Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Tough times for microbreweries

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Beer consumption is plateauing in Quebec, in a market of abundant microbrewery. (Archive photo)

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The post-pandemic market, the economic situation, the increase in production prices and a gloomy summer temperature: the microbreweries of Gaspésie and the Magdalen Islands are going through a small storm.

These are the findings that emerged during the 13th Annual Conference of the Association of Microbrasseries of Quebec (AMBQ) which concluded on Wednesday in Quebec.

It is certain that the portrait may seem a little gloomy [but] what you need to know is that beer consumption in Quebec has reached a ceiling or even seen a small decrease, says the president of the AMBQ, Jean-François Nellis.

The one who also owns the Microbrasserie Pit Caribou, located in L'Anse-à-Beaufils in Percé, points out that sales of AMBQ beers have only decreased by 1% since last year, which is normal, according to him, in a context of inflation.

In 2022, the AMBQ sold 495,000 hectoliters, while this year, the quantity of beer sold represents 491,000 hectoliters.

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The Association of Microbreweries of Quebec has 333 artisan brewer and industrial brewer permits , of which 330 of them are active. Nearly 80% of these microbreweries produce less than 2,000 hectoliters in a year.

As a reference, Pit Caribou is targeting a production of 11,000 hectoliters for 2023.

Overall [the AMBQ] follows the market. But like any business in an inflationary crisis where the economy is slowing down, it is certain that there are companies that are doing well, while others have to stop their operations.

A quote from Jean-François Nellis, co-owner of Pit Caribou and president of the Quebec Microbrasseries Association

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The Pit Caribou microbrewery runs a pub on Route 132 in the heart of the village of Percé. A second is located on Rachel Street in Montreal.

Although the Le Naufrageur microbrewery is not doing too badly, the team is closely monitoring its account book and tightening the purse strings in the goal of maintaining financial balance.

We highlighted what worked well and what worked less well, explains the general manager of Le Naufrageur in Carleton-sur-Mer, Rémi Torres. Brewers are people who have a lot of fun creating products, normally, but here you have to be careful not to make batchesthat won't sell. We are concerned about our activities, in fact, he continues.

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The Le Naufrageur microbrewery in Carleton-sur-Mer (Archive photo)

The Carleton-sur-Mer microbrewery, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this summer, does not wish to sell its overpriced products to consumers, in a context of soaring prices.

Everything costs more, so we have no choice but to increase our prices and it's complicated […] it's really a balancing act between what we owe pay and what we want to offer as a type of price on our products.

It remains an everyday issue. I'm not saying that we are calm, because it remains a difficult exercise that we have to do anyway.

A quote from Rémi Torres, general director of Le Naufrageur

The situation is a little more difficult at the microbrewery À l'abri de la storm, anchored in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine for 20 years.

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The microbrewery À l'abri de la temps is located in L'Étang-du-Nord, in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine. (File photo)

What hurts the archipelago microbrewery the most is the missing $140,000 owed to them by distributor Transbroue.

We had been doing business with them for several years and it was going well. But in the fall of 2022, Transbroue was sold to the Triani Group and since then, it has been in disarray, says co-owner Anne-Marie Lachance. Stopping communications, non-regular payments, not being able to have a payment agreement with them, it took six months before having one, which they finally respected for a few months before stopping…, she describes.

The Madelin microbrewery withdrew its products from the distributor at the beginning of last summer and regained control of its market. The good thing about this whole adventure is that it put us back in touch with our market, we started taking orders again, notes Ms. Lachance.

The co-owner deplores the absence of an emergency fund to support daily turnover. During the pandemic, we got by, we held it all at arm's length for four years, but now we need help, she says.

A l'abri de la temps and five other microbreweries have filed a class action against the owners of the distributor Transbroue. In all, around ten microbreweries are asking them for several hundred thousand dollars.

This legal saga is far from over and the hope of finding these funds is not very great, admits Anne-Marie Lachance.

As for Shelter from the Storm, the administration is aiming for the threshold of profitability this year to get back on its feet before the next summer tourist season, where 65% of its revenue is made. We are in the process of reorganization, says Anne-Marie Lachance.

The microbrewery has also made the decision to transition from the glass bottle to the 473 ml can from mid-December 2023, which will give them a boost inch in terms of productivity.

If I sell as many cans as I sell bottles, I already reach my break-even point, because that the volume in the can is larger, explains Ms. Lachance.

Jean-François Nellis believes that microbreweries that innovate and diversify their offering will be able to succeed.

If a microbrewery which has a volume [of less than 2000 hectoliters] only targets home consumption, therefore sales in grocery stores or convenience stores, and does not rely on a brew pub, it is where it will become problematic, argues Mr. Nellis.

This is what the young microbrewery La belleaventure, established in Bonaventure since August 2022, has understood. the region's shops and grocery stores, the microbrewery offers a bistro-pub all year round to taste its products, and thus diversify its income.

Roughly speaking, our share of beer sales is around 35% in cans outside and around 65% at our bistro, so kegs and cans, says the owner of La belleaventure, Sébastien Cayouette.

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The microbrewery La belleaventure has been located on Avenue de Grand-Pré in Bonaventure since August 2022.

The business plan of the new company focuses on local distribution, in the Gaspé region. We wanted to create a certain feeling of belonging among people here towards our microphone, he said.

This method saves them a few pennies, but still presents some challenges. With the seasonality of the market, we understand why other microbreweries go outside to distribute their products the rest of the year, because sometimes, the local [market] is not sufficient for all our costs, explains M. .Cayouette.

Portrait of Quebec microbreweries.Broadcast HERE FIRST.At the heart of the world.

Portrait of Quebec microbreweries

BROADCAST HERE PREMIÈREAt the heart of the world

Listen to the audio (Portrait of Quebec microbreweries. 10 minutes 25 seconds)

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