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Flat beer sales push brewers to tap their creativity

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: brewers are getting more adventurous with their products and marketing; Ziauddin Yousafzai's daughter is so famous she's known by just her first name, and he's fine being known simply as 'Malala's dad.'

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

A waiter carries mugs of beer at the 2018 Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany. The world is seeing a shift in alcohol consumption, with beer sales stagnating or falling in many nations. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • As beer sales drop, brewers are getting more creative with their products and marketing ploys.
  • With Father's Day fast approaching, The National talks to dad Ziauddin Yousafzai about raising his remarkable daughter Malala.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.


The Toronto Raptors' spring-long run to an NBA Championship has been a boon to restaurants, bars and beverage sellers across Canada.

Earlier in the playoffs, credit and debit card transactions were spiking by 80 to 90 per cent during and after the games, and not just in Toronto, but in Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver too.

A restaurant in Toronto is jammed an hour before the Raptors' final game Thursday night. Many patrons came hours ahead of the game, and at some of the tables complete strangers sat together just to get a seat to eat, drink and watch the game.

The party will continue for a couple more days, with a parade and civic celebration at Toronto City Hall on Monday.

But the hangover is coming — at least for beer makers.

Alcohol sales have been holding steady in Canada for the past few years, with a total volume of 3,098 million litres sold over the past fiscal year— the equivalent to 507.1 standard drinks per legal drinker — up slightly from the 3,074 million litres sold the year before.

However, while wine sales grew 4.6 per cent last year, increasing in every province and territory, and liquor sales were up 4.4 per cent, beer was basically flat, growing less than a per cent and cementing a decade-long trend.

And even as the craft beer craze saw the number of breweries in Canada hit an all-time high in 2018, overall production fell by 3.4 per cent.

A bartender pours a craft beer at James Joyce Pub in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Fredericton, N.B. Despite an explosion in the number of craft breweries, overall beer production in Canada was down last year. (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

This is part of a global shift.

In the U.S., alcohol consumption dropped for the third straight year in 2018, mostly because fewer people are drinking beer. For example, sales of Bud Light, America's biggest beer, dropped 17 per cent between 2012 and 2017. And beer's share of the U.S. alcohol market has dropped from 48.2 per cent in 2010 to 45.6 per cent in 2017.

As with so many things, young people are being blamed.

Millennials — who apparently care about fitness and dislike arriving at work all bleary-eyed and pasty-mouthed — drink far less than older generations. And Gen Z, the cohort just now coming of legal age, consumes 20 per cent less booze than the 30-somethings.

Young people, on average, are drinking less than their parents' generation. (Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images)

This change has spurred some desperate measures among brewers.

Big global beverage makers like AB InBev have been pushing low-calorie beers and shrinking the size of bottles. And in Germany, some brewers are giving up on the alcohol altogether, with almost 500 brands of non-alcoholic beer now on the market.

Technology is also being marshalled for the fight. Researchers in Indiana have developed an induction heating system to allow for faster and more controlled beer pasteurization, promising improved taste, quality and shelf life.

And Miller Lite has just unveiled a limited-edition "Cantroller" — a 10-button video game remote built into a full beer can.

Promotional gimmicks are on the rise. A brewery in Tokyo has started offering monthly subscriptions that allow beer drinkers to try a glass of draft each day at a specified bar. And beer yoga is now a big thing, combining stretch sessions with a pint and some quiet talk about "mindful drinking."

A visitor takes a look at beer bottles during the opening day of the 'Grüne Woche' (green week) agriculture fair in Berlin on Jan. 18. (Tobias Schwartz/AFP/Getty Images)

Of course, not all brewers are hurting.

The lust for hard-to-get craft beers is fueling resale websites where rare bottles are being scalped for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars.

Any flavour of beer you have ever thought of — and many you never wanted — is now available, from peanut butter to bull testicles (a product that started out as an April Fool's joke and, finding willing customers, became real).

Yesterday, the U.K. branch of cereal-maker Kellogg's announced that it has teamed up with a brewery to turn rejected Rice Krispies and Coco Pops into a pale ale and a stout. An American craft brewer already makes a marshmallow-flavoured beer that is clearly meant to evoke a bowl full of Lucky Charms, complete with a "It's Magically Ridiculous" tagline.

Meanwhile, traditional beers and beer-drinking are already being relegated to history.

Bob Hawke drinks a Hawke's Lager at the launch in Sydney of the brew named after him on April 6, 2017. The former Australian Prime Minister agreed to lend his name to the beer if a share of profits would go to Landcare Australia. (Mark Metcalfe/ Getty Images)

The city of Oxford, U.K., is considering a proposal to erect a blue plaque in an alleyway near the pub where Bob Hawke, the late former Australian prime minister, set a world record in 1954 by skolling a yard of ale — the equivalent of 1.4 litres — in just 11 seconds when he was a Rhodes scholar.

