B.C. beer drinkers are generally paying more for their brew since the provincial government’s liquor pricing reforms took effect in April.
New Democrats released an analysis that shows more than 85 per cent of beer types now cost more than they did in March while less than 10 per cent have gone down in price.
Attorney General Suzanne Anton had predicted there would be no significant price increases with the move to standard wholesale prices and said critics were “beer mongering.”
The typical price increase is not large – about 2.8 per cent – but the price hikes are more likely to hit craft beer lovers than those who quaff beer from big labels like Budweiser and Molson, which are largely unchanged.
Several beers from Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery are up at least seven per cent, as is Delta-brewed Four Winds IPA, and some varieties from Kelowna’s Tree Brewing are up nearly 17 per cent.
More than 200 varieties of beer are up at least five per cent since March.
The Opposition called the changes a stealth beer tax.
“Despite repeated promises that beer prices wouldn’t increase, the B.C. Liberals’ ‘wholesale price reform’, has now resulted in retail price increases for B.C. beer,” NDP leader John Horgan said.
Private stores now pay the same wholesale price as the government liquor stores, which have been allowed to open Sundays and sell cold beer. The system was supposed to create a level playing field for retailers while maintaining the government’s total revenue at $1 billion a year from the wholesale liquor markup.
Craft beer fans fear higher prices will hurt their booming industry.
“Our vibrant craft beer community will pay more for no discernable reason other than a government cash grab,” said Ari Dressler, president of the Campaign for Real Ale B.C.. “The updated pricing model is hugely disappointing for the consumer.”
According to the Liquor Distribution Branch, prices are reviewed and change on an ongoing basis according to demand, profitability and other factors.
Price increases and promotional discounts applied in June may have made some beer types more or less expensive.
Anton said the government fully supports the B.C. craft beer industry, which has seen sales triple in five years.
“Let’s put things in perspective: every month, some prices go up and some prices go down – just as any other retail cost of goods – but we’re talking about cents here,” Anton said in an emailed statement.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to consumers to decide how much they want to pay for a product and where they want to shop.”