Delta farmers tap into craft beer industry

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Reported by Melanie Green

Three Delta neighbours are one step closer to opening the first farm craft brewery in the Lower Mainland.

For the last year, the trio has gone before the province’s Agricultural Land Commission, Delta Council and sat through a public hearing. Last Friday, Metro Vancouver’s regional planning committee permitted them to present their application to the district’s sewage committee meeting Feb. 24.

Ken Malenstyn’s son Bryce sits on a tractor in the middle of the hop farm in Delta. Submitted photo

Sean Buhr, David Terpsma and Ken Malenstyn are expected to get final approval later this month for their proposed 5,500 sq. ft. brewery on shared acres of Fraserland Organics, located at 6225 60th Ave. in Delta.

“We are very ecstatic about it,” said Malenstyn, a third-generation farmer behind the brewery idea.

Buhr’s family and Malenstyn have neighbouring farms and grow organic barley and hops. Terpsma isn’t a farmer but an avid home brewer.

Farm-based breweries given the green light

The application needed to align with recent ALC changes to regulations of farmland use and the Metro Vancouver 2040 regional growth plan. Changes included permitting breweries as acceptable for farm use if 50 per cent of the ingredients used in their products are grown onsite.

Allowing breweries on farms creates a new avenue for other farmers because it’s economically viable, said Malenstyn.

A hop yard in Delta that will provide organic ingredients for the proposed brewery. Submitted photo

“Once you own your crops, then you control your own market,” he said.

Malenstyn said he and his partners have invested a “decent chunk of money” — and will spend more than $1 million to complete the brewery.

Craft breweries popping up all over B.C. 

Ken Beattie, executive director of BC Craft Brewers Guild, said the existing land reserve requirements are challenging for small brewers because certain crops, like hops, are low in mass. They might meet the requirement in volume but not weight.

The growth of craft breweries has doubled in the province over the last two years, according to Beattie. Some breweries on rural land have been affected by the “unintended consequence” of the policy trying to catch up to the industry’s growth spurt, he said, and current land reserve regulations need to be changed.

The guild is working with the Ministry of Agriculture to provide a better “road map” for sales, marketing and distribution as well as planning to launch a strategic tourism website, coming soon.

“Big picture, craft breweries are really contributing to the economy and the money isn’t leaving,” Beattie said.

The proposed onsite farm brewery could open by spring 2018, with a taproom that would hold up to 30 people.

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