By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Miller Brewing Company says it’s aiming to end its Canadian licensing agreement…
TORONTO – Miller Brewing Company says it’s aiming to end its Canadian licensing agreement with Molson Coors Canada this summer.
Molson Coors Canada has filed a suit in Ontario to prevent the move but Miller says it gave the required six-month notication in January and it expects the termination to take effect on July 22.
Miller Brewing Co. is a subsidiary of SABMiller PLC, a multinational with its headquarters in the United Kingdom.
Miller’s managing director for Canada, Paul Gurr, says there’s an opportunity for it to grow its brands in Canada.
“We see Canada as a country with a rich tradition of beer appreciation and believe we can better serve Canadians needs through this transition,” Gurr said in a statement.”
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 6:32 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Molson Coors said it could take months for the brewer’s sales and…
MONTREAL – Molson Coors said it could take months for the brewer’s sales and profits to fully recover from the body blow sustained as a result of the NHL lockout.
“The impact that it had in the second half of last year is permanent,” CEO Peter Swinburn said in an interview Thursday after the company reported its year-end results.
“Going forward… I would hope that the fan base isn’t affected in any way. I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the popularity of hockey in Canada, so we’re hopeful that things will get back to normal.”
The Montreal and Denver-based brewer said it has seen a pickup in demand since the dispute ended in January, but the full benefit won’t fully resume until the fall because large retailers require up to six months to plan floor space and sales promotions.
Swinburn said the disruption to its main winter revenue driver had an obvious impact, with total sales falling by nearly 12 per cent in the fourth quarter.
But the company did point out that these losses were partially offset by operational costs, related to fewer NHL opportunities. It said marketing and administrative expenses decreased nearly 17 percent during this time.
Sales to retail fell 13 per cent, or seven per cent excluding an extra week of activity in the 2011 period, citing hockey and higher taxes in Quebec as the key factors.
Molson Coor’s Canadian market share declined one share point on an estimated industry volume decline of five per cent, excluding the extra week of business in 2011.
The lockout affected all brands but Swinburn said Molson Canadian and Coors Light sustained the biggest hit because they are the largest brands in the brewer’s portfolio.
Canada’s underlying pretax income decreased 22 per cent to US$101 million. Hockey was an important factor for the league sponsor but he said the company can’t quantify the financial hit.
“If you look at the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarters it was worse than the rest of the year and the third quarter was worse than the first and second quarter. So obviously the NHL lockout did have an effect but it’s impossible to quantify exactly to what extent.”
Swinburn had vowed last year to seek financial compensation from the National Hockey League and said Thursday the company has reached a confidential agreement.
He declined to provide any details, saying any compensation won’t be specifically identified in its financial results.
The NHL declined to comment on agreements that may have been reached with other league sponsors.
“We don’t discuss the nature of our contracts with League sponsors,” said executive vice-president Gary Meagher.
In addition to being pleased with the return of hockey, Swinburn said the early response to its new Molson Canadian advertising has been strong and consumers like its new resealable aluminum bottles.
During the quarter, sales were also affected by a 20 per cent increase in Quebec excise taxes as of November, that reduced demand across the beer industry.
“It’s difficult to say precisely what that impact is but as price goes up consumers will buy less,” Stewart Glendinning, president of the Canadian operations told analysts.
Overall, Molson Coors earned US$60 million in the fourth quarter, or 33 cents per diluted share. Net sales grew 9.9 per cent to $1.03 billion, largely as a result of acquisitions. Worldwide beer volume was up 15.3 per cent to 14.1 million hectolitres.
The quarter included a number of special items for the multinational brewing company, including US$22.8 million for restructuring, a $6.5-million charge related for its portion of an IT writeoff at MillerCoors and US$38.3 million due to tax rate increases in Serbia.
The company, which reports in U.S. dollars, said its underlying after-tax income, after adjustments, was $126.1 million or 69 cents per share.
That compared to $173.2 million or 95 cents per share of net income and $937 million of net sales a year ago. Its adjusted underlying after-tax income was $176 million or 97 cents per share.
Molson Coors was expected to earn 64 cents per share in adjusted profits in the quarter on $1.07 billion of sales, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
Swinburn said it marked the fifth consecutive quarter that the company has beat industry forecasts.
“I think we’re just in a better position than we were this time last year,” he said, noting that its new business in Central and Eastern Europe has gained market share in all but a couple of countries.
