With summer now in full swing, an eastern Ontario craft brewer has come up with a product diversification strategy that’s worthy of a toast.
On Tuesday, Perth Brewery debuted what it’s calling the region’s first low-alcohol craft beer – just in time for Canada Day.
Branded PLAY, the new brew has an alcohol content of only 0.3 per cent and just 80 calories per 473-millilitre tall can.
“There are a number of consumers now that really appreciate the flavour of beer but aren’t necessarily interested in the alcohol,” says Jeremy Steeves, the brewery’s co-owner. “I think there’s definitely a market for it.”
Steeves isn’t alone in his frothy assessment of the rising demand for less potent potables.
A 2018 study by the Conference Board of Canada found that sales of non-alcoholic beer jumped 50 per cent between 2013 and 2018, attributing the spike to lifestyle and preference changes among consumers – particularly among health-conscious millennials.
While that report found that non-alcoholic beer still accounted for just 1.2 per cent of all sales in Canada, some producers are expecting those numbers to rise significantly in the years ahead.
For example, brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev predicts that by 2025, non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic beer will make up one-fifth of its total sales.
For his part, Steeves isn’t sure exactly how popular PLAY will be. But he’s betting it will be a hit, noting the brewery churned out a “healthy run” of suds for PLAY’s debut.
The beer – which the company describes as a “pale, highly carbonated, light-bodied lager with a hint of malt and hops flavour” – will initially be sold at the brewery in Perth and will also be available locally for home delivery and in select grocery stores in the region. The company plans to start shipping cans to stores in the Ottawa area later this summer.
The 28-year-old, family-owned business, which has about two dozen employees, currently produces about 600,000 litres of beer each year.
Steeves says craft brews have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade as beer-drinkers have gotten pickier about the beverages they consume.
“It’s not just the flavour,” he says. “It’s more the appreciation of how a product is made – fresh, all-natural, local, a story behind it.
“Consumers are taking more of an interest in products that they’re purchasing now. I think overall, the industry has been doing really well for the last number of years.”