Beer enthusiasts, breweries hopping mad over growler tax
Jeff Lawrence, CTV British Columbia
Published Tuesday, March 12, 2013 8:54PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 12, 2013 8:58PM PDT
Some Vancouver beer enthusiasts are growling at a tax increase on refillable beer bottles they say will cut in to breweries' already thin profit margins.
A growler is a 64-ounce, environmentally friendly, refillable bottle that holds about the equivalent of a six-pack but doesn’t cost as much – and it has seen a resurgence thanks to B.C. beer enthusiasts.
“It’s part and parcel of the whole local food movement,” said Rick Green, president of the Campaign for Real Ale Society of B.C.
“You can buy them at any brew pubs or breweries. You get them filled up and take them home, and once you open it, you consume it within two days…then rinse it out and take it back,” he said.
Currently growlers are taxed the same way a pint of draft beer at a local pub is.
But starting April 1, they’ll be taxed more, similar to what you pay for buying packaged beer at a liquor store.
For example, a Growler that costs $10 to fill now comes to $11.20 with tax.
But as of April, the same Growler will run you $12.07, which equates to an approximate 30 per cent increase for breweries – or their customers.
It may not seem like much, but a spokesman for upstart Parallel 49 Brewing Company says in a competitive industry, profits are razor thin and every cent counts.
“We have to make a conscious choice either to eat this, or pass it on to the consumer, which is tough,” Mike Sleeman said.
“Right now we move probably about 1,000 growlers a month. Add it up and over the course of a year, it will add up and sting a little bit if we decide to eat the cost,” he said.
"We're not going to be happy whenever there's an increase on the tax or markup on liquor simply since we pay so much already," Green said. "Adding this additional cost doesn't make it very cost-competitive with packaged product. Why should I pay more for a growler when I get a six-pack for cheaper?"
The Liquor Distribution Branch said the beer bottles should be subject to the higher rate because even though they’re draft, they are packaged for customer consumption off-site.
A spokesman for the LDB said the province is supportive of B.C.’s craft brewing industry, providing preferential mark-up rates for small to medium-sized breweries.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s St. John Alexander