Barley Mowat 

Take Two Minutes to Help Persephone Brewing

with 28 comments

tl,dr: Click here to open a form letter to send to the government in support of Persephone Brewing, if you’d rather not read my ramblings. However, I’d recommend knowing what you’re talking about before contacting the government 🙂 Note that the link doesn’t work on some computers, so if you’re affected, just copy/paste the email from below.

As some of you might be aware, Persephone Brewing has recently found themselves in a bit of a pickle, and have been ordered by the government to halt their brewing operation at their current location within two years. A little recap for those unfamiliar with the matter.

Persephone Brewing is located on a plot of land designated as part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The use of ALR land is restricted, to only allow farming, and a few related activities. For this reason, ALR land is pretty cheap compared to regular unrestricted land. Administering the ALR is the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC)’s job. The ALC does things like set policy governing the ALR, and investigate operations within the ALR for compliance. It is also the government body that has ordered Persephone stop all the beer-making.

“But Chuck,” you scream, “Persephone *IS* a farm! They grow their own hops!” Great point, random BC craft beer geek. They do, in fact, grow their own hops at the brewery. In fact, most of the land Persephone is on is dedicated towards making hop bines slowly get bigger through careful maintenance and upkeep, an activity that we might as well, for lack of a better word, call “farming.”

However, it’s not the farming of hops that the ALC has issue with. That part of the business is just dandy. It’s the other part of the business, where they turn those hops (and malt sourced from other farms in BC) into beer, then sell it to consumers like you and me. The brewery part of Persephone, it seems, doesn’t quite live up to the intention of the ALR.

It’s not that brewing is outright banned. Nope, the ALR allows brewing so long as 50% of the materials used to make said beer is sourced from the land in question. Even though 100% of the hops grown by Persephone are used in their beer, that isn’t good enough. The vast majority of the ingredients in beer, by weight, is from grains like barley and wheat. Since Persephone isn’t growing that grain on-site, their brewing operation isn’t allowed.

Normally, at this point, I would stop caring. Those are the rules, and Persephone should have done their homework before opening a brewery. The ALR exists to stop us from paving over viable farmland, and the materials rule seems like a good one. As hops are a tiny part of the brewing process, if Persephone’s exact scenario was allowed, we would also be allowing Molson to pick up a 150 acre ALR plot, plop down 3 bines to feed their new 149.5 acre horsepiss factory, and call it a day. We don’t want that.

However, while perusing the ALR Regulations as research for this article, I became curious about how wine is treated. As we’re all familiar from living in BC, the wine industry usually gets a pass to do whatever the fuck they want while beer is told to go hang. Because wine is all classy and shit, or something. Or maybe it’s the massive, well-funded wine lobby. Hard to say. So, it came as no real surprise that I found a different section of the Regulations which deal with wine, and even less of a surprise that wine has different rules.

In short, if Persephone was making wine instead of beer, they’d be fine. If, say, they had a couple rows of grapes on site, but were sourcing the majority of their grape must from vineyards in the Okanagan, they could stay in their cosy corner of the ALR, as the section of the Regulations dealing with wineries allows off-farm sourced ingredients, so long the vineyard meets a minimum size and grows at least some grapes. Cider is also lumped in with wine in this section so, well played you apple lovers.

Breweries, distilleries and meaderies, though, have no such clause. Adding these operations to the section of the Regulation written for the wineries would be a trivial edit. It’s good for local BC businesses like Persephone, and the “grown in BC” component is good for farms in areas more suitable for barley, while letting Persephone’s farm focus on a crop for which it is highly suitable: hops. As well, we’re still keeping folks like Molson at bay, because BC cannot supply enough malt (at a low enough price) to make sense for an operation of that scale.

It’s an easy thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do. So now we just need to put some pressure on the decision makers to get this thing done. As I did, way back when, with Brewery Lounges, I’ve made this easy for y’all. Click here and you’ll get the form letter below in your favourite mail client. Customize it as much as possible and hit send. Let’s do this.

To: Kim.Grout@gov.bc.ca
cc: AGR.minister@gov.bc.ca
cc: Nicholas.Simons.MLA@leg.bc.ca

To: Ms. Kim Grout, CEO BC Agricultural Land Commission

I am writing to encourage amending the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation (B.C. Reg. 171/2002) to allow estate breweries to satisfy the 50% source material requirement by contracting with another BC farm. The proposed amendment is not a novel invention, but is identical to an exemption already granted to estate wineries and cideries under the Regulation.

