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Canadian Beer, eh!


Mayhaw Man
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I just spent a week about halfway between Redhat and Kenora, Ontario. One of the major decisions among my happy band of Southerners was the decisions that we had to make at the incredibly efficient Beer Store in Kenora (I love the way that you hand over your money and the beer comes flying out on the roller table! Kind of like a giant, magic, human operated beer machine). The stuffs not cheap, but what the hell, you guys get health insurance with the proceeds. These choices were not taken lightly,as we only had one shot at making the right choices! A 200 mile round trip on a float plane would have been needed to rectify poor choices.

I was stunned by the number of Canadian Brands available and the interesting package sizes available (I really liked those manly liter cans-conveniently designed to cure the thirst of even someone as large as Husky the Muskie).

My gang decided on a wide selection, with Molson Canadian as the base brand. They also enjoyed a fair amount of Keith's India Pale, a brand that none of use were familiar with prior to the trip. Rickard's Honey Brown met with a bit less enthusiasm, but was consumed nonetheless (hell, they would have sucked down anything by the end of the week and liked it :laugh:). Trying to save weight on the trip back, seemed to be the general excuse.

What are your favorite brands? Are there beers that are available only regionally? How do you Canadian's feel about Nationally regulated beer sales (I have an opinion on this, but will hold it until for a while to keep from influencing the discussion).

Canadian Beer. You guys drink enough of the stuff! What do you think about it?

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Upper Canada brand Dark Ale and Lager are both quite tasty. Their Rebellion Lager is (I believe) a limited edition brew, but packs a nice punch and has tons of flavor.

A good friend of mine just graduated from Queen's in Kingston, Ontario, and apparently (according to him) the Faux brand beer (I believe it might be Danish, but I've only ever seen it in Canada) was one of the most popular 'get you there fast' brews on campus.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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What are your favorite brands? Are there beers that are available only regionally? How do you Canadian's feel about Nationally regulated beer sales (I have an opinion on this, but will hold it until for a while to keep from influencing the discussion).

Canadian Beer. You guys drink enough of the stuff! What do you think about it?

Ahhhhh beer. A topic near & dear to my heart :laugh:

First let me confess that most Canadians are pretty proud of our beer. In fact, many of us will look down our noses at American beer. But from what I can deduce, the main reason is alchoholic content. Yay us! :rolleyes:

There was a time when beer had to be consumed in the province in which it was produced. This led to a lot of regionalization. In BC, we had Kokanee, in the Maritimes it was Moosehead. This is not the case today, although I believe there are still a few beers that stay regional. Laurentide in Quebec springs to mind, but then again, Quebec is another subject altogether.

Nationally, there are two major breweries ... Labatt & Molson. There are smaller breweries local in each province, but these also have some national distribution. Labatt (Blue) & Molson (Canadian) would be similar to Budweiser or Coors ... pretty mainstream. The Canadian beers are IMO more complex, and of course there's the extra point or so of alchohol.

My favorites all tend to be microbrews ... which incidently the US does very well, more than making up for the whole Bud fiasco :biggrin:. In fact I'm heading to Portland, OR next weekend for the Brewfest ... I'll report after I'm back.

Favorites:

  • Granville Island Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale
  • Alexander Keith's IPA
  • Shaftsbury Summer Solstice
  • Shaftsbury Cream

As far as government regulation goes, I suppose you get used to it, although my big complaint is not being able to buy beer at the grocery store. This isn't true in every province, but it is in BC. I like Quebec ... buy beer at 18 in the local corner store!

DA

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Favorites:

  • Granville Island Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale
  • Alexander Keith's IPA
  • Shaftsbury Summer Solstice
  • Shaftsbury Cream

Great selection, and diversity.

Two more Canadian greats:

Big Rock Brewing Company (Alberta): Grasshopper Wheat.

...and my all time favourite Canadian beer ( I hope it is still around, I have not had one for ten years) Creemore Lager.

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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I spent the first half of my beer life in Canada and the last ten years in New England. From my experience, it would be hard to declare a winner in the craft beer category, with plenty of fine microbrews widely available in both countries. But I'd definitely give Canada the edge with the mass produced stuff. Blue, Canadian, Ex, and my throwback pick—50 (Me and the boys and our 50, me and the boys and our beer) have a lot more character than Bud, Miller etc. (Of course this could be lingering beer nationalism, I realize.) It's funny, though, how uniform the brands ultimately are. I can remember people having fierce loyalty to a certain brand (usually Blue) and holding, say, Ex in utter contempt. I'm not saying there are no perceptible differences, just that I'd be happy with almost any of them, even O.V.

