Imagine basking in the sun at a baseball game, sampling appetizers at a food festival or singing along to your favourite performer at an outdoor concert. Now, imagine what is in your hand. A cold beer, perhaps?

June has already given us a taste of warmer weather but with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, summer already feels incomplete without many of those moments. And that cold beer may be at risk.

COVID-19 continues to change the way of life for the vast majority of the world. Here in Canada, the food and beverage sector has been significantly impacted.

Not only has the pandemic negatively affected farmers, food producers and the agriculture and food supply chain, but Canadian craft brewers are also suffering significant losses.

A survey conducted by the Canadian Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) revealed that 44 per cent of breweries reported over 50 per cent of year-over-year revenue loss in March, with more than half of the respondents expecting more substantial losses in later months.

According to the CCBA, there are approximately 1,000 independently controlled craft breweries and brewpubs across Canada with five per cent closed temporarily and many indicating an indefinite timeline for how much longer they can stay in business.

Craft breweries are small businesses that need constant nurturing in the beginning stages to remain profitable and with summer and patio season being the busiest months, many of these breweries are suffering negative effects and major losses due to the restrictions set in place.

Why is this worth discussing?

Farmers and craft brewers are linked more closely than many realize, most notably through hops production.

Over the last few years, commercial hops production reappeared in Ontario with its craft brewing industry being the largest consumer of hops grown in the province.

Hops are a perennial crop used as a bittering, flavouring and preserving agent in beer. According to a 2016 report by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, they are harvested at approximately 35 farms in Ontario.

Farmers across Canada are facing migrant worker shortages linked to COVID-19 quarantine guidelines. In some cases, crops are going unharvested resulting in a substantial loss in profit.

This affects craft brewers too.

Consider this.

In a batch of beer, brewers can use more than a pound of fresh hops per litre or gallon of beer.

A letter from the Canadian Craft Brewers Association to members of Parliament in Canada states, “Craft brewers provide the communities in which they do business, your communities with more than good beer. They create new jobs and provide economic stimulation to the entire surrounding area,” says Rick Dalmazzi, executive director of the CCBA.

Beer production has a noteworthy impact on Canada’s economy. According to reports from Beer Canada, beer accounts for $13.6 billion of Canada’s GDP and 85 per cent of beer consumption was from Canadian brewed beer.

With some craft breweries going under and reduced beer production in others, hops farmers will face crop surpluses. This leaves the future of craft brewing in Canada in a state of the unknown.

While some enjoy the crisp, aromatic and hoppy flavours of craft beers, craft breweries appeal to many because of the sense of community and the idea of supporting locally sourced ingredients.

It was with that same sense of community that some local craft breweries pivoted to craft hand sanitizer to give back to their local communities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With new rules and regulations about social distancing requirements being implemented daily, Fairweather Brewing Company located in Hamilton, Ont. had to adjust their business model frequently, even switching entirely to a new beer-by-mail and home delivery service.

“These transitions were never smooth, but we’ve survived by being highly adaptable and willing to try anything to survive. We’ve been lucky enough to turn a profit after all of the government programs in place and will be donating 100 per cent of our profits from April and May to local non-profit organizations,” a spokesperson at Fairweather Brewing says.

So, how can we give back to our local craft brewers and hops farmers?

Simple. As a consumer, opt to support the craft breweries in your communities. When you support a local, Canadian craft brewery, you are supporting your local Canadian farmers too.

Disclaimer Farmwork to Feed Canada does not condone underage or excessive consumption of alcohol. Please drink responsibly. Share with those of legal drinking age only.

Sources:

https://ccba-ambc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/CCBA-Survey-1-April-24-2020.pdf
https://industry.beercanada.com/statistics/ontario
https://onspecialtycrops.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/hops-101-smiths-falls-2016-v2-updated-stats.pdf
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/hops.html