One of British Columbia’s most unique breweries is in dire need of help. You may be familiar with Persephone Brewing, and the their setup as a farm based brewery. Many visitors to the Sunshine Coast have had the opportunity of visiting the farm, picking hops, and experiencing life as a member of the BC brewing scene. However, recent developments through government channels are forcing the brewery to shut down operation within the next two years.
Persephone Brewing is one of those special places. Not only is it along the sunshine coast one of the most beautiful areas of our fantastic province, but it hosts one of the most unique brewing set-ups in BC. Much like many of the cideries in BC, Persephone Brewing Company brews with many of its own ingredients. Consumers have the opportunity to visit the farm and pick hops that will later be used in the brewing process. As a result, The brewery is located on a piece of land which is designated as part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, or the ALR. ALR regulations don’t prohibit the brewing of beer with their ingredients per se – as long as up to 50% of the ingredients being used are from the land in question. While 100% of the hops used in Persephone’s beer are from their farm, hops are naturally a lighter weight ingredient then the rest of the ingredients found in beer like malt, barley, wheat. As a result, the additional ingredients purchased from other sources make up the majority of the beer they produce. The government has since told Persephone that they need to shut down operations within the next 2 years. The frustration for beer advocates, is that wineries are exempt from this rule.
Many people may say that this is purely an industry issue and not something that a consumer group like ours should concern itself with. CAMRA BC strongly disagrees. This is about availability of product on the shelves for consumers. This is about the government not holding certain industries to the same standard, likely due to certain powerful lobbyists. Ultimately, any impact on a specific industry that produces a product for an end consumer is going to impact those very consumers. From my own personal standpoint, I believe that Persephone brews the best Dry Irish Stout in the world. I know many Irish folk who have come to BC telling me there was no greater beer than a real Guinness and I was able to change their minds with one Pint of Persephone’s Dry Irish Stout through a nitro tap. Also something to keep in mind is how nice the people at Persephone are. One of the best aspects of the British Columbia beer community is how welcoming it is. Persephone is the epitome of that mindset. Few places in our province offer consumers the opportunity to be involved in the integral processes of brewing like this brewery does. Most people that have visited the sunshine coast and stopped in at the farm will tell you that the greatest memory is just that, farming. They have the opportunity to understand where the ingredients from their favourite beers come from. They are educating consumers, and empowering them with the truth behind the industry. In our opinion the government should be celebrating this instead of penalizing it.
A lot of the initial research into this was done by Barley Mowat in one of his most recent blog post which you should all read. Note the similarities between what I am writing and his post. He very kindly told me to appropriate any information I wanted from that post as long as it was going to get awareness out.
If you want to help, you can use the form letter below designed by Chuck at Barley Mowat to contact the appropriate members of government. These are opportunities that movements like ours are all about. There are thousands of people that will read this article. If every one of you take the time to click a few times, or tap a few times, we could bring about some serious change and help one of BC’s most beloved breweries. I’ve already sent mine in, why haven’t you?
To: Ms. Kim Grout, CEO BC Agricultural Land Commission
I am writing to encourage amending the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation (B.C. Reg. 171/2002) to allow estate breweries to satisfy the 50% source material requirement by contracting with another BC farm. The proposed amendment is not a novel invention, but is identical to an exemption already granted to estate wineries and cideries under the Regulation.
Please consider amending Part 2, section 2.1 of the Regulation to read:
2.1) A winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery, and ancillary uses, are designated as farm uses for the purposes of the Act if
(a) at least 50% of the farm product used to make the wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider produced each year is grown on the farm on which the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery is located, or
(b) the farm on which the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery is located is more than 2 ha in area and at least 50% of the farm product used to make the wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider produced each year is grown
(i) on the farm, or
(ii) both on the farm and on another farm located in British Columbia that provides that farm product to the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery under a contract having a term of at least 3 years.
and strike Part 2, section 2.3, as it would be rendered redundant with the above amendment.
This amendment will encourage local businesses such as Persephone Brewing to produce products highlighting the best ingredients grown in BC, while honouring the agricultural intent of the ALR. This amendment is good for BC farms, it is good for BC businesses, it is good for BC consumers, and it is the right thing to do.
cc: Hon. Norm Letnick, Minister of Agriculture
cc: Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River – Sunshine Coast