A pair of downtown breweries have tapped into nearly $1 million in federal funds in order to expand production capacity, explore new markets and streamline operations.

A pair of downtown breweries have tapped into nearly $1 million in federal funds in order to expand production capacity, explore new markets and streamline operations.

On Thursday, Dan Vandal, the minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), announced Little Brown Jug Brewing Co. and Nonsuch Brewing Co. received funds from the government’s Business Scale-Up and Productivity Fund, which offers assistance to businesses looking to scale up and potentially break into other markets. After approved projects are completed, businesses are given a one-year grace period before paying back the funds interest free.

"PrairiesCan is all about investing in industries that are growing, that are going to create new jobs, local jobs," Vandal said while on a tour of Little Brown Jug’s William Avenue brewery and taproom. "The craft beer industry in Winnipeg and Manitoba has shown a lot of life."

Little Brown Jug received $400,000 from the fund, which helped fast track the addition of four 80-hectolitre tanks, ramping up their production capacity significantly. They also expanded their on-site lab capacity for product testing, and will be pursuing market development initiatives beyond Manitoba.

Nonsuch Brewing Co., located at 125 Pacific Ave. in the east end of the Exchange District, received $562,600 from the fund; they’ve earmarked to increase production, including their canning process, and to expand strategically.

"We’ve made a lot of investments in the core equipment — this has really allowed us to scale up," said Kevin Selch, founder of Little Brown Jug. "Whether you’re scaling up in capacity or market development or anything else, it takes cash. The funding is an accelerant to growth — it allows you to do things faster than you would have otherwise."

Beyond the province’s borders, Little Brown Jug’s flagship 1919 Belgian Pale Ale is already available in Saskatchewan, although Selch noted they’d not yet been able to give the beer the needed support in the market, something the PrairiesCan funding will allow. "We got in there just before the pandemic, so it’s been a bit touch and go because of restrictions. I think we would have thought about going in there with a bit more of a boots on the ground strategy."

Vandal sees the funding as a means to help business emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with some hope and stability. "We know the last couple of years have been difficult for everybody, including local businesses, downtown businesses. Winnipeg has suffered a lot downtown — our entire city has — and this, I hope, is part of the solution, part of the recovery."

Beyond the funding announcement, Vandal indicated more help could be on the way for some industries in the Prairies, including tourism.

"That’s something that’s been hit the hardest during the pandemic. We’re working to help tourism-related industries all over the Prairies — there’s going to be more coming out on that very soon."

ben.sigurdson@freepress.mb.ca

Ben Sigurdson

Ben Sigurdson
Literary editor, drinks writer

Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.