Funding woes delay Baie Verte microbrewery production
Little North Brewhouse forging ahead despite reluctance to tap into private investment
BAIE VERTE, N.L. — The group behind the Little North Brewhouse in Baie Verte had planned to be into the production of their product by now.
But the group has yet to start renovations needed to bring in the large iron vats needed to brew beer.
It is a problem they attribute to estimations by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and its assertion the market for microbreweries in this province is over-saturated.
“They sent back our application ... we’ve got nothing. They didn’t even assess it,” said representative Brandon Philpott. “They didn’t even assess it. There were no pros, no cons, no nothing.”
He said the agency had called prior to a letter being sent indicating the market was flooded and microbreweries, at least in this province, were not being funded anymore.
Philpott believes ACOA made its decision based on the Avalon peninsula where there is a greater concentration of breweries. Currently, there are eight breweries located on the Avalon and they’re all in relative proximity to each other.
For the rest of the province, there are six breweries currently operational from Port Rexton to Port au Port East, with another four currently in the works in places like Deer Lake, Corner Brook, St. Anthony and Labrador City.
The provincial government has been encouraging microbrewery growth. In 2018, it announced a 40 per cent discount on products they sell in retail outlets. That discount jumps to 50 per cent should it be sold in a brewery, winery or taproom.
The Baie Verte group has upwards of 30 letters of support from government officials and other breweries in the province.
The ACOA decision has left the group at a standstill and put their plans a year behind. The idea was to have funding squared away by now to start renovations and the laying of concrete needed to support the brewing vats.
Instead, it looks like they will be pushed back to the summer of 2020 at the earliest.
“We’ve missed this construction season,” said Philpott.
SaltWire Network contacted ACOA hoping to speak with someone about the application but that request was declined.
A spokesman said the agency does not “comment on the specifics of clients or of applications which may or may not be in our system.”
Philpott has filed an access to information request in hopes of ascertaining why the application was denied.
While he is involved in the Baie Verte brewery, Philpott is also the town’s mayor. Wearing that hat, he sees the economic spinoff a brewery could mean for his town and area as whole.
He points to successes like Port Rexton and Twillingate as successful ventures in beer tourism, and possibly being the only brewery between Twillingate and Cormack could mean more economic prosperity.
“A brewery was recommended for the area by an economic action plan,” said Philpott.
Issues with ACOA’s reasoning behind the denial notwithstanding, the spinoff from that decision is also hurting the Little North efforts.
Other funding agencies are waiting to see what ACOA does before offering assistance for the proposed Baie Verte brewery.
That has turned the group toward private investment, an approach they didn't want to take at the outset of the venture.
Still, the group is steadfast in its desire to bring a microbrewery to the area.
“We are still pushing through with this,” said Philpott.