Blind Enthusiasm Brewing hits its stride under Alberta Small Brewers Development Program
Beer-brewing newcomer Blind Enthusiasm Brewery opened shop almost half a year ago, and owner Greg Zeschuk says business is going well. That’s thanks in part to financial boons offered by the provincial government.
“Brewing in Alberta is thriving, with more breweries and distilleries opening their doors or growing their businesses,” Premier Rachel Notley said in a release this month.
In December, the markup paid to the provincial government was cut from $13.67 per litre to $2.46 per litre for spirit manufacturers who sell from their distilleries. In October the government awarded a $60,000 grant to the Alberta Small Brewers Association to promote local brands. In 2016, the government launched the Alberta Small Brewers Development (ASBD) Program to support small brewers with grants that help grow their businesses.
In the first year of the ASBD Program, the number of small brewers in Alberta grew from 45 to almost 60. The program counts Blind Enthusiasm as one of its happy recipients.
“It’s been pretty consistent story for the Alberta government, even pre-NDP,” Zeschuk says. “There’s generally been a more favourable sort of markup historically for us.”
A new report from The Conference Board of Canada found that nearly 85 percent of beer sold in Canada comes from a local brewery. Zeschuk says the extra money from government grants help them appeal to customers and sustain that large number of domestic sales.
“Everything we’re making is going back in the business. There’s no small brewery that says, ‘we’re pocketing a bunch of money.’ It’s reinvested in typically new equipment,” he says. “Those grants are really helpful in doing that … Building a brewery is a very capital intensive business. Every single thing cost a fair amount of money.”
It’s a running joke that even the simplest pieces of brewing equipment cost at least $10,000, but those investments are crucial to reliably delivering experimental beer.
“When you’re making unusual beer and trying new things, you want to be testing and evaluating what you create,” he says. “We’ve got a direct oxygen meter that measures oxygen and CO2, and oxygen is kind of the bane of packaged beer and beer in progress.
“Having that equipment will just make the quality better and allow us to deliver beer faster and better too, so that’s kind of what these [government supports] are used for.”
Zeschuk likes to give back to the community too. On tap right now at Blind Enthusiasm’s Biera brew pub are beers created by charity auction winners for the Stollery Children’s Hospital. A dollar from every beer sold goes to the Stollery in addition to the auction total.
“There’s “10 ’til 2 Jim,” that was for a fellow whose kids thought he only worked from 10 until two,” he says. “It’s kind of a hoppy, farmhouse kind of ale. It has a nice lemony zip to it.”
Then there’s “Street Beat,” the next beer from the program where auction winners get to be a brewer for a day. It’s named after the brewer’s band and launches this week.
“That’s a Belgian-style wheat beer with bee pollen,” Zeschuk says. “It’s kind of an interesting earthy, floral take on a Belgian wheat beer.”
Government grants and markup reductions help bring these novel brews to the tap, Zeschuk says. And they help Blind Enthusiasm Brewing continue to reach for their goal.
“We’re trying to really bridge the culinary brewing gap … and show that beer can be for finer food as well.”
Blind Enthusiasm Brewing
9570 76 Ave.