For the full year, it earned $443 million or $4.45 per share on $3.92 billion of sales, down from $676.3 million or $3.66 per share on $3.5 billion of sales. Adjusting for one-time items, it earned $710.5 million or $3.91 per share.
Mark Swartzberg of Stifel Nicolaus maintaining a hold rating on the stock “given continued volume under performance and no evidence of this trend reversing.”
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Molson Coors shares were down 39 cents at C$44.21 in afternoon trading.
By Stephanie Findlay - Monday, December 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
SABMiller sells Impala as healthy alternative to moonshine
The era of home brew in Africa may be coming to an end. SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer, is wooing the continent’s illegal drinkers with dirt-cheap beer. In Mozambique, the brewer has released Impala, a beer made from cassava, the milky root used to make tapioca. At 70 cents a bottle, Impala is significantly cheaper than its malty cousins, priced at a dollar, making it affordable for the country’s rising middle class.
Zsuzsa Szilagyi, an alcohol analyst for Euromonitor International, says companies like SABMiller are looking for niche markets. “The African beer market is highly consolidated,” she says, so there’s a “big fight” for new markets.
SABMiller, founded in Johannesburg in the late 1800s, is battling with other beverage companies such as Heineken and Diageo for Africa’s growing population of beer drinkers. Impala was pitched as a healthy alternative to illegal alcohol made from sorghum—a starchy grain—and corn. (Methanol and battery acid have reportedly been included in the moonshine recipes.) The Mozambique government is giving the beer a break on taxes, seen as a way to give the economy a boost by employing farmers to produce raw cassava. One year after its 2011 launch, nine million bottles of the brew have been sold. In Uganda, the company has had tax breaks for years with Eagle beer, made from sorghum.
By Tamsin McMahon - Monday, December 10, 2012 at 6:43 PM - 0 Comments
Tamsin McMahon on how the province with a monopoly makes less money on booze
Ontario’s Opposition leader, Tim Hudak, seems to have found the ideal hot-button issue in his promise to privatize the provincial liquor monopoly if he emerges victorious from whenever the present leaderless minority government ends up holding an election.
The future of the LCBO has been debated ad nauseam since the agency was created back in 1927. But this time the announcement actually appears to have some traction for Hudak, coming during the holiday season when budgets are tight, alcohol is in demand and there’s not much else in the way of interesting news from the provincial government to distract us.
Strangely enough, as Progressive Conservative leader Hudak shied away from the privatization issue in the 2011 provincial election, instead musing on the days a buck-a-beer, when a 24-case of domestic could be had for $24.
But after floating a few other wedge issues in the last election (prison chain gangs, the dangers of sex ed for elementary school children) to no avail, Hudak may just have found the one that actually matters to Ontarians. After all, free-flowing booze is about the only thing that could unite a 50-something libertarian in rural Eastern Ontario and a 20-something hipster in downtown Toronto.
Still, the idea has predictably touched off a firestorm of debate. B.C. Premier Christy Clark floated a similar idea back in the summer, but was forced to back down due to union pressure.
Proponents of LCBO privatization often point to Alberta, which privatized its liquor sales in 1993 and has since seen a rush of new private liquor stores, both mass market and specialty, along with a larger selection of products and longer store hours. Critics also like to cite Alberta for the downside of privatization: Namely the fact that the Alberta government has seen steadily declining revenues from alcohol sales for the past two decades and that the LCBO transferred $1.63 billion to Ontario government coffers last year, excluding taxes. (Hudak’s finance critic, Peter Shurman, recently said the Progressive Conservatives “don’t know” exactly how privatizing liquor sales will affect government revenues.)
In light of the ongoing debate over public versus private liquor stores, here is a look at some Statistics Canada data that tracks the net government proceeds of liquor sales in every province. The data removes the GST portion of the sales tax, along with what it costs provincial governments to run their liquor stores. In other words, it’s a look at the pure profits flowing into government coffers from the sale of booze.
The results here are based on revenue per 100 residents and are adjusted for inflation (in 1993 dollars, which is when Alberta privatized alcohol sales):
They clearly show that Alberta has faced declining revenue since going private, from $15.30 for every 100 residents in 1993 to the equivalent of $12.86 in 2011, a drop of 16 per cent. However, the province still earns more per capita than either Ontario or Quebec, which long ago allowed private stores to sell beer and wine, but not hard liquor. B.C., which went to a two-tiered system in 2004, has also seen its revenue drop over the years. But most of that decline actually occurred before it allowed private wine and beer sales and revenue was actually growing between 2004 and 2009.
