Canadian Beer – Suds from The Great White North

A little piece of Canadian heritage…

The BEAVER, the MAPLE LEAF, HOCKEY, MOUNTIES, CANADIAN GEESE, the MOOSE, COLD WEATHER, “EH”, and CANADIAN BACON. These are all great symbols of Canada and what it means to be Canadian. You might argue that some of these fall under the title of stereotypes, and I will agree with you, but you cannot deny the fact that they are all apart of our “heritage”. But perhaps the one thing that is associated with Canada the most and that Canadians on the whole are proudest of, is our BEER?

Molson may have emphasized this best with their “I AM CANADIAN” campaign which insinuated that when you drink Canadian beer you are truly then CANADIAN because that is what we as Canadians do is drink Molson Canadian Beer. The character JOE (as in average JOE Canadian) performed a very intelligent and humorous rant about being Canadian which included all of the things “Canadian” that I mentioned above and a few more. This advertising ploy really worked well for Molson and it also was a huge success overseas and around the world, making the already popular CANADIAN brand of beer even more popular.

History of Canadian Beer…

Did you know that BEER first came to Canada before we were even officially a nation? That’s right, European settlers actually brought beer to the “area” of North America we now proudly call Canada in the 1600’s. They felt Canada had an ideal climate for making beer, this was before refrigeration was introduced to the world. The first commercial brewery however was not built until 1668, by Jean Talon in Quebec City. The next hundred years would lead to a number of thriving Canadian breweries including those that are today some of the staples of the Canadian beer business and the beer business all over the world. In 1786, John Molson founded his brewery in Montreal. Fifty years later Alexander Keith started his up in Halifax in 1829. The city of London (where I currently reside – a great city) could be called the Beer capital of Canada as in 1840 Thomas Carling opened his brewery here and in 1847 John Labatt began his beer legacy here as well. All around the city the Labatt name can be found on buildings and including the brewery itself. And lastly but certainly not least, in 1847 Eugene O’Keefe opened his brewery in Toronto. With all of these beers still commonly known, loved, and enjoyed today; beginning the creation of a real Canadian beer monster of great taste and drunkenness world round.

Did you also know that stubby bottles are basically a Canadian thing as well? The shorter and slightly larger diameter beer bottle known as the “stubby” was all you could find Canadian beer sold in from 1962 until 1982-1986, when almost all of Canada’s beer producers switched over to the more American-styled longneck bottle that we see mostly today. A brand of Labatt beer was the last of the major labels of beer to be found in the stubby, it lasted until 1986. The company decided to make the change to the longer necked bottle when market research showed women did not like the stubby bottle and it was an attempt to attract more female beer drinkers. (Well based by all the beer commercials out there I would say that they succeeded. I mean the girls on there are always having a great time and are drinking the longnecks and they are always so beautiful. Awe yes, beer commercials tell the truth like no other (sarcasm).) Beer can be found again more recently in the stubby bottles as some breweries have brought back this shorter, stockier bottle after people were asking for it back.

Beer in our culture…

Beer and more particularly Canadian brands of beer, such as the ones mentioned both above and below, have become a huge part of Canadian culture and popular culture in general.

For example, I do not know about you but at my high school, one of the oldest high schools in Ontario, we had a kind of Beer Cheer that was passed on from generation to generation. It was more of a testament to the school but it spoke of beer. My parents attended the same school 25 years before myself and they used to know the same song. Mind you the song is actually more from their type of “era” or even my grandparent’s era but I still knew the words. I do not think I ever sang it out loud with my friends or anything though. It went something like this.

“Give a cheer! Give a cheer! For the boys who drink their beer, in the cellars of old S.C.I.
Give a shout! Give a shout! For the girls who dish it out, in the cellars in old S.C.I.
For it’s guzzle, guzzle, guzzle, as it’s dripping down your muzzle, shout out your order loud and clear, MORE BEER!”

Silly I know, but it is one of those “traditions” that is passed down in our culture, and it involves beer, and with teenagers, and for one reason or another it is acceptable.

Canadian beer can also be found in a lot of popular culture, including being featured in the Canadian movie, Strange Brew, where Doug and Bob McKenzie (Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, both Canadian) have a crazy adventure that involves Canadian beer.

Also the feature film by Michael Moore and starring a great Canadian Jon Candy, Canadian Bacon , spoofs cultural attitudes toward Canadian beer and other things Canadian.

Also the fact that Canadian beer has a higher alcohol content than it’s neighbors to the south, the United States, this has resulted in many different comments in movies and television that our beer is more like “moonshine”, etc.

Canadian Beer Types…

“Labatt, where good things have been brewing for more than a century and a half.”
“A whole lot can happen, out of the blue.”

“True Canadian taste, from Canada’s oldest brewery.”

“It starts here, I am Canadian.”

Needless to say these slogans, which are from Labatt and Molson beer companies are well known, just like these two companies and the beers they produce. This is for a reason, as these two Canadian beer companies are Canadian beer juggernauts who dominate the Canadian market and some other markets worldwide. This is partly because of their popular Canadian beer association and their tastes. But it is also a large part of their aggressive marketing of their top brands.

These two companies provide us with the most popular Canadian brands of beer; Molson Canadian and Labatt’s Blue. Other popular brand names of Canadian beer include Alexander Keith’s, Carling, O’Keefe’s, Kokanee, Sleeman, and Moosehead. There are also many other Canadian breweries and microbreweries that create great beers; some you may have heard of and some you would have never heard of. One of the biggest things for beer is pushing your brand through advertising and if this does not exist the brand will go basically unknown.

Great Micro Breweries…

More recently, in both Canada and the United States, a flourishing microbrewery industry has exploded which has developed a plethora of new local beer tastes. Due to Canada’s geography and the fact that the production and sale of alcohol is something that is controlled at the provincial level often these great micro brewed beers are only available in the regions they are produced.

Each province has many different microbreweries to choose from you to taste and to try.

Some more popular microbreweries featured in commercials include Steelback, Steam Whistle, and Lakeport breweries and beer in Ontario. However, there are tones of different microbreweries that are found in your area of the country that you may or may not have ever heard of. The truth is that they all have something great to offer.

So net time you sit back and enjoy your favourite Canadian brew remember that you are CANADIAN.



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