Only a few years ago Canadian beer aficionados were short-changed coast to coast. Everywhere the ubiquitous brands of Labatt and Molson dominated the shelves. Both long established breweries
(now owned my foreign multinationals), had a quasi monopoly with their uniformly mediocre quality of beers.
People simply didn’t know how delightful well-brewed beers taste. Young people who traveled to Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America tasted true beer, and upon their return tried to find the brands to which their were exposed. Of course many were unavailable. But demand for them increased gradually. Eventually, artisanal breweries started appearing on the scene in Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes, and British Columbia.
In the `1970’s Labatt and Molson controlled 98 per cent of the beer market. Today it is down to 85 per cent and if the trend continues this figure will change in favour of artisanal beers.
Labatt and Molson are perfectly capable of brewing beers that can compete with the best anywhere.
Management in both believes marketing to be more important than taste in teh product. They believe can solve their sagging sales and fail to see the reality of changing market preferences. Molson’s management decided to buy quietly Creemore Spring Brewery, a boutique brewery, in Ontario a few years back and wisely decided not to change any of the recipes. The brands of this now famous brewery sell well and are the pride of sales people when they are negotiating with future customers.
Ontario and Quebec have now several boutique breweries aka craft brewers that can compete with the best anywhere.
Here are some brands you may want to try and see for yourself – Cameron’s Brewing Co. (Cameron’s Auburn Ale, Cameron’s Cream Ale); F and M Brewery (Eramosa Honey Wheat, F and M Special Draft and Stone Hamemr Pils); Amsterdam Brewing Co. (Amsterdam Framboise, Amsterdam Nut brown Ale, K L B Raspberry Wheat, Natural Blond Premium lager); Black oak Brewing Co. (Black Oak Nut brown Ale); Niagara Falls brewing Co. (Eisbock Strong Lager, Niagara Pale Ale, Niagara Trapper Lager, Niagara Gritstone); King Brewery (King Brewery Pils, King Brewery Dark Lager); Wellington Coutny Brewery (Wellington Imperial Stout); McAuslan Brewing Co. Griffon Pale Ale, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Apricot Wheat); Unibroue (Blanch de Cahmbly, Maudite, Trois Pistoles).
All are nibbling away market share from the big two. The sad story of Lowenbrau, once an import and market leader tells how a successful brand can fall on hard times if marketing “specialists) dictate taste.
In the 1970’s there were two dominant imported brands – Heineken and Lowenbrau. The latter made a huge mistake by entering an agreement with Molson to have the brand brewed under licence. It simply failed for three reasons; the management changed the taste to please the mainstream consumer, the water composition used was different, and the imported cachet was lost. Today the brand is again the original from Germany, and the one brewed here is exported to the U S A.
Heineken never agreed to a licence brewing anywhere and today it enjoys a huge market chare both in Canada and the U S A.
Belgium – a small north European country with a population of 10 million brews and consumes huge quantities of diverse beers. Per capita consumption is now clause to 150 litres, compared to 86 litres in Canada.
Belgian breweries specialize in ales, lagers, wheat and fruit flavoured beers.
Chimay Premiere brewed by Trappist monks is excellent and enjoys a world wide reputation, as do Duvel, Bellevue Kriek (cherry flavoured), Hoegarden (flavoured with coriander seeds and spices), Brussels White, and Stella Artois, brewed by Interbrew the umbrella company that also owns Labatt among other all over the world.
Stella Artois is more or less an world standard for main stream beer, but is well advertised and enjoys some popularity.
The Czech republic has been brewring dlectbale beers sicne tiem immemorial. Josef Grolle, a German brewer working for a brewery in Pilsen, a small town close to Pragye, invented in 1842 the Pilsener style beer. It is light, slightly bitter, and gloriously refreshing when fresh and un-pasteurized or micro-filtered.
Then there is Czechvar, Budweiser, Staropramen and Kozel. All are highly recommended.
Germany, a huge beer consuming country, where the Bavarian King Leopold I decreed the now famous Reinheitsgebot of 1516, stipulating that only malt, water, hops and yeast may be used for brewing. Wheat was added much later.
Germany used to have over 3000 breweries; the number has been
declining for decades but not the consumption. Big breweries buy the small, regional establishments and gain market share, reduce production- and distribution costs, and increase their profits at the same time.
Bavarians are big consumers (over 500 litres per capita). The average German per capita consumption is a little less than 145 litres.
Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Hofbrauhaus, Echt Schenkerla (smoked beer), Schneider (wheat beer), Kostritzer (dark beer) are fine Bavarian brews available in Ontario and in many other jurisdictions.
Britain, the home of ales, brews a multitude of beers including some lagers. Although ales predominate, lagers are gaining market share particualryl with young drinkers who are 20 – 30 years of age. The classic Englkish ale is relatively low in alcohol (less than 5 per cent ABV), slightly bitter, and very refreshing. Black Sheep from North Yorkshire, Fiddler’s Elbow, Hogoblin, New castle brown, St. Peter’s English Ale, Tetley’s English Ale, John Smith’s Pub Draught, and Baddington’s Pub Ale are fine brews. Mc Ewan’s from Scotland has been pleasing Scots for decades.
The Irish take their beer seriously and drink regularly, occasionally to excess. One thing is clear; their love for ale is remarkable. In this small country, breweries do a roaring business.
Dublin, a city of one million inhabitants is said to have over a thousand pubs. None seems to suffer for lack of business. Here are some Irish beers you can try: Guiness Draught, Harp Lager, Smithwicks Ale, and Caffrey’s Dream.
Japan’s traditional alcoholic beverage is sake, but western style beer enjoys an excellent reputation due to its quality. Japanese water is particularly suitable for beer, and the traditional meticulous approach to producing any beverage is used. Asahi Super Dry, Kirin Ichiban, and Sapporo Draft will undoubtedly please your palate.