-michael

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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Oh how I love my Canadian beer. There have been some great bottles mentioned already, but a glaring omission in my eyes is:

MOOSEHEAD!

My personal favourite. Keith's and Rickard's are up there as well. Molson Canadian is fine if you're drinking to get drunk. It's Canada's Budweiser.

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Are Keith's and Rickard's generally available in all provinces? I know that you could get them both in Ontario.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Alexander Keith's IPA is brewed entirely in Halifax NS, in one brewery on the corner of Agricola and Young streets. I used to live a few blocks from there, and walked to cooking school with the smell of their wort in my nostrils. It's not a bad thing.

Alexander Keith's 1820 brewery has been restored to a glistening, touristy parody of its original state, and is used to produce seasonal microbrews four times a year for the local bars. They're pretty good, and Keith's (okay, call me a "home-r") is my favourite mainstream brew. It is available pretty reliably throughout Canada, and is classed as a "domestic import"; ie Canadian but out-of-province. Kokanee, likewise, is all brewed at one plant in Creston BC.

Most of the artisanal beers in Canada are only available locally, which (I sometimes think) is as it should be. If you're in Halifax (for example), you have Granite Brewery's various bitters to savour; and Propellor Brewery's legendary porter (adjudged one of the world's best in head-to-head competition); and the Maritime Brewery Company's "1749" and "Black Pearl." Here in Alberta the heavy hitter is Big Rock. I find their Grasshopper to be, like Moosehead, too sweet for a light beer; their darker Traditional Ale is quite acceptable.

The most widely available artisan brews, I think, are Unibroue and Granville Island Brewery. I love the Unibroue products, which are fermented "on the lees" and have a phenomenal flavour. They've just been purchased by Sleeman's, who are in the process of growing from a scrappy regional player to a noteworthy national player (they've also purchased the Maritime Brewing Company).

Could write more, but the wife (and a garage sale) are calling. Maybe later.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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From my experience, it would be hard to declare a winner in the craft beer category, with plenty of fine microbrews widely available in both countries. But I'd definitely give Canada the edge with the mass produced stuff.

I'm with you here, on both counts. Good craft beers flourish on either side of the border.

And I don't think it's just expat nostalgia that makes me agree with you about the superiority of many Canadian mass-produced brewskis. They have more flavour and character than their American counterparts.

I started drinking pitchers of Ex at The Swiss Hut on Sherbrooke when I was at McGill -- still love the stuff. But how could I have forgotten Cinquante, my brother's beer of choice back in the day? I've been away too long.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I started drinking pitchers of Ex at The Swiss Hut on Sherbrooke when I was at McGill -- still love the stuff. But how could I have forgotten Cinquante, my brother's beer of choice back in the day? I've been away too long.

The other thing I appreciated about Canadian beer while growing up was the regional differences between provinces due to our archaic liquor transportation laws, now thankfuly defunct.

While you were chugging back Cinquante or Ex (do they still call them 'dillos?), we were downing pitchers of Kokanee, Old Style and O'Keefe's (remember them??) Extra Old Stock, affectionately known as High-Test. A student exchange to Quebec City (and many visits after that) introduced me to Laurentide, Cartier, and Ex.

While I like being able to get pretty much anything from any province now, I kinda miss the fun of getting hammered on something new :laugh:

DA

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What prompted the change from regional marketing? Was it pressure from the evil empire in St Louis (former employer-not really evil-just monolithic and megolomiacal) or some interior policy change?

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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What prompted the change from regional marketing? Was it pressure from the evil empire in St Louis (former employer-not really evil-just monolithic and megolomiacal) or some interior policy change?

This was a government decision ... I'll pin it on Mulroney only because it smacks of decentralization, a favorite policy of his. The regionalization really had less to do with marketting and more to do with creating jobs in each province.

The new microbrews more than make up for the loss of regional brews from the bigger breweries.

DA

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While you were chugging back Cinquante or Ex (do they still call them 'dillos?), we were downing pitchers of Kokanee, Old Style and O'Keefe's (remember them??)

Oh my gosh: This brought a reminiscent giggle, to say nothing of head-scratching in disbelief that I'd forgotten Laurentide.

