Lifting Up Rocks

The Never-Ending Quest for Canadian Brewing Funding

By: James Burt

If today’s Canadian brewers made comprehensive lists of their day-to- day brewing
expenses, the lists would wind up at scroll length. Rent, equipment, sanitizing
material, employee fees, taxes—there are many and ever-changing. As such,
Canadian brewers are continually on the lookout for funding opportunities to keep
their enterprises afloat.
“We use a combination of private and public money,” says Haliburton Highlands
Brewing’s Jewelle Schiedel-Webb. “We operated first as a pilot brewery and built up
a track record. Once we were ready to expand, we were established enough to
qualify for the provincial Growing Forward 2 initiative.”
With her background in technology and her husband Michael’s background in
culinary arts, Schiedel-Webb felt ready to undertake a change in career to establish
a brewery in their desired Haliburton location. However, they also had to prepare
themselves further: Michael received education at the Siebel Institute and interned
at breweries while Jewelle worked hard to build the business and provide funding
bodies what they required.
“Our focus was on equipment and infrastructure,” she said. “Our current building
was purpose-built for the brewery and is part of a community trust. We had to
provide prospective funding bodies a well-drawn business plan with financial
information on what we’d earned and what we projected for the future. They were
interested to know how we were collaborating and working with other businesses
in our region. Our established community reputation helped target our grant
funding and show we were worth the investment.”
While some provinces are more able to provide funding, other brewers across
Canada do not have such resources at their disposal quite as easily. In Winnipeg,
John Heim of Torque Brewing noted some of the hardships of acquiring sources to
support operations and even some that no longer exist.
“We also work with a combination of private and public funding. However, we rely
mostly on the principal ‘five owners’ fund, some private investors, Royal Bank of
Canada and Business Development Bank loans. The province of Manitoba had a
Craft Brewery Loan available until a recent change of government when it
unfortunately went by the wayside, so no new breweries were able to access the
funds.

With the growth in the number of breweries of Canada, many have assumed that
more public and private money will become available to assist in the industry’s
growth and sustainability. Some concerns and considerations still exist though.
“Here the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is a Crown corporation and Torque works
with them to help with our presence in, for example, retail.” Heim said. “Right now,
we’re reaching out to Manitoba Hydro for funding to make our production more
energy and environmentally efficient. However, the growth is up to the breweries
themselves and they have to work to build up capital while using it correctly for
their own operations. But so far the provincial growth is happening and still
positive: we had only two breweries in Manitoba in 2015 and now we’re up to
twelve.”
Schiedel-Webb noted other issues in Ontario, “The brewing market is moving so fast
with so many up-and- comers competing for funding. There needs to be a focus on
real products created by serious breweries that can provide a multiplier effect in the
economy, such as long-standing jobs and using, as we do, locally-sourced
ingredients. That’s where we feel money should be directed over the long-term.”
When asked on advice that could be passed onto other brewers seeking funding,
Heim noted some key areas that require attention in the application process and
where they can be shown as being directed productively.
“You have to make sure the business plan notes where you are directing your
product—things like packaging and using cans for retail are good to include. Not
only that but industrial space where you can do packaging right in your facility. You
can also account for sending your team to a trade show or out for a training session.
Once you start lifting up the rocks, you can find those places that can help you out.”