Last week was the 2nd annual Canadian Beer Day. Maybe this is not quite as auspicious a boozing event as Oktoberfest or Robbie Burns Day, but I am welcoming all opportunities for distraction after seven months of isolation at home. I expect a bender of epic proportions if this accursed pandemic ever ends!
Canadian Beer Day is an opportunity to celebrate our domestic brewing industry. Unlike international brands such as Guinness or Heineken, we export very little beer to other countries, with 85% of production consumed right here in Canada, so if we don’t appreciate our beer, no one else will!
Canadian breweries generate $14 billion a year in economic activity, directly employing over 15,000 people, and nearly ten times that number are indirectly supported by the brewing industry, mainly in the agricultural, hospitality, and transportation sectors.
We even boast the oldest brewery in North America, founded in Montreal by John Molson in 1786, and still producing to this day. Molson currently has five operating breweries across Canada, with two in Ontario, and one on each coast, in Newfoundland and BC. We even had two Molson breweries right here in Alberta, with the Calgary facility operating from 1893-1994, and the Edmonton facility operating from 1913-2007.
From our humble brewing beginnings more than three centuries ago, Canada now boasts more than 1100 breweries, with more than 150 breweries right here in Alberta.
The explosive growth of breweries across Canada is led by our fair province of Alberta, which had only 23 breweries back in 2015, a number that has more than sextupled in only five short years. You can thank the provincial NDP government for slashing the red tape in the beer industry back in 2013, eliminating the minimum production requirements that had kept all but the largest megabrewers out of the province for decades.
Canadian Beer Day is a marketing campaign run by the Beer Canada national industry association, so they are off to a slow start because people are not gathering in large numbers in drinking establishments this year. Let’s hope that Canadian Beer Day is not another victim of COVID-19, and that it will rise from the ashes to let us celebrate our national drink for many more years to come.
I have been doing my best to celebrate our domestic brewing industry every day, with all of my boozing needs nicely satisfied by our hard working Canadian brewers. While many a fancy import passed my lips in years bygone, I am having a hard time remembering the last time I sampled an import beer. I do recall enjoying an Estrella Damm while vacationing in Barcelona a few years back, as well as a few pints of Guinness while in Dublin, but those were on tours of the respective centuries-old breweries, so I don’t think vacation beers count.
Indeed, with 150 breweries right here in Alberta, it is becoming rare that I even sample a brew from out of province, much less an international import. In these trying times, our local craft brewers need all the help they can get, so support your local brewer at your neighbourhood bottle shop, or take advantage of the home delivery options to have their frosty wares delivered right to your door. Our own local pride and joy of Township 24 Brewing on Rainbow Road has been a repeated ray of sunshine through the dreary days of this pandemic, brightening my doorstep with fresh growlers or cans on a regular basis. Supporting them now will help ensure you will have a local brewery to visit when this pandemic finally ends.
Unlike some of the more raucous beer-swilling events like St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo, Canadian Beer Day is a more understated and dignified affair, and is more about raising a glass to recognize the impacts that our domestic brewing and ancillary industries have on our culture and communities.
Seasoned boozers like myself may recall the Chestermere of decades past, known as a bleak and beerless desert, with the only oasis being a few taps of insipid pale macrobrews at the former Chestermere Landing, or maybe a few stale cans of fizzy lagers at the golf course.
Our crafty domestic brewers have freed us from the tyranny of those tasteless macrobrews, so show your appreciation by enjoying the frosty wares of a local brewery today!