Please consider amending Part 2, section 2.1 of the Regulation to read:

2.1) A winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery, and ancillary uses, are designated as farm uses for the purposes of the Act if
(a) at least 50% of the farm product used to make the wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider produced each year is grown on the farm on which the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery is located, or
(b) the farm on which the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery is located is more than 2 ha in area and at least 50% of the farm product used to make the wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider produced each year is grown
(i) on the farm, or
(ii) both on the farm and on another farm located in British Columbia that provides that farm product to the winery, brewery, distillery, meadery or cidery under a contract having a term of at least 3 years.

and strike Part 2, section 2.3, as it would be rendered redundant with the above amendment.

This amendment will encourage local businesses such as Persephone Brewing to produce products highlighting the best ingredients grown in BC, while honouring the agricultural intent of the ALR. This amendment is good for BC farms, it is good for BC businesses, it is good for BC consumers, and it is the right thing to do.

Yours truly,

cc: Hon. Norm Letnick, Minister of Agriculture
cc: Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River – Sunshine Coast

Written by chuck

January 14th, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Beer and You

28 Responses to 'Take Two Minutes to Help Persephone Brewing'

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  1. Hey Chuck, your form letter link isn’t working. =)

    Rick

    14 Jan 17 at 17:29

  2. Awesome, Chuck.

    That’s a lot of text with special characters for an email client to populate. Just copy and past Chuck’s text into a message instead.

    What's Brewing

    14 Jan 17 at 18:21

  3. Thanks for the letter, Chuck. I also cc’d it to the local MLA, Nicholas Simons, nicholas.simons.MLA@leg.bc.ca.

    Graham Ballantyne

    14 Jan 17 at 18:47

  4. You’re awesome Chuck. THANK YOU for looking into the issue with thoughtfulness and sharing your perspective. It means a lot to have people who think getting behind Persephone and ensuring for more farm based breweries are in the future. Cheers!

    Brian Smith

    14 Jan 17 at 18:52

  5. Hey Chuck,
    In the letter text there’s a typo in Kim Grout’s name, it says “Kim Gout”.

    Dan Came

    15 Jan 17 at 09:45

  6. Also in seen in light of the decision regarding commercial wedding ceremonies as an allowable use of agricultural land, which confounds me as to how it generates any kind of agricultural product.

    Chris Taylor

    15 Jan 17 at 11:15

  7. Contacting the ALC and the Minister through their official emails is a good start.

    One suggestion I would add is to add a question to the form letter – “why does the exemption exist for wineries and not breweries.” If you don’t ask a question and request a response, you will get a simple “thanks for the suggestion we will think about it” stock answer back. A why question makes it more likely a policy analyst will see the letter.

    I would also widen your net.

    At the MLA level: the local MLA (through official email and then constituency office), the NDP agricultural critic (official and constituency office), MLA Weaver (official and const office). If the question gets raised in question period, something is more likely to happen.

    I would also modify the letter slightly to include more small business spin and then also send it to the finance ministry. Recall the finance minister is a farmer and lives on ALR land. Coralee Oaks is also the small business / red tape / liquor distribution minister. Send it there as well (official email and constituency office).

    Now, for every Minister you send it to, figure out who their deputy minister is and then pick an assistant deputy minister. Send the letter to them as well.

    It can take weeks for correspondence to make it through the back log. You can increase your odds of a real response by widening your net.

    Parfait

    15 Jan 17 at 11:29

  8. Thanks for this post Chuck!

    Matt Cavers

    15 Jan 17 at 14:06

  9. Parfait, thanks for the suggestions. Here are some of those contacts in the provincial gov’t:

    Honourable Michael de Jong is at , his Deputy Minister is Athana Mentzelopoulos at and ADM Doug Foster at ;

    Honourable Shirley Bond who is the Minister of Jobs, Tourism & Skills Training & Minister Responsible for Labour is at and here Deputy Minister is Shannon Baskerville at ;

    Honourable Coralee Oakes is the Minister of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction & Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch is at and her Deputy Minister is Tim McEwan at ;

    Honourable Donna Barnett is the Minister of State for Rural Economic Development is at ;

    Cheers!

