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THE START OF THE ALBERTA SMALL BREWERS ASSOCIATION


Since 2013, Alberta has gained over 100 breweries. These local businesses create jobs and directly support the diversification of our economy. The Alberta Small Brewers Association is a non-profit organization that protects and promotes local and independent Alberta breweries, and is proud to have played a critical role in the emergence of Alberta beer. Through it all, the power of collaboration has been our most significant asset.

It all started with a phone call from Bob Sarter, Big Rock CEO, to Neil Herbst, co-founder of Alley Kat Brewery. At the time, craft brewing in Alberta looked much different than it does today—with only one twelfth of the breweries we currently boast in the province—due in large part to government policies that restricted investment and growth. The industry also lacked collaboration and a common vision, and as a result, the government communicated with small brewers individually, which slowed regulatory changes and worked to the advantage of large, multinational brewers.

Bob and Neil sought to fix this lack of collaboration by establishing a collective voice for Alberta’s craft brewing industry. In 2012, 11 Alberta breweries gathered to work together. They created a list of priorities for Alberta beer, and with support from volunteers and resources from Big Rock, they established the Alberta Small Brewers Association.


ALBERTA BREWERS ARE STRONGER TOGETHER


The original vision behind ASBA remains the same today: Alberta brewers are stronger together. In the early years of the association, ASBA worked hard to establish a strong relationship with government officials. For example, Greg Zeschuk, the executive director at the time, would hold frequent briefings with AGLC inspectors to highlight the unique aspects of craft beer. Since then, ASBA has enjoyed a productive relationship with the government and has successfully implemented several policy changes to drive the industry forward, including cutting unnecessary red tape, fixing the small brewers’ markup, and pushing for action on unfair trade barriers.


THE GROWTH OF ALBERTA BEER

 

In addition to advocating for our brewers, ASBA has worked to promote the benefits of Alberta beer through a variety of initiatives. Former executive director, Terry Rock, was instrumental in breaking barriers for Alberta beer, including successfully integrating our brewers into Stampede and K-Days. Moreover, ASBA has played a key role in promoting education and industry recognition. In 2017, ASBA held the first-ever Alberta Craft Brewing Convention, which is now an annual event that enables industry participants to connect and grow. Additionally, ASBA launched the Alberta Beer Awards, which recognize the best in the Alberta beer industry.


THE FUTURE OF ASBA


ASBA’s role continues to evolve. Currently, we are focused on increasing the benefits of our community and helping our brewers navigate today’s challenging business environment. 


In 2020, ASBA’s Board of Directors identified our organization’s hedgehog.

Popularized by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, the Hedgehog Concept flows from a deep understanding about the intersection of three circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about 2) what you can be the best at in the world, and 3) what best drives your economic or resource engine.

ASBA’s hedgehog identifies what we can excel at as an association. By focusing on these areas, we can take our industry to new heights.  

In response to the unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19, ASBA has waived membership fees for all brewers and Industry Associates until March 2021. We are in another definitive period for Alberta beer, one that we will face together, once again using collaboration as our greatest asset.