The feat was immortalized in the Guinness Book of Records, and is said to have happened in the same bar where Bill Clinton failed to inhale a joint when he was a Rhodes scholar.

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Malala's dad

With Father's Day fast approaching, The National spoke with a remarkable dad about raising his remarkable daughter, producer Tarannum Kamlani writes.

Ziauddin Yousafzai's daughter is so famous she's known by just her first name: Malala. And he is just fine with being known simply as Malala's dad.

While he is not as well known as Malala, theirs is a dynamic and passionate partnership in the quest for women's rights and education.

Ziauddin Yousafzai looks on as his daughter, Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, holds bouquets of flowers after addressing the media in Birmingham, England, on October 10, 2014. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Ziauddin was born in the Swat Valley in 1969, into a traditional Pashtun family.  

He was the younger of two sons, and had five sisters.  

Early on in life he says he began to see the difference in the way he and his sisters were treated. Ziauddin, his father and brother were fed better and had newer clothes, while his mother and sisters had to make do with leftovers and hand-me-downs.

"I come from a land where women have served me all my life. I come from a family where my gender made me special," Ziauddin says in his 2018 memoir Let Her Fly. "I did not want to be special for this reason."

His determination to unlearn the habits of the patriarchal culture into which he was born took root after watching a cousin struggle in an abusive forced marriage. Ziauddin says he was determined that own marriage and family would be different.

Malala's birth in 1997 was the moment Ziauddin says he knew he had a chance to shape a girl unshackled by cultural expectations.

"I believed that she could do anything in the world, this beautiful child … I had faith in her and that was enough."

When the Taliban took over the Swat Valley in Pakistan and attacked girls education, Malala didn't stop going to school. Her courage was bolstered by the encouragement of her father.

People at home and abroad began to take notice of the determined, eloquent girl and her fiercely proud father, showcased in this 2009 New York Times documentary.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, seen here in CBC's Toronto studio on Friday, says of his daughter Malala that he always 'believed that she could do anything in the world.' (Anand Ram/CBC)

The Taliban's efforts to silence the teenage activist failed, even after the October 2012 attempt to assassinate her. Her growing profile at home and abroad only increased.

After the attack on Malala, the whole family moved to Birmingham, England. Malala received treatment and rehab for gunshot injuries she suffered in the attempt on her life, while Ziauddin worked as an education attache in the Pakistani Consulate.

His wife and two sons had to make sense of their new world, and it wasn't always easy.  

Ziauddin offers his insights into what it's like to be the father to someone the world has embraced, as well as to her siblings, in an interview with The National co-host Adrienne Arsenault. Watch it Sunday, Father's Day.

- Tarannum Kamlani

  • WATCH: The interview with Malala's father, Sunday on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

Quote of the moment

"A teacher usually does look over it to double check, but unfortunately not this year."

- Heather Nicholson, a Grade 12 student at John McCrae Secondary School in Ottawa, on the hasty recall of 420 yearbooks after it was discovered that some pages referenced male genitalia and gangs.

Heather Nicholson was part of the yearbook team and said she is sad no-one caught the offensive language before the books went to print. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

What The National is reading

  • How small town Iowa boy Nick Nurse led the Toronto Raptors to NBA history (CBC)
  • Bay-area native Jeremy Lin wins his first NBA ring (SFGate)
  • Julian Assange's U.S. extradition hearing set for February (CBC)
  • Migrants rush to enter Mexico ahead of security crackdown demanded by Trump (Reuters)
  • Nazis killed her father, then she fell in love with one (NYTimes)
  • NASA estimates it will need $20- to $30-billion for moon landing (CNN)
  • Vast swarms of flies plague Russian villages (Guardian)

Today in history

June 14, 2003: Hillary Clinton on her 2003 memoir Living History

This 2003 recounting of Hillary Clinton's life before and during her husband's presidency was actually her fourth book, after the best-selling It Takes a Village, a White House history, and a collection of children's letters to the First Pets. But it netted her an $8 million US advance, and built momentum towards her 2008 campaign for the Democratic Party nomination. There have been three books since. Two more political memoirs to advertise her 2016 ambitions, and What Happened, her 2017 effort to explain how it all went wrong.

Hillary Clinton on her 2003 memoir Living History

Digital Archives

18 years ago
The New York senator and former First Lady talks to the CBC's Alison Smith. 22:16

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.