Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We like our beer

Industry brews tax revenues of $130.8 million, 3,658 local jobs

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Manitobans like to quaff beer, and that's a feel-good story for the local economy, according to a new report from the Conference Board of Canada.

The report, entitled: From Farm to Glass: The Value of Beer in Canada, said Manitoba had the fifth-highest per capita consumption of beer in the country last year -- the equivalent of about 240 bottles per person.

That's slightly higher than the national average of 235 bottles per person, but fell well short of Yukon's country-leading consumption rate of 385 bottles per person.

While downing all that beer can produce more than a few physical hangovers, the good news is that it also generates a ton of economic benefits for the provincial and national economies.

For example, beer consumption generates $5.8 billion in annual tax revenues for federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada, the report says, including $130.8 million a year in Manitoba.

It also notes that when people buy beer in a one province, they support a supply chain that can stretch across the country, from breweries in New Brunswick and Quebec, to crop producers in Saskatchewan, to wholesalers in British Columbia. And then there's all the transportation activity in between.

"Therefore beer consumption in one province supports jobs in other provinces and territories, as well," it adds.

Nationally, it supports 163,200 jobs, it says, including 3,658 in Manitoba.

A good example is Manitoba's oldest brewery -- Fort Garry Brewing Company, It employs 22 full-, part-time and temporary employees, brewmaster Matthew Wolff said in an interview Tuesday.

But that's just one example of the economic benefits Fort Garry generates here and elsewhere. Wolff said it buys malting barley from grain producers in Western Canada, and specialty malts from producers in Europe and the United States.

And while most of the hops it uses to flavour its beer are imported from Europe, for the last two years Fort Garry also has been buying hops from a producer near Rosser, Man.

Then there's the millions of gallons of water it buys each year from the City of Winnipeg.

"You're looking at a couple of million litres per year," Wolff said, "so that's a lot of income there for the city."

He noted Fort Garry also pays a tax surcharge for every gallon of waste water it discharges into the city's sewer system at the end of the brewing process. He didn't know offhand how much that amounts to per year.

In terms of other spinoff benefits, Wolff said Fort Garry buys about 60 per cent of its labels from a local company, as well as packaging materials. It also hires local trucking firms to deliver beer to its customers outside of Winnipeg.

The Conference Board report sums the beer economies far-reaching economic benefits in this way: "Almost every industry in Canada is supported in some way by the beer economy -- from grain production for ingredients, to forestry and manufacturing in making the packaging, to manufacturing in brewing the beer and making bottles and equipment used by brewers, to utilities that supply power to the plants, to financial industries supplying properties and insurance, to transportation and warehousing, to retailing and serving, and the list goes on."

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2013 B4

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