    Brian Smith

    15 Jan 17 at 15:48

  10. Shoot my previous post went without the emails, perhaps because i had them in the wrong type of brackets, sorry for the redundancy but…

    Honourable Michael de Jong who is a farmer in the Fraser Valley is at (FIN.Minister@gov.bc.ca) , his Deputy Minister is Athana Mentzelopoulos at (Athana.Mentzelopoulos@gov.bc.ca) and ADM Doug Foster at (Doug.Foster@gov.bc.ca);

    Honourable Shirley Bond who is the Minister of Jobs, Tourism & Skills Training & Minister Responsible for Labour is at (JTST.Minister@gov.bc.ca) and here Deputy Minister is Shannon Baskerville at (Shannon.Baskerville@gov.bc.ca);

    Honourable Coralee Oakes is the Minister of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction & Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch is at (SBRT.Minister@gov.bc.ca) and her Deputy Minister is Tim McEwan at (Tim.McEwan@gov.bc.ca);

    Honourable Donna Barnett is the Minister of State for Rural Economic Development is at (donna.barnett.MLA@leg.bc.ca);

    Brian Smith

    15 Jan 17 at 15:50

  11. Great suggestion. Specific policy recommendations are always more effective than “fix this thing I don’t like!”

    One small issue with the form email though: it says at the bottom that it’s cc’d to the MLA for Powell River, but Nicholas Simons’ email doesn’t get autofilled in the CC field using the quick links you provided. Should be a quick fix.

    Hans

    16 Jan 17 at 08:54

  12. @Hans – Looks like it will be browser/email client dependant. The cc is specified correctly, and populates fine on the browsers I’ve tested.

    These sorts of mailto: links are problematic at best, but they do get better results than a web form email, in the balance.

    chuck

    16 Jan 17 at 08:59

  13. While I’m all for making this change to the ALC regulations, I wonder if it’s possible for Persephone to meet their production volumes using BC grain? Not many regions are suited to growing grain in BC, but apple, grape and other fruit production are some of BC’s agricultural mainstays. See: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/statistics/industry-and-sector-profiles/fast-stats/faststatsbc_2015.pdf/
    Maybe this is why the difference exists? I think most local breweries source from Alberta and Saskatchewan.Something to think about, but it would be great if they could source enough grain here to continue.

    Katie

    17 Jan 17 at 17:11

  14. Hi Katie,

    That’s sort of the point of this change. Persephone *does* currently meet their 50% production requirements using BC Grain. However, because they are producing beer (not wine) that simply doesn’t matter. The current rules require that they grow the grain on their own farm, whereas if they were making wine they could utilize grapes grown on another farm.

    chuck

    18 Jan 17 at 06:26

  15. 2.1 (ii) in the email text still reads winery or cidery. Thanks Chuck.

    Rob

    18 Jan 17 at 17:54

  16. Thanks Rob. Never claimed to be competent 🙂

    chuck

    18 Jan 17 at 22:08

  17. […] and local beer blogger Barley Mowat are encouraging beer lovers to lobby Letnick for change to the law to put breweries on an […]

  18. But wait. Even if Persephone got the same rules as a winery they wouldn’t be able to stay. They produce less than 50% of the I gredients they use, don’t they?

    Kent

    20 Jan 17 at 07:11

  19. Hi Kent,

    The winery exception allows vineyards to source the 50% material from another farm in BC on a long term contract. As Persephone already sources ~60% of their grain from another farm in BC, extending this provision to breweries would cover their situation.

    chuck

    20 Jan 17 at 08:26

  20. wrong about wineries, not a couple of rows of grapes for wine but 2 hectares of grapes they must still grow even if buying up to 50% elsewhere they still have to contribute to the main ingredient. You are right about molsen and just as important is other non-farmers claiming farm status by growing a few herbs to mix in their spirits. Persephone probably could have kept to one small tank and farmed enough to cover that tanks production but they didn’t, they went big without the farming adequate to production so they have to move.

    Deb

    20 Jan 17 at 13:51

  21. To Kent
    and Chuck
    no that 50% provision would not cover them because they are not growing barley at all. Even i breweries had same provision that provision still demands they grow 2 hectares of the main ingredient to source from other BC farms thereby contributing to the farmed ingredients needed. I imagine with grain it would have to be larger plots even still if ever changed as you need more land to grow the same weight by volume as you would fruit.

