Saturday, February 12, 2005

100 Bottles

Canadian identity is defined in part by beer, as is America's idea of Canadian identity.

1 of 100 bottles of beer on the wall
Americans cling to the belief that Canadian beer is stronger than American beer. It's not. That is a myth. It's all in how alcohol content is measured.

Two major beer companies each control about 45% of the beer market in Canada. One is Molson, which is in the process of "merging" with Adolph Coors. The other is Labatt, which is owned by a Belgian company called Interbrew. Canadians are now in the throes of an identity crisis about Canadian beer. Molson and Labatt used to be Canadian companies, producing Canadian beer. Now, not so much. It takes some getting used to.

Molson produces a beer called Canadian. In July, 2000, they also produced an ad called "The Rant" with Canadian actor Jeff Douglas as a character called "Joe Canadian". It was a rant about how he is Canadian; he speaks English and French - not American; it's "zed" --- not "zee" --- "zed"; and how he can proudly sew a patch of his country's flag on his backpack. (Like Americans haven't already thought of that...)

Canadians loved this ad. There was a proliferation of "I am Canadian" tee shirts. People quoted parts of the ad. ("The beaver is a truly noble animal…") It inspired an exhibition of what Americans would call patriotism in Canadians.

This being Canada, Jeff Douglas did not become a star, and I heard he moved to Los Angeles so that he could get work in American television.

But what IS Canadian beer? Is it Molson’s Export, beloved by Americans and soon to be made by Coors? Is it Labatt Blue, made by Belgians? Is it Budweiser, brewed in Canada by Labatt?

What about Moosehead, Canada’s largest independent producer of beer? Well, maybe I’ll try that. I keep trying Canadian beer. We have some local breweries here in the Okanagan and in other places in BC. I keep trying to like those. But sometimes, especially late summer evenings, all I want is a big bucket of clams and an Anchor Steam.