Canadians have long taken excessive pride in our beer. It’s a tenuous point of boasting considering the long, hallowed history brewing has in the Old World, not to mention that when Canadians crow about our beer it’s solely in comparison to American beer, a contest arguably on par with the last two finishers in an Olympic event fighting over their podium viewing spot. What makes our pride even more ridiculous is the fact the bestselling brand of beer in our country is Budweiser.
A more comprehensive look into Canadian beer comes courtesy of Ontario where The Beer Store lists Coors Light #1, Budweiser #3, Bud Light #4, Busch #7, Heineken #9, and Corona #10 in a list of the top ten selling brands in the province. In other words, six of the ten most consumed beers in our most populous province originated outside our national borders. These beers may be brewed here in Canada under various corporate agreements and they may be brewed “differently”, whatever that urban legend means, but they nonetheless remain imported brands. And of those six invasive beer species, an egregious four of the six are American brands. You remember American beers, don’t you? The ones Canadians claim as the weaker, less delicious and all around inferior of our glorious Canuck brews?
We’re barely a contender in our own country anymore. The four Canadian brands in that top ten in Ontario are Molson Canadian at #2, Labatt Blue at #5, Carling Lager at #6, and Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale at #10. Somewhere Canada has drunkenly driven right off an ice-covered bridge in the global beer wars.
Spare Me The Microbrew Snobbery
Oh, I know. I know. You drink microbrews. Good for you. I’m sure all 392 that you’ve tried tasted spectacular and unique despite there only being four ingredients in beer. You may think you’re a connoisseur with a taste for the adventurous and exclusive but you’re really just another patsy of marketing. When it comes right down to it, microbrewing, like its bigger, uglier sibling, is all about marketing. Give your brewery a catchy name and likewise your various beers, target the right demographic and away you go. It’s all about the label on the bottle rather than the content in the kettle.
Hey, I get it. It’s fun trying something new. Variety is the spice of life, as they say and it’s not like you’re allowed the same leeway in your relationships. Besides, all these microbrews you’re drinking kind of make you feel a little superior, don’t they? Like all those annoying wine drinkers on your Facebook feed. I hear ya. I mean, I don’t hit the bars often, but when I do I take a gander at the draught offerings looking for that hip named brew that catches my attention. I’m a secret beer snob just like you. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to support the sacrilege of that top ten selling beers list. I will not be buying Coors Light or Budweiser, thank you very much. I can think of few decisions as uninspired.
Or maybe you prefer that your fermented liquid adventures have an international flare. You like a little something with an accent. This is the latest scourge to afflict our country. I speak, of course, of the so called premium import beers that the new foreign corporate overlords of our once proud Canadian breweries thrust upon our beer guzzling leg like excitable puppies. The Stella Artois of the world. Beers we’d never heard of twenty years ago that are now trotted out at restaurants and pubs like they’re a treasured part of the Canadian fabric. It’s all so much nonsense. Like discarded cigarette butts in the bottom of beer cans.
I had a telling experience back in 2005 on our honeymoon. It was the first time I’d ever gone to Europe. I’d been known to drink the odd Heineken in their pretty green bottles thinking I was quite the sophisticate. Then I get to Amsterdam and there’s Heineken advertised at every damned pub we pass. Why? Because Heineken is basically the Dutch Budweiser! How embarrassing.
I want to know what happened to us? We Canadians who still brag about how strong our beer is and fancy ourselves world class drinkers. I want to know why we have given up on our classic Canadian brands? Seriously, people, if you’re one of the millions of Canadians who are making Coors Light and Budweiser the bestselling beers in the entire country, why the hell aren’t you supporting Canadian mass produced beers? We have such a history of terrific brands that are certainly no worse than the swill you’re drinking. Have some damn pride in your country. At least make a passing effort to live up to that stereotype of the great Canadian drinker you so desperately cling to.
I Blame The Selling Our Brewers
Ever since the Canadian breweries were swallowed by the giant international brewers, most of our great Canadian brands have all but disappeared from our shelves, not to mention our TV screens. What about 50, Export, Golden, Black Label, and OV? What happened to those great commercials of our youth? Smooth Jack, Very Smooth. Do you want the top half or the bottom half? La Beer. OV, OV, Oh Yeah! The rare, long-haired fox. Remember those? They were legendary! Now we get endless drivel featuring those stupid Clydesdales or blithering on about the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Hey, we have our own Rocky Mountains, thank you, and they’re better.
We need to stand up for our beers. Take back our brewing history and once again honour our classic Canuck suds. If our beer is supposed to be so good, at least compared to American beer, then let’s repopulate that bestseller list with all Canadian brands. Forget the Coors Light, the Bud and Busch. Bring back the greats of the Great White North. Show those global corporate clowns that we don’t need their imposter beers. We’re more than happy with our own crap.
