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Is Manitobans' choice drink changing? A new report suggests it might be

Manitobans drank enough beer in the past year to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool more than two dozen times – but a new report suggests other alcoholic beverages are wetting the whistle of more and more Manitobans.

Chris Warwaruk, the co-owner of Farmery Estate Brewery, has noticed the drink of choice for Manitobans has been changing.

"We noticed that with COVID that a lot of people were obviously at home and basically experimenting with different beverages," he said. "We definitely saw that impact in all the channels."

It prompted the Manitoba-made brewery to broaden its scope, experimenting with more flavours and cooler-style drinks.

"I think that Farmery has stepped up too and really kind of expanded our portfolio to try and reach that customer and to try and figure out what the local consumer is wanting," he said.

And what is that local consumer wanting? According to Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL), it may be shifting.

According to the Crown corporation's annual report, there were 65.5 million litres of beer sold in the province in the past year. That's enough beer to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool more than 26 times.

However, beer sales have more or less consistently trended down over the past 10 years.

The report says this is partially because more customers are opting for the refreshment beverage category – a big category that includes coolers, seltzers and ciders to name a few.

According to the report, refreshment beverage sales have more than doubled in Manitoba over the past five years.

It is not a surprise to Marcus Wiebe, who runs Dead Horse Cider in southern Manitoba.

"I do think that the overall trend in alcohol beverage overall has kind of been to try more. There's more than just craft beer now – there's craft seltzers, there's craft ciders and stuff like that," he said.

"People are learning there is more than just beer, which is not a hit against beer. I like beer. Beer is great, but I think trying a cider here and there can be good too."

He said since starting his cider company in 2018, he's seen the shift in other jurisdictions towards the refreshment beverage category, especially seltzers. So seeing it in Manitoba is not a shock.

Manitobans' watering holes may be changing too.

The report says sales decreased at hotel beer vendors, while sales increased at specialty wine stores and in most restaurants and bars thanks to a full year of banquets, festivals, sporting events and concerts.

Michael Juce, the president of the Manitoba Hotel Association said those numbers are likely skewed due to the pandemic when restaurants, bars and sporting events were shut down.

The changes highlighted in the report, Juce said, seem to be more of a return to pre-pandemic levels.

"It's going to be interesting to see whether this is kind of the start of a trend I'll say, or whether this is the new normal," he said.

At the end of the day, Wiebe said Manitobans' drink of choice is not as important as where it is coming from.

"If people would drink more craft beer, cider, wine, distilled spirits, vodka, gin or whisky – whatever, more craft stuff and less really big companies, that would be better for everyone in Manitoba," he said.

"It's going to benefit everyone." Top Stories

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