I have sincerely believed for the bulk of my life that Canadian beer is better than American beer. I have no idea why I thought this even as a child, but this sentiment remains pervasive amongst Canadian youth. Why was I so compelled to consider Canadian beer superior and which nation’s beer really is best?
My first inclination was that I was severely affected by the brilliant Molson “I am Canadian” TV commercials, which had a substantial impact on my generation in our formative years. Molson’s latest series still gets me going, considering I do feel bad putting my seat back on an airplane! What Americans might not understand is just how applicable these ads are to the average Canadian. I have also lit a hockey stick on fire trying to bend it (even though I don’t even play hockey), turned down the company of attractive females for the NHL playoffs, been asked by an American if I lived in an igloo, and also asked if I knew Joe from Toronto. Seriously. Silly as it may be, these nationalistic commercials that have not much to do with actual beer probably helped solidify in my mind the superiority of Canadian beer. When I consider that they used to sponsor Hockey Night in Canada, of which changing the theme song was a national issue, I realize that I likely have Molson to thank for my assumptions.
Researching the subject of Canadian versus American beer online, I stumbled across numerous forums accusing American beer of being watery. The basis for such arguments were generally that American beer contains less alcohol than Canadian beer. Considering that alcohol content is not paramount to quality or taste and that it should vary depending on beer style, I’d say the alcohol content argument is a bit ridiculous. Further investigation yields that Canadians measure alcohol by volume and Americans measure alcohol by weight. Alcohol weighs less than water, which means that, even though the percentages on the packaging read higher in Canada, similar American and Canadian beers contain the same amount of alcohol. However, I will contend that whatever beer I bought the last time I was at Quest Field in Seattle was a horrible, watery, waste of $10USD.
Reading up on the mainstream brewing industry in Canada, it seems that all the big, storied Canadians breweries have recently come under foreign ownership. Molson, founded in 1786 and the oldest beer brand in North America, is now owned by Coors. Labatt, founded in 1847, is now owned by InBev. And Sleeman, founded in 1834, is now owned by Sapporo. This leaves Moosehead as the largest Canadian owned brewer withonly own 5% of the Canadian beer consumption market. What I consider an even bigger tradegy than the foreign ownership of our big breweries, is that the majority of the population drinks the favlorless, uninteresting, substandard beer these guys are putting out there.
When it comes to making a choice, I’d probably go for a Molson Canadian or Labatt Blue over a Coors Light, Budweiser, or Miller Genuine Draft, but the truth of the matter is that I’d rather not drink any of them. I’d prefer to drink a microbrewed beer, Canadian or American, made by people who care, over any of the macobrewed stuff. Microbrewing is thriving in Canada and the USA and their are plenty of great Canadian and American microbrewed beers available that are consistently of higher quality. And when I say quality, I am referring to taste, natural ingredients, and pure brewing processes, not price. Proponents of price as a factor in buying beer have it all wrong. Sure, a 24 pack of Canadian or Bud might be the cheapest way to drink beer, but it’s not all about volume. One beer should fill you up; it’s what it was invented for! Give me a few large bottles of quality microbrewed stuff over a 24 pack anyday. Really, please give them to me.
My honest opinion these days is that neither Canadian nor American beer is better or worse. Both countries produce great, poor, and everything in between beer. I do think that America produces ten times as much bad beer as we do, though they also produce ten times as much good beer, mostly because they have ten times the population. I surely count American breweries among my favorites, including Anchor and Rogue to name two whose products are readily available in these parts. It’s a tragedy that BC is bereft of more of the great stuff coming out of the American Pacific Northwest. Likewise, I feel like Americans are missing out on some of the great stuff we produce up here, Philips is one example. For some info on good American beers, check out this Toronto Star article.
I really believe that the best beer can be found locally, in the USA and in Canada. There is likely somebody in your neighborhood making really good beer that could use your support. The pride I felt watching the “I am Canadian” commercials as a kid I hope I can feel again supporting my local beer community. In my view, it’s the only way back.