Besides, isn’t it time that these old beers became a fad? I mean, our dads drank them all the time so I get why kids of my generation started to turn away from them. It’s like music. Nobody wants to drink what their parents did, but even we Generation Xers eventually had our teenage flings with the Beatles, Stones, and Who. And anyway, our parents are now grandparents and their grandkids are being named all sorts of old fashioned names like Ethel and Olive, George and Jack. These kids should be drinking their grandparent’s beers; beers worthy of those olden names. Come on Canada … it’s time.
Bottle pictures courtesy of stubby.ca
David Yorke says
I’ve often wondered why our swill has been left behind for the same awful “piss-water” of Yank brands too. Of course its the mass marketing machine of the international brewers has pushed their own Canadian brands into oblivion. The why?..its simple, its cheaper to market fewer brands across their international borders. Imagine the brand managers selling those “piss-water” brands and simply adding a local language sound track…job done! Not to forget how stupid us Canucks are, suckers as we tend to be regarding all things Yank. Swill? A Rose by any…
And you’re an Expos fan to boot!
Neil H says
Happy to agree with just about all of them! A couple of breweries out west making life difficult for the big boys are Big Rock and Great Western. Both are putting out very good product and are well represented in the hospitality industry. Big Rock,
in particular, is almost too big to be called a micro, by far!
Speaking with a brewmaster recently I was amused about his attitudes of microbreweries. He pointed out that most of the beers they produced were IPAs and similar products (his comment was “flavoured” beers), that are very difficult to recreate each time and frankly, it didn’t matter because the buying public probably wouldn’t be able to to tell the subtle differences from batch to batch.
Traditional beers like Lagers and Pilsners are much harder to reproduce each time and are much easier to notice the difference. His thoughts were that he had great respect for small breweries that could make a standard beer and do it the same over and over.
Lucky for me, Big Rock is local.
Kenneth Parsons says
It’s so frustrating when all your favourite beers have been discontinued, and they were once all top sellers. I too hate Yankee piss water, it’s a disgrace that American and foreign beers top the sales list. At least Red Cap Ale is being produced and sold by Brick (now Waterloo) after a long absence, First discontinued by Carling now Molson uses the Carling name for budget beer, inferior product to the old brands. Still I miss the likes of O’Keeffe Ale, Labbatt’s I.P.A, Cream Porter, Heidelberg and all of the Doran’s (Northern) products, and so many other great beers too numerous to name here. I do like some of the micro-brewed beers but they are more like home brewed beers, I can make the same thing myself and a lot cheaper. I do drink a fair bit of imported (European) beer now because so few good Canadian beers are left, and the imports are in lager cans and cheaper than Canadian brewed beers. Oh please bring back stubby bottles, nothing is more Canadian than that!
I do think a time will come when this craft brew euphoria will abate or even retreat and vintage labels will become fashionable again.I often wonder if the conglomerates would ever sell the brand/recipe of forgotten/ignored beers to a smaller brewery? Let an eager niche player rebuild an unloved old favourite.
Adrian Frey says
It’s like you were given a square puzzle with only four pieces, and you forced them together to make a triangle. Your assessment that the craft “euphoria” will reced, is not only comically wrong, it’s perfect evidence to disprove your bizarre theory that Canadians don’t like Canadian beer anymore.
There are TONS of Canadian breweries and beers to be proud of; Howe Sound, Driftwood, Category 12, Field House, Brassneck, Phillips, Fernie, Persephone, Steamworks, Twin Sails, Yellow Dog, House of Funk, Copper, Vice & Virtue, Red Bird, Jackknife, Wild Ambition – had enough yet?
Oh wait, I forgot, all those breweries there, that’s just marketing, not beer.
Kettle River in Kelowna just celebrated four years. Have you EVER seen an advertsiment for them?? Of course not. They exist and persist because people want locally made, fresh beer, and they’ll go to the brewery to get.
I mean seriously, they’re not even that good, and they’re doing fine!
90% of what I drink is made in Canada by independantly owned Canadian breweries, and it’s fantastic. And if you think it’s hipster snobbery, well, that’s on you. You could go into any one of the breweries I listed (or since you seem to maybe be in Alberta, Folding Mountain, Apex Predator, Situation, Analog, Town Square, Dandy, Annex Ales, Citizen, Grizzly Paw, Six Corners – enough?) and you will find friendly and welcoming staff who will find you a beer you like.
Have I demonstrated enough pride in Canadian beer yet?
I’m pretty sure I’ve made a mistake here, and your post is not about beer, it’s about nostaglia. You wish the old days would come back, and that’s fine – good for you.
I don’t want the old days back, I want good beer. Those eight beers in the image at the top? They’re garbage. I wouldn’t drink any of them even if they were still made.
Except for maybe Export, it was ok.
jim hoffman says
Has anyone asked the McKenzie brothers how they feel about the Canadian beer situation ??
This is an excellent question!
I worked for O’Keefe in Wpg during summers while going to university. Paid for my education. However things have changed with the takeover of our breweries. It pains me to see Canadian beers sold in the LCBO at higher prices and in 473 ml cans. And a change in formulation to American tastes. As a result I only buy European beers in 500 ml cans now. Whatever is on sale. But I have a preference for Czech beers which definitely have more taste due to their hops.