Celebrate all year with Canada 150 beers

By the time you read this, you will be over your Canada Day hangover. However, since Canada 150 is a year-long celebration, there are still numerous occasions to honour Canada by enjoying one of its favourite beverages – Canadian beers.

This country has had a long and convoluted brewing history, entwined with various influences, governments, personalities and regulations; all of which have, and continue to, contribute to the state of brewing here.

People often group Canada’s beers with the USA, which is an over simplification as Canada has been brewing commercially since the 1600s, and its two major breweries – Molson’s (1786) and Labatt’s (1847) predate the biggest breweries of the USA – Anheuser-Busch (1852), Miller (1855) and Coors (1873).

Over the years, the big boys have participated in mergers, acquisitions, and licensing agreements, which have blurred the lines between the two countries, but there has always been a difference in the beer produced within each market.

Mass produced Canadian beer has maintained a modicum of respect in the world, and is usually held in higher regard than its American counterparts. Part of this is due to the more prevalent use of corn and rice adjuncts in the USA, but they also didn’t do themselves any favours in the world’s eyes by creating light beer in the 1970s, making their mainstream beers taste even more watery.

The Big Breweries dominated brewing in both countries through most of the 20th century, controlling as much as 95 percent of the market, with very little variety of beer. By 1980, the US had only 80 breweries controlled by 51 companies.

Proportionately, Canada had many more per capita with 38 breweries, but 30 of them were Molson, Labatt or Carling O’Keefe (one each in every province, as per federal regulations of the time). It is this lack of choice that gave rise to the craft beer movement in the mid-1980s.

While Alberta was at the vanguard of craft brewing with Big Rock opening in 1985, Canada as a whole evolved much slower than its southern neighbour. By 2000, the US had about 1,500 breweries, and Canada had only 83. However, within the next decade, Canada closed the gap by opening up 227 new breweries, while 500 opened in the US. Most of these breweries were in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, as their provincial governments passed legislation that promoted the growth of small breweries.

Alberta saw only a trickle of new breweries after Big Rock, until restrictions were loosened in 2013. What you are living through now is an explosion in this province – with more than 60 new licences given out by mid-2017. With Alberta now leading the charge, Canada presently boasts over 700 breweries, compared to about 5,300 in the US.

Look around you. Almost all the new beer you now drink is coming from new breweries – mostly Albertan, followed by the rest of Canada, then American, and finally, from the rest of the world (mostly from Europe). Of Canada’s 400 years of brewing, this is indeed the golden age. So as you raise a glass to Canada 150, also give a toast to Canada’s brewers, new and old.

Listed below are a few beers brewed specifically to celebrate Canada 150:

Moosehead Anniversary Ale

Coincidentally, New Brunswick’s Moosehead Brewery is also celebrating their 150th Anniversary too. This limited edition ale has much more going on than your standard Moosehead and is made with four hops and two malts from across Canada. CSPC +792194, 473 mL can, $3.00.

Lighthouse 150 Heritage Ale

Victoria’s Lighthouse Brewery brewed this beer in honour of Canada’s lighthouse keepers- with a bit of maple, smoke, and rye. CSPC +793632, 650 mL bottle $11.50.

Innis and Gunn Maple and Thistle Rye Ale

Scotland’s Innis and Gunn Brewery has often made a beer to celebrate Canada Day. Aged in barrels for 150 days, this salute to Canada 150 is a bottle-conditioned brew with both maple and thistle to celebrate the Canadian-Scottish connection. CSPC +788910, 500mL bottle $10.00.

Mill Street Red Ensign

This is a salute to our first flag that flew for 97 years. Not your normal raspberry wheat ale, as it has much more raspberry, a redder colour, and more alcohol (7% ABV) than most versions of this style. CSPC +790120, 750 mL bottle $10.00.

Look also for Jasper Brewing Crisp Pil 150, Blindman Batch 150 Red + White IRA, Mt. Begbie Confederation 150 Maple Cream Ale, and one-offs from many local breweries such as Cold Garden, Bench Creek, and more.

Multipacks

Red Racer Nation

Surrey’s Central City brewed collaboration beers with twelve breweries – one from each province and two territories. Alberta’s contribution is a Berry Light Berliner Weiss brewed with Calgary’s Last Best Brewing that has raspberries and vanilla. CSPC 712098, $34

Big Rock Canada 150 Pack

Six beers brewed to represent a different region of Canada. A diverse group that includes an Oyster Stout brewed with East Coast oysters added to the boil. CSPC +791183, $17

Sleeman Beer Crate with 5514 Filtered Wheat Ale

The number represents the distance in kilometres from sea to shining sea. Made with 100% Canadian wheat; it is crisp and clean. CSPC +791045, 15 pack cans $31.00

Cheers to Canada 150!

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