July 18th, 2024

Canadian Beer Day time to hoist a pint

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on September 30, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber David Taggart celebrates Canada Beer Day a couple days early. The day is on Oct. 4.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

October 4 is the day Canadians should feel free to cook up some back bacon, look for a parking spot at a donut shop and call each other hosers while hoisting a pint of Canada’s most beloved export next to maple syrup – beer.

Yes, October 4 is the fifth annual Canadian Beer Day which is “dedicated to Canadian beer and the people who brew, sell, deliver, serve, pour or simply enjoy it,” according to Beer Canada.

Beer plays a huge role in Canadians lives with more than 21,000 people working in 1,230 breweries while 149,000 jobs are directly connected to beer in sectors including agriculture, transportation, tourism and of course, hospitality. Eighty-eight per cent of beer consumed in Canada is brewed in Canada. Those breweries produce a total of 5,800 brands.

CJ Helie of Beer Canada, whose members represent more 90 per cent of all domestic beer sold in this country, says the beer industry is facing challenging times due to various factors including a changing demographic, growing interest in other types of alcoholic beverages, and of course COVID-19 which prevented Canadians due to restrictions from getting together with friends and family to hoist a pint or two.

And beer, says Helie, is the “social piece,” eh.

While interest in beer has settled like foam left on an untouched glass of draught, there is hope for a recovery thanks to the growing popularity of non-alcoholic brews. Whereas years ago, consumers were limited to only a couple of types of zero alcohol brews, now there is a wide range to try from West Coast IPAs to porters.

Beer, says Beer Canada, is the drink of moderation and has been an integral part of many aspects of Canadian life from backyard barbecues to summers at the cottage, music festivals and sports events.

It is brewed everywhere in Canada, providing big economic benefits to communities.

In Alberta alone, Helie says there are now 140 licenced breweries, which is up from 30 in 2015.

Canadian breweries purchase more than 300,000 tonnes of Canadian barley and other grains to make that liquid gold, or copper or brown. And that brewing contributes more than $13.6 billions to Canada’s gross domestic product every year.

Taxes, however, may be harder for Canadians to swallow than the cold lager or Pilsner they crack on Oct. 4 because Canada has one of the highest beer tax rates in the world with taxes representing nearly 50 per cent of the cost of beer. Needless to say beer sales generate huge tax revenues for government – more than $5.7 billion per year.

“Your favourite pint is made by master brewers from barley and other cereals grown here by family farms. It’s delivered by rail or truck to your local alcohol retailer, but tax is the single largest component of the price you pay – a tax rate five times higher than in the U.S. and significantly higher than in most EU countries,” says Beer Canada.

“And yet, Canada automatically increases federal beer taxes each year on April 1st. This inflation-indexing of beer taxes occurs without a vote or debate in Parliament and puts upward pressure on beer prices and worse of all, it actually fuels inflation.”

All alcohol consumption is in the spotlight over health concerns these days and Beer Canada says it supports Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines that were developed in 2011 by independent experts to help Canadians moderate their consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm.

Beer Canada says the guidelines “evidence-based and reflect a balanced approach to encourage responsible drinking and minimize risks.”

Those guidelines recommend no more than 10 drinks a week for women with no more than two a day on most days and 15 a week for men with no more than three a day on most days.

Canada’s history with beer dates back to 1646 with the first recorded brewer being Jesuit Brother Ambroise. Canada’s first commercial brewery was opened in Quebec City in 1688. It lasted only five years.

John Molson established his first brewery in 1786 in Montreal while Alexander Keith & Son opened theirs in Nova Scotia in 1829. John H. Sleeman followed with an Ontario brewery at St. David’s in 1836 and four years later Thomas Carling opened one in London, Ont. The Labatt brewery was set up also in London in 1847 before the Oland family opened two in 1867.

The first so-called craft brewery was opened in 1984 in Waterloo, Ont. and since then craft brewing has exploded.

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