Dude, if you'd ordered an O'Keefe in Montreal we would have stuck a big "I'm a loser" sign on your back. Regional, indeed! Gee, I'd love an O'Keefe right now--way better than Bud or Miller. Where was the original brewery?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Dude, if you'd ordered an O'Keefe in Montreal we would have stuck a big "I'm a loser" sign on your back.  Regional, indeed!  Gee, I'd love an O'Keefe right now--way better than Bud or Miller.  Where was the original brewery?

Hehe ... we thought the same of it our here too! Then again, we though Kokanee was high-end ... what the hell do you know at 17? :laugh:

The original brewery was in TO [more here]. There was an O'Keefe Brewery in Vancouver as well. The site has now been coverted into ... wait for it ... CONDOS! Original huh?

I've been enjoying this ... even found some additional research material on the CBC website. God Bless crown corporations! :blink:

DA

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Here's another link that does a good job of explaining the problem with Molson & Labatt beers. I'm sure the same article could have been written about the big American breweries as well.

Make sure you read how the survey was conducted. I'd need a couple beers just to understand it!

DA

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Agreed, lots of good Canadian beers. I drank a lot of Ex in my younger days, and really enjoy Unibroue and St. Ambroise now, like Wellington Arkell and County when I can get them.

But let's settle one thing right now: Canadian beer is not stronger than U.S. beer. That myth is an artifact of two different ways of measuring alcohol content. There are two slightly different ways of measuring the alcohol content of beverages, as a percentage of either the beverage total volume or its weight. For example, if you have 1 liter of 4 percent ABV beer, 4 percent of that liter (40 ml) is alcohol. However, because alcohol weighs only 79.6 percent as much as water, that same beer is only 3.18 percent ABW.

This may seem like a dry exercise in mathematics, but it is at the heart of the common belief that Canadian beer is stronger than American beer. Canadian brewers traditionally use ABV figures, whereas American brewers have historically used the lower ABW figures. Mainstream Canadian and American lagers are approximately equal in strength; there are minor differences, but, for instance, Bud in Canada and the U.S. is 5.0% ABV. Both places. Alexander Keith's (which is owned by Labatt, BTW): 5.0%. Molson Canadian: 5.0%. Rickard's Red (owned by Molson): 5.2%. Miller Genuine Draft: 4.66%. Miller High Life: 5.0%. Yuengling Lager: 4.9%. Coors Original: 5.0%. There just ain't that much difference.

Is Canadian mainstream beer better than American mainstream beer? Used to be, and clearly so. These days, Canadian mainstream beers are less than they were even twenty years ago. The table is tilted in favor of Canada mainly because of American drinkers...who tend to drink more light beer, God help us.

Nothing really to fight over, though. There are crappy beers in Canada, there are crappy beers in the U.S., and so it is on great beers, too. Beer stores... the Beer Store is a Molson-Labatt duopoly. They run it, they set the rules. LCBO stores seem to have no clue on how to treat beer.

In general, though, there are a lot more similarities between Canadian and American beers than there are differences. The differences mainly come in the same place that they do in American brewing: the widely varied output of the micros. God bless variety.

Lew Bryson

I Drink for a Living

Somewhere in the world...it's Beer O'Clock. Let's have one.

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the haligonian granite brewery has an outpost here in Toronto but there product is uniformly awful, I understand nevertheless that the original is significantly better. Some of the better local brews are Amsterdam (i'm partial to their nut brown and their spring bock), Creemore (their entire line is great and tastes the same wherever you order it, at least in part due to the fact that when they supply kegs, they also clean out the taps), Upper Canada (as mentioned, the Dark Ale and Rebellion Lager being personal favourites). Kawartha Lakes Brewery makes the only raspberry beer I've had that doesn't taste like candy. Big Rock has some great product too which has only been available here in Ontario for 4-5 years. My new favourite though is Cameron's which is also brewed here in Toronto though I've seen it around the province. Their auburn ale in particular is deeply red and caramelized with bitter refreshing edge - it is everything a beer ought to be.

Keith's and Rickards are both solid beers but I understood them to be now produced by labbats and molsons (Perhaps they are just distributed by these monoliths?)

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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...and my all time favourite Canadian beer ( I hope it is still around, I have not had one for ten years) Creemore Lager.

It's still available and it is my favourite as well.

You can even get it in a standard size bottle now, as well as the traditional 500 ml bottle.

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But let's settle one thing right now: Canadian beer is not stronger than U.S. beer. That myth is an artifact of two different ways of measuring alcohol content.

Hmmmm ... so when we used to get US waterpolo players hammered on a couple of beers when they came to meets in Canada, it was because they had been drinking Lite beer, not because ours was stronger? Damn! :angry: The stronger beer angle made for a much better story.

