The Canadian Craft Beer Sector

  • Alfons WeersinkEmail author
  • Kevin Probyn-Smith
  • Mike Von Massow


The number of breweries in Canada has risen from 10 in 1985, which were owned by three companies, to over 640 in 2015 with the clear majority considered microbreweries. The sales of craft beer have risen tenfold in the last decade, and it now accounts for 6% of the Canadian market. The total number of breweries is now over 640 with the clear majority considered microbreweries. The dramatic growth in the number of craft brewers has been spurred by government incentives and consumer demand for locally anchored food experiences. The latter is also related to demographic shifts that are somewhat unique to Canada. The growing demand for craft beer is occurring in many other countries as documented in this book but the corresponding decline in the mid-size breweries is somewhat unique to Canada. Regulations on the sale of alcohol stemming from the temperance movement at the beginning of the last century limit the opportunities for microbreweries to sell outside of its own location other than through local bars and restaurants. Tax policy that imposes lower rates on smaller breweries provides a further disincentive for growth beyond a certain size in most Canadian jurisdiction. Production costs associated with distribution and supply issues complicated by the distance between population centres in Canada have also constrained the size of new breweries. The net result is that the growing demand for unique and distinct beer products in Canada is being met by a resurgence in the number of microbreweries, which will likely continue to grow in number to meet the demand but which are limited in size.


Microbreweries Canada Demographics Regulation 


  1. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2016). Canada’s beer industry. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Online Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  2. Almenberg, J., Dreber, A., & Goldstein, R. (2014.). Hide the label, hide the difference? AAWE Working Paper, 1. Available from
  3. Amato, M. (2009). Who really came first? Beerology. Online Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  4. Beer Canada. (2016). 2015 industry trends. Retrieved from
  5. Caffyn, A. (2010, February). Beer and tourism: A relationship worth fostering. Tourism Insights.Google Scholar
  6. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2014). Canadian drug summary: Alcohol. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Online Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  7. Chittley, J. (2014, September 6). Look at what’s brewing: Craft beer sales skyrocket in Canada. CTV News. Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  8. Colen, L., & Swinnen, J. (2016). Economic growth, globalisation and beer consumption. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 67(1), 186–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deconinck, K., & Swinnen, J. (2015). Peer effects and the rise of beer in Russia. Food Policy, 51(1), 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunn, A., & Kregor, G. (2014). Making love in a canoe no longer? Tourism and the emergence of the craft beer movement in California. CAUTHE 2014: Tourism and Hospitality in the Contemporary World: Trends, Changes and Complexity, 189.Google Scholar
  11. Elzinga, K. G. (2015). The beer industry. In J. Brock (Ed.), The Structure of American Industry (13th ed). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  12. Elzinga, K. G., Tremblay, C. H., & Tremblay, V. J. (2015). Craft beer in the United States: History, numbers and geography. Journal of Wine Economics, 10(3), 242–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Elzinga, K. G., Tremblay, C. H., & Tremblay, V. J. (2018). Craft beer in the United States: Strategic connections to macro and European brewers. In C. Garavaglia & J. Swinnen (Eds.), Economic perspectives on craft beer. A revolution in the global beer industry. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Government of Canada. (2016). Food and drug regulations (C.R.C., c. 870). Justice Laws Website. Online Available from,_c._870/page-65.html.
  15. Hashimoto, A., & Telfer, D. J. (2006). Selling canadian culinary tourism: Branding the global and the regional product. Tourism Geographies, 8(1), 31–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Henderson, J. C. (2009). Food tourism reviewed. British Food Journal, 111(4), 317–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heron, C. (2003). Booze: A distilled history. Toronto: Between the Lines.Google Scholar
  18. Hughey, R. (2014). Beer distribution in Canada. Online Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  19. Hutchins, A. (2016, December 8). Are we seeing a craft brewery bubble or just a frothy boom. Macleans. Retrieved from
  20. Kraftchick, J. F., Byrd, E. T., Canziani, B., & Gladwell, N. J. (2014). Understanding beer tourist motivation. Tourism Management Perspectives, 12, 41–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lamertz, K., Foster, W. M., Coraiola, D. M., & Kroezen, J. (2016). New identities from remnants of the past: An examination of the history of beer brewing in Ontario and the recent emergence of craft breweries. Business History, 58(5), 796–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lenardon, P. and Wykes, A. (2014). Straight up: The issue of alcohol in Ontario. Documentary. Retrieved from
  23. Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). (2016a). About the LCBO. LCBO. Online Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  24. Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). (2016b). Grocery operations. LCBO. Online Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  25. MarketLine. (2015). Beer in Canada. London: MarketLine.Google Scholar
  26. Mayer, A. (2011, May 13). Canada’s weird liquor laws. CBC News. Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  27. Morrow, A. (2015, March 3). The beer store: Everything you need to know about Ontario’s lucrative monopoly. The Globe and Mail. Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  28. Murray, D. W., & O’Neill, M. A. (2012). Craft beer: Penetrating a niche market. British Food Journal, 114(7), 899–909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mysicka, R., & McKendry, M. (2013). Beer, butter and barristers: How Canadian governments put cartels before consumers. Ontario: C.D. Howe Institute.Google Scholar
  30. Nutta, M. (2016). The development of grassroots movements and the influence of power: A case study of craft beer. MSc thesis, Wageningen University Department of Social Sciences.Google Scholar
  31. Pechlaner, H., Raich, F., & Fischer, E. (2009). The role of tourism organizations in location management: The case of beer tourism in Bavaria. Tourism Review, 64(2), 28–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Petrillo, N. (2015). Breweries in Canada. Los Angeles: IBISWorld.Google Scholar
  33. Plummer, R., Telfer, D., Hashimoto, A., & Summers, R. (2005). Beer tourism in Canada along the Waterloo-Wellington ale trail. Tourism Management, 26(3), 447–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reid, N., McLaughlin, R. B., & Moore, M. S. (2014). From yellow fizz to big biz: American craft beer comes of age. Focus on Geography, 57(3), 114–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sajatovic, M. (2012). The complicated lessons of prohibition. Psychiatric Services, 63(7), 627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sheehan, N. M. (1984). National pressure groups and provincial curriculum policy: Temperance in Nova Scotia schools 1880–1930. Canadian Journal of Education, 9(1), 73–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2015). Craft brewing. Historica Canada. Online Available from Accessed 19 Dec 2016.
  38. Trubek, A. B. (2008). The taste of place: A cultural journey into terroir (Vol. 20). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  39. Wells, P. (2016). Economies of scale versus small is beautiful: A business model approach based on architecture, principles and components in the beer industry. Organization & Environment, 29(1), 36–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfons Weersink
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin Probyn-Smith
    • 1
  • Mike Von Massow
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GuelphGuelphCanada

Personalised recommendations