Share This Blog

Grande Prairie Joins Craft Brewing Revolution

GP-Brewing-Co-Logo-sharpIn the last couple years we have seen new breweries pop up (or soon to pop up) in all sorts of places in Alberta – from Lethbridge to Edson, Red Deer to Fort McMurray, not to mention Lacombe, Camrose and Plamondon of all places (read here).

Absent from the growing list has been the Northwest Alberta city of Grande Prairie. A oil and gas town, Grande Prairie seems to lag behind the rest of the province around craft beer. Well, Jason Petrone has plans to change that with GP Brewing Co.

Petrone is one of the owners of Madhatters Pub in the city’s downtown. A couple years ago Petrone and a couple of partners, staff at the pub, starting thinking about the growth of craft beer around the province. “But there was nothing here in Grande Prairie” Petrone muses. They decided the time was right to create a craft brewery in their town. Petrone owned a building directly west of Madhatters and they started the process of getting zoning, permits, etc. to build a brewery. Things got bogged down in a hurry. “The zoning didn’t allow breweries, so we needed to work with City to introduce what a brewery is and what it looks like, so they could vote on”. It took longer than Petrone had expected. “It was just a lack of knowledge at Council”, noting it took about eight months to navigate the process.

All the paperwork is now in place and they are putting the finishing touches on the brewhouse, a 25 hectolitre system with 12 fermenting tanks and four bright tanks. They plan on firing up the kettle for production next month with a predicted February release. The initial release will be a flagship pale lager with another six beer to come out eventually, including a honey brown, stout, hefeweizen and IPA (others are still being designed). They also plan ” a series of rotational seasonal releases, once we get our feet”. In addition, the brewery will supply three house beer exclusively for Madhatters.

Petrone explains their choices as reflecting the burgeoning nature of craft in the region. “For the flagship we are shooting for a light drinking beer that will appeal to mass market because it is a new thing for the Grande Prairie area” he says. “Craft beer means many things. We are introducing them to fresh, local product. All will be introductory beer in their segment.We won’t have an IPA that blows you out of the water, because it will be the first IPA for many of the drinkers up here”.

They intend on canning their product, with the lager in a tallboy (473ml) can, with the others in standard 355 ml cans. There will also be mixed packs available. The brewery will have retail space, growler fills and small sampling room serving full pints but the focus will be on retail and pubs and restaurants in the region.

Their focus initially will be on Northwest Alberta, in particular the communities surrounding Grande Prairie. Petrone is even sure if he will ship beer to Edmonton. “We want to sell as much of it around here, build our name up here at home”. He thinks there is much untapped potential in the region.

Petrone is convinced their local connections will spur loyalty. “People here are proud of the area, proud of local. We want to embrace and carry that”. GP Brewing’s vision, Petrone says, is “the field to the can. All local products as much as we can. We will get anything that can be manufactured in Canada. We are something unique coming out of peace country other than oil and gas and farming and forestry.”

Adding beer to the Peace Country’s claim to fame seems like a pretty good idea.

4 comments to Grande Prairie Joins Craft Brewing Revolution

  • John S

    “In the last couple years we have seen new breweries pop up (or soon to pop up) in all sorts of places in Alberta – from Lethbridge to Edson, Red Deer to Fort McMurray, not to mention Lacombe, Camrose and Plamondon of all places.” Wait, wasn’t that growth of Alberta breweries before the new tax markups which were sold to the public as needed needed in order to foster Alberta brewery growth? “Petrone explains their choices as reflecting the burgeoning nature of craft in the region.” That would not have been possible without good imports coming into the province. Those are now labelled as a problem to be driven away through 525% tax hikes. Gee, with friends like that…

  • Barry

    535%? I’m not sure where you’re getting your numbers but that one doesn’t match any I’ve seen. I think the new beer tax regime will encourage even more breweries to start up in Alberta. These have additional advantages besides providing Albertans with more beer choices, including generating jobs (and their associated income taxes), buying locally produced supplies, which might encourage additional maltsters to start up, and so on. So far I’ve been able to replace imports that are no longer available, like Muskoka, with other new imports. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of imported beer to drink.

    • John S

      Hi Barry, good question again. Please review my reply to your comment in the GP article on where the 525% increase comes from. To add to that reply, in respect to the specific comments you raise here, choice will go down in the new rate structure as non-NWP breweries pull out of Alberta. A rising tide was raising all boats but the tide is now fixed and flat. Industry-related jobs will decrease not increase – so much was built on the wide choice in craft beer. There is no shortage of imports (yet) because the Connect warehouse is full of craft stocked up for the holiday season but now all that craft beer will sit there due to the surprise 525% markup increase. In a year from now, if you still see the same wide choice as today in good craft imports, I’ll drink a Minhas beer of your choosing.

  • Barry

    Hi John, well I guess we’ll see. Thanks for the explanation of the 525% figure.
    I’ve seen the number explained differently in a CBC Calgary article that also quoted Tool Shed Brewing founder Graham Sherman.

    “The province is hiking the tax on liquor by five per cent, or about $0.21 for a case of beer.

    But that increase only applies to imported beer and beer producers making over 200,000 hectolitres, Sherman said.

    “We’ve been given an opportunity by our government to succeed as local, craft breweries,” he said”

    So now as I understand it the full tax rate is $1.25 per litre for imports and the big breweries. If that’s enough to push Muskoka out of the market then that’s too bad. I don’t drink their beer often as I think it is already over priced compared to other brewers from south of the border who are also dealing with the 35% exchange rate, but manage to sell their beer for less.

    I think the new legislation will create more brewing related jobs in Alberta, although there may be fewer brewer agent jobs if the imports flee the province as you predict. Time will tell. And I’d never make anyone drink a Minhas beer, but you’re welcome to drink what you like :).

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>