Craft beer brewing in Manitoba


   Nicole Barry of PEG Beer Co.  
Could craft beer be the next industry to boom in Manitoba? Some think so.
A host of small, local breweries are preparing to open their doors after changes in Manitoba’s legislation made it easier to manufacture and distribute alcohol. Many look at the thriving United States market as proof that brewing craft beer makes very good business sense.
Funding to help start up
Two Manitoba breweries that have recently opened for business are PEG Beer Co. and Torque Brewing Inc.
“I wanted to invest in an area that was up-and-coming,” says Nicole Barry, president and founder of PEG Beer Co., a brew pub located in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. “There’s a lot of room for growth for craft beer in Manitoba in particular.”
Barry has experience in the brewing industry and she says she was lucky to be able to take advantage of the changes in Manitoba’s legislation to start PEG Beer Co. which combines a brewery with a pub or restaurant. The company currently provides three full time positions in the brewery and more than 30 full and part time positions in the restaurant.
Though the funding they received for brewing tanks was only a small part of their total budget, Barry says it came at just the right time.
“The Growing Forward 2 funding helped us access better equipment for our brewery than we would have gotten otherwise,” she says. “We didn’t have to cut corners and the equipment we bought will serve us for many years to come.”
John Heim, president of Torque Brewing Inc., explained the funding through Growing Forward 2 helped purchase three of the seven 30HL (3000L) tanks they needed to set up the brewery. Though they anticipated they would be busy, they hadn’t planned on the overwhelming interest they received. The company quickly ordered five more tanks shortly after opening to keep up with the rapidly growing demand.
A growing industry
“The craft beer industry in North America is growing at double digits,” says Heim. “Up until this spring, there were only two local breweries manufacturing in Manitoba and we decided that it was time for an addition to the family. We wrote a business plan, put together a team of local owners and set out to carve our niche.”

   Torque Brewing Inc.   
Torque Brewing, located on King Edward St. in Winnipeg, is also exploring opportunities for co-packaging. They have recently signed an agreement with Lake of the Woods Brewing Co. and are in discussions with an energy drink company.

To co-package another company’s product, Torque Brewing Inc. would prepare and package the drink in their Winnipeg facility using their client’s recipe and label. As there are limited opportunities to co-pack products in Manitoba, the service brings business to the province. 
“This was an opportunity that works well from Torque's and also from Lake of the Woods Brewing's perspective,” says Heim. “We hope to grow the brewery production and staff as a result of this new arrangement.”
Sourcing local when possible
Both Torque Brewing Inc. and PEG Beer Co. have made an effort to source local ingredients for their businesses.
“We have been able to source local hops from Prairie Gem Hops just north of Winnipeg for a few of the beers,” says Heim. “As more and more ingredients come on line and the local craft beer industry gains momentum, we hope that there will be more options for the industry on the local front.”

According to Barry, there are many opportunities for growth in the industries that support craft breweries. There is a need for farmers to grow a consistent supply of hops and barley, as well as for the facilities necessary to prepare the raw ingredients for the brewing process.

“I’d love to see a malting facility dedicated to a craft style malt built in Manitoba,” she says.

Exciting future ahead

Kathy Sawchuk, business development specialist, market development, in the food and agri-product processing branch with Manitoba Agriculture, says it is exciting to see interest in local craft beer increase as new Manitoba breweries pop up throughout the province.

“We are one of the most underdeveloped sectors for craft beer in Canada,” says Sawchuk. “We have a long way to go but the sector has grown a lot in the last year.”

Sawchuk is currently working with additional clients interested in starting up craft breweries in the near future. She sees many opportunities for growth in the local sectors supporting the breweries, particularly in the agricultural and manufacturing industries.