Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 7, 2015
Last week, MolsonCoors Canada announced that they were bringing in their popular American beer Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Ale to Canada, as a way to compete against Labatt’s American Shock Top and Goose Island brands. The thing I don’t like about this is that Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Ale is the exact same beer as Rickard’s White - which has been available in Canada since 2006. The beer was near identical to the point that Americans purchasing Blue Moon would regularly get beers labeled with “Blue Moon Brewing Co. Toronto, Ontario/Montreal Quebec” at the Molson breweries. One of the reasons why Blue Moon is coming to Canada (as Belgian Moon because the name copyright for Canada is owned by a brewery out of Toronto) is that the Rickard’s White sales have plummeted a great deal in the past year since Shock Top came to the Canadian market. Like it or not, Canadians love American beers. Molson’s PR team says they will continue to brew Rickard’s White alongside Belgian Moon for the meantime. Time will tell if Coors' Belgian Moon will be brewed out of Golden, Colorado like it is in the States, or rather be brewed at the Molson facilities right next to the Rickard’s brewing tanks.
With this announcement, I did some quick investigating where our beer is coming from. Many beers we love to drink that we believe are from elsewhere: are actually brewed right here in Canada! In this week’s First Draught, I will be showing you what beers are in fact, made in Canada when you may believe that they are imports.
Made in Canada:
The first one that surprised me was Löwenbrau and its Löwenbrau Radler. The Löwenbrau beers were brewed in Canada between 1999 and 2002 but went back to Germany until October 2014, when Labatt received the Löwenbrau beer rights again. I found the standard Löwenbrau has less malty sweetness to it, a bit lighter and even reminds me of Labatt’s other Canadian products to a point.
Farmery Lager - Of course Farmery is made in Canada, but the thing you don’t realize is where it’s brewed. Farmery Premium Lager may have great history in Western Manitoba, but the beer is brewed under contract at the Muskoka Brewery in Muskoka, Ontario. With all their publicity showing signs like “farm fresh” and “brewed from the ground up”, I wish they would start brewing the beer in Manitoba as there’s nearly a dozen breweries within an 8 hour drive of Arden Ridge, Manitoba. I don’t know if full production will ever come to Manitoba, but I’ve heard they are looking into building an interpretive centre with possibility of a small brewery on site to show tourists how beer is made. I’ll believe it when I see it. (EDIT: Farmery will start brewing at their up-and-coming in Neepawa soon - by fall 2016)
Not a surprise, really but Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, Bud Light and some of their sister beers (ex. Rolling Rock and Shock Top) are brewed at the Labatt Breweries throughout Canada - it’s not considered a premium beer anymore. For Molson, Coors Light and Coors Altitude are brewed at their Molson facilities throughout Canada. Interestingly enough, Coors Banquet Lager is produced straight at Coors’ main brewery over in Golden Colorado. Kokanee is also brewed at various Labatt facilities throughout Canada now as well. What's actually funny is that Labatt Blue for the US market is brewed by.. get this.. Molson at the Molson Brewery in Toronto!
Alexander Keith’s - Since we’re still on the topic of Labatt - Alexander Keith’s and their wide variety of flavours have been brewed at the Creston, BC Kokanee facility since 2009. When I see Keith’s on a “Premium” beer menu while Kokanee is on a “Domestic” beer menu, it makes me shake my head. Apparently the Keith’s available on the east coast is still good… but I don’t buy the beer anymore anyways.
Goose Island Goose IPA - This original Chicago beer is something you may have just noticed starting to pop up on tap and at local beer vendors and Liquor Marts over the past few weeks. Goose Island IPA is produced at the Labatt facilities. Unfortunately for me, I found Goose IPA to taste too bland for an American-style India Pale Ale.. though it is a tad bit better than your regular Alexander Keith’s.
Lastly, Sapporo Lager - the most famous Japanese beer in the world is actually brewed at Sleeman’s Brewery in Guelph, Ontario. For Americans, when they purchase a can or case of Sapporo in their neck of the woods, it’s the Canadian version of the beer.. and to top it all off, it’s still listed as an Imported Beer, tricking customers into thinking it came from Japan, not Guelph.
In the United States, lots of foreign breweries are now moving their production to the United States as a reason to keep up with demand and to cut down on shipping costs. Beck’s Lager out of Germany is made in St Louis for the American market. The popular Stubbied beer from Jamaica’s Red Stripe is also now being produced in the United States, and there is a class action suit currently taking place because customers believed that the beer they were drinking Red Stripe straight from Jamaica - thankfully us Canadians get the real Red Stripe, for now. Corona plans on building a new brewery in Southern California in the next few years to cater the US market as the production just can’t meet the demand of consumers all over the world.
Next time you’re buying a beer at the store or at a bar, look and find where your beer is being brewed, it could possibly be brewed close to home, or as far away as Fort Worth, Texas.. or somewhere more international.