The Sunday Magazine

Think Canadian beer is better than American beer? Think again!

Beer expert Stephen Beaumont talks to Michael about water quality, alcohol content and flavour.
Beer expert Stephen Beaumont talks to Michael about water quality, alcohol content and flavour. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Originally published on February 9, 2018.

Canadians are seldom accused of having a superiority complex — except when it comes to beer. We take great pride in our suds, and beer lovers like to think of our brews as better than those produced in the U.S.

Stephen Beaumont says we should have another think about that. He has been a beer consultant, judge and writer for more than two decades, and his most recent book is Best Beers: The Indispensable Guide to the World's Best Craft and Traditional Beers.

Beaumont says that, when it comes to beer, Canadians should rethink their superiority complex. (Micha Dahan)

Appearing on The Sunday Edition as part of our occasional series "Think Again," he tells Michael Enright that Americans have upped their game when it comes to beer. He also says it's a myth that Canadian beer has always been stronger.

"Back when you were drinking legally and I was maybe drinking not-so-legally, the rule was that American beer was measured by alcohol by weight. Canadian beer was alcohol by volume," says Beaumont.

"Five per cent alcohol by volume is equal to four per cent alcohol by weight, so we got it into our minds that we had five-per-cent beer and the Americans had four-per-cent beer, but it was actually even — within tenths of a percentage point of each other for most brands."

Even though the biggest ingredient in beer is water, Beaumont says "where you get that water matters not a bit."

Brewers can strip water down to its essential components, H2O, then add whatever is necessary for the style of beer they are making. "There's a lot of water manipulation that goes on in the brewery."

In industrial brewing, the marketing department tells the brewing department what to brew. In craft brewing, the brewers tell the marketing department what to sell.- Stephen Beaumont

Beaumont also explains that Canadians sometimes think they are drinking a beer from a smaller producer, when they are not: "The big breweries, Labatt and Molson, are very good at hiding themselves."

For example, Keith's does not advertise that it is brewed by Labatt and Rickard's does not tell consumers it's a Molson product. Creemore Breweries in Ontario and Granville Island Brewing are also owned by Molson; and Labatt purchased Toronto's Mill Street Brewery. 

Even though craft beers have grown in popularity, Beaumont says most people have trouble defining the term. (Shutterstock)

Beaumont says the larger beer companies would love to kill the craft breweries, but they can't: "It's gone too far. You can't put the genie back in the bottle."

"When you've been eating McDonald's hamburgers your whole life and suddenly someone serves you a perfectly grilled sirloin steak, you're not going to jump back into those McDonald's hamburgers," he says. "You know what that steak tastes like and that's what you're going to want to eat more often. Same with beer."

Even though craft beers have grown in popularity, Beaumont says most people have trouble defining the term.

"My favourite definition of craft is that...in industrial brewing, the marketing department tells the brewing department what to brew. In craft brewing, the brewers tell the marketing department what to sell," says Beaumont.

During this conversation, Beaumont also shares his opinions of some of Michael's favourite brands, such as Samuel Adams and Guinness.

Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview. 

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