreneurs in rural Alberta, ranging from $500 to $150,000.
Olds College Craft Distilling Program
This eight week course prepares graduates for employment in the growing alcohol spirits distillation industry.