This may seem like a dry exercise in mathematics

That's okay, I like a little statistical analysis with my Hefeweizen.

Nothing really to fight over, though.

Damn, after a beer or two, we Canucks like to scrap ... or is that play hockey?

Beer stores... the Beer Store is a Molson-Labatt duopoly. They run it, they set the rules. LCBO stores seem to have no clue on how to treat beer.

Same problem here in BC. A number of privately run Cold Beer & Wine stores exist, but I hate paying more for already over-priced beer. I mean, if I can't legally drink it as soon as I leave the store, why do I care that it's cold? It'll be warm by the time I get home anyway.

DA

4 days and counting to the Oregon Brewfest!

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Agreed, lots of good Canadian beers. I drank a lot of Ex in my younger days, and really enjoy Unibroue and St. Ambroise now, like Wellington Arkell and County when I can get them.

But let's settle one thing right now: Canadian beer is not stronger than U.S. beer. That myth is an artifact of two different ways of measuring alcohol content. There are two slightly different ways of measuring the alcohol content of beverages, as a percentage of either the beverage total volume or its weight. For example, if you have 1 liter of 4 percent ABV beer, 4 percent of that liter (40 ml) is alcohol. However, because alcohol weighs only 79.6 percent as much as water, that same beer is only 3.18 percent ABW.

This may seem like a dry exercise in mathematics, but it is at the heart of the common belief that Canadian beer is stronger than American beer. Canadian brewers traditionally use ABV figures, whereas American brewers have historically used the lower ABW figures. Mainstream Canadian and American lagers are approximately equal in strength; there are minor differences, but, for instance, Bud in Canada and the U.S. is 5.0% ABV. Both places. Alexander Keith's (which is owned by Labatt, BTW): 5.0%. Molson Canadian: 5.0%. Rickard's Red (owned by Molson): 5.2%. Miller Genuine Draft: 4.66%. Miller High Life: 5.0%. Yuengling Lager: 4.9%. Coors Original: 5.0%. There just ain't that much difference.

Is Canadian mainstream beer better than American mainstream beer? Used to be, and clearly so. These days, Canadian mainstream beers are less than they were even twenty years ago. The table is tilted in favor of Canada mainly because of American drinkers...who tend to drink more light beer, God help us.

Nothing really to fight over, though. There are crappy beers in Canada, there are crappy beers in the U.S., and so it is on great beers, too. Beer stores... the Beer Store is a Molson-Labatt duopoly. They run it, they set the rules. LCBO stores seem to have no clue on how to treat beer.

In general, though, there are a lot more similarities between Canadian and American beers than there are differences. The differences mainly come in the same place that they do in American brewing: the widely varied output of the micros. God bless variety.

While that may be true, you are forgetting the dreaded Molson XXX and Labatt Maximum Ice which are in the range of 7% alcohol!

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I enjoy Labatt Ice when it is one looney per bottle in tons of bars I have been to in Canada. Canada beats the pants of the mid-atlantic US in drink prices.

Labatt isn't by any means a quality craft brew, this is true, but it still beats the pants off of most US megabrews.

Has anyone else tried the Upper Canada stuff? My roomate picks up multiple cases every time he goes through the Duty Free, should he be looking at something else?

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I enjoy Labatt Ice when it is one looney per bottle in tons of bars I have been to in Canada. Canada beats the pants of the mid-atlantic US in drink prices.

Labatt isn't by any means a quality craft brew, this is true, but it still beats the pants off of most US megabrews.

Has anyone else tried the Upper Canada stuff? My roomate picks up multiple cases every time he goes through the Duty Free, should he be looking at something else?

yeah he should be looking at two for $40 1.75 ltr bottles of Grey Goose!

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Labatt isn't by any means a quality craft brew, this is true, but it still beats the pants off of most US megabrews.

Heck yeah. As a resident of central NY state back in my drinking days (about two hours south of the Thousand Islands Bridge) we had Labatts a'plenty. Full cases of Labatts 50 Ale were as cheap as $8.99 at a time when Bud and the other US meagbrews were running nearly $14 to $16 per case and even stuff like Old Milwaukee was rarely under $2.50 per sixer.

When visiting Canada it was an entirely new experience. John Labatts Extra Stock (a bit like Molson Brador) and Labatts Velvet Cream Porter were two that I really enjoyed yet they never found their way to the US market (at least where I lived). Neither was a microbrew but I'd put them up against any of today's "premium" products and believe they'd do respectably.

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