    Deb

    20 Jan 17 at 13:56

  22. Hi Deb,

    re: grapes. I believe the regulations simply state that the farm *upon which the brewery/winery is located* must be >2 hectares in size to qualify for the exemption, not that the area of *cultivation* needs to exceed that size. In fact, I could not find any specific guidance in the regulations regarding a minimum cultivation size, or minimum percentage of actively farmed land. The regulations are quite silent on this point, so for vineyards so long as *some* product is grown on-site they should be good.

    You’re quite right that Persephone would need to at least grow some barley to qualify, as the regulations seem to straight-up exclude hops from counting, for no well considered reason. However, again, they would be okay to grow at least *some* barley. A single plant might likely qualify.

    Re:Persephone restricting their production to what beer they could produce out of the land. This is definitely an option, but the land they are situated upon is not suitable for barley growth (it is ideal, though, for hops). To be honest, I would be okay with this approach so long as wineries were treated similarly (restricted to production based on what they can grow on-site). However, given two paths to argue: to treat wineries as restricted as breweries, or to treat breweries as liberally as wineries, I went with the later as it winds up with more beer in the world 🙂

    chuck

    20 Jan 17 at 14:14

  23. Hi Chuck
    here is the policy
    key word here is both and not only
    Section 2(2.1) (ii) both on the farm and on another farm located in British Columbia that
    provides that farm product to the winery or cidery under a contract having a
    term of at least 3 years.

    INTERPRETATION:…”For further clarification, the farm on which the winery or cidery is located must be
    growing a minimum of 2 hectares of farm product and utilizing the farm product to make
    the wine or cider in order to purchase fruit under contract from another BC farm.”
    http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/assets/alc/assets/legislation-and-regulation/policies/alc_-_policy_l-03_-_wineries_and_cideries.pdf

    Deb

    20 Jan 17 at 18:47

  24. The other relevant issue is grandfathering: the ALC changed their rules long after the two land-based breweries in the province started, both of them with the blessing of the ALC when they opened. In other ALC rules, grandfathering is allowed – if your property has two dwellings on it when it is added to the ALC, it is permitted to keep both dwellings, even though that does not meet the current regulation.

    Retroactive regulations are also not allowed in other areas (for example: if the electrical code changes, people don’t have to go rip out all their existing wiring immediately, but new installs or changes require upgrades).

    Allowing grandfathering does not weaken the ALR, it does not create a precedent, it merely follows the existing precedents.

    Rebecca Kneen

    21 Jan 17 at 09:49

  25. Meantime Molson is building their new brewery on ALR land in chilliwack. Land that the city turned into an AG Park after they could not get the 88 acres out of the ALR. They join a number of industries who use agriculture products, including beef and fruit, in food production or processing

    Jeff

    22 Jan 17 at 12:43

  26. […] is encouraging craft beer supporters to sign an open letter to the provincial government in support of Persephone, which has to move its operations to land […]

  27. https://www.crannogales.com/blogs/events/farm-breweries-and-the-alr
    Crannóg Ales is in the same basket of inappropriate legislation!

    Rebecca Kneen

    9 Mar 17 at 10:33

  28. Issue made QP today

    https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/40th-parliament/6th-session/20170314am-House-Blues

    N. Simons: Recently the government changed ALR regulations relating to craft breweries in British Columbia. Because of their inadequate consultation process, they have created regulations that are unfair and that could put two well-loved breweries out of business. Persephone Brewing and Crannóg Ales have been trying, without success, to get this minister’s attention, but for some reason, he won’t give them the time of day.
    Why won’t the minister commit to making these regulations fair before he puts these two well-loved breweries out of business?
    HSE – 20170314 AM 012/IAW/1055

    created regulations that are unfair and that could put two well-loved breweries out of business. Persephone Brewing and Crannóg Ales have been trying without success to get this minister’s attention, but for some reason, he won’t give them the time of day. Why won’t the minister commit to making these regulations fair before he puts these two well-loved breweries out of business?

    Hon. N. Letnick: First of all, the member is wrong. I actually instructed my staff yesterday to contact the owner of Persephone and invite him to have a meeting with me to discuss the matter.

    Parfait

    14 Mar 17 at 17:36

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