Atlantic Canada earns by far the most per capita from its alcohol sales and, along with Saskatchewan, has been able to grow its revenue nearly 25 per cent since 1993. Quebec takes in the least per person from alcohol sales, although the province has managed to boost revenues by nearly 50 per cent over the past two decades.
What’s interesting in Ontario is that government revenues are substantially lower than other provinces that also have monopolies on the alcohol distribution and sales. Revenues per capita from alcohol have increased just eight per cent in nearly 20 years in the province. Despite moving to a privatized system, the Alberta government still takes in more per capita on alcohol sales than Ontario.
Clearly there’s more at work here than a debate over a public monopoly versus privatization. After all, governments have lots of potential policies in their arsenal to boost revenues from booze whether in a public or private system: alcohol taxes, minimum pricing to discourage consumption, fees for alcohol producers for the privilege of selling their products in government stores, fees for liquor licences. The Maritime provinces, for instance, all have large alcohol taxes on top of provincial sales tax.
One would expect that more taxes, a la Atlantic Canada, would lead to higher prices for beer, wine and spirits. On the flip side, critics argue that privatization has driven up prices in Alberta.
To test this debate, here’s a look at the price of a popular product, a standard 750 ml bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, across the country:
Quebec, which collects the lowest alcohol revenues has the lowest price, while the Maritimes, which collect the most, have higher prices. (It’s not broken down here, but at $27.98, Nova Scotia actually has the highest price for a bottle of Smirnoff in the country.) Manitoba’s high provincial sales tax helped push up its prices. Alberta’s private system has also pushed its prices toward the higher end. (The amount quoted here is from Metro Liquor Stores in Calgary.)
Ontario’s prices seem high given that government revenues from alcohol sales are comparatively low. It costs 17 cents less to buy a bottle of Smirnoff in Newfoundland than it does in Ontario, and yet the Newfoundland government takes in roughly 62 per cent more per capita in alcohol revenues than the Ontario government does.
It’s clear the issue is a lot more nuanced than the debate over public versus private alcohol sales would suggest. B.C., Alberta and Quebec have all allowed some manner of private sales of alcohol. But government revenues from alcohol sales have been growing in B.C. and Quebec. Not so in Alberta. Ontario’s liquor monopoly doesn’t seem to have helped the province boost its sales revenue all that much. Neither Ontario, nor Alberta, had the highest or the lowest prices.
There may be other valid reasons to privatize liquor sales, like better choice of products and more convenience for consumers. If it’s a matter of being able to buy beer and wine at midnight at the corner store, ending the Ontario government’s monopoly on liquor sales may be the best option. If the debate is over whether governments should benefit from higher revenues, consumers should benefit from lower prices, or that alcohol should be taxed into oblivion to keep us all from drinking too much, neither a government monopoly, nor a privatized system seems to have all the answers.
In reply to this article, Jan Westcott, president and CEO of Spirits Canada, writes the following:
Ms. McMahon comes tantalizing close to stating the obvious yet rarely uttered truth, that provincial Treasury revenues derived from the sale of beverage alcohol are most directly related to implicit provincial commodity tax rates, i.e., liquor board mark-ups (Should Ontario privatize liquor sales, December 10, 2012).
A case in point: by exempting beer and bottled-in-Quebec wines from their fair share of the provincial alcohol tax burden, Quebec ranks lowest amongst net return per capita.
The corollary: those provinces with the highest taxes on spirits no longer are home to distilled spirits production as manufacturers consolidated their operations in lower tax jurisdictions.
For example, Ontario jumps to the province with the highest government alcohol revenues per capita once one adds an additional $1 billion ($5.25/100 residents), directly related to local spirits manufacturing.
By Jasmine Budak - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Crazy craft-beer Canucks are going wild with fermentation in an Ontario winery
On a grey October afternoon at the Good Earth vineyard in Beamsville, Ont., a crowd gathers around a cluster of steaming stainless-steel vats set up mere feet from the rows of swollen grapes. Iain McOustra, a brewer with Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewing Co. and one of the architects of this madcap plan, periodically stirs a boiled concoction of grains, hops and water that has the hue of milky coffee and smells faintly like shredded wheat. If McOustra is giddy, it’s because he’s exhausted and exhilarated by this, the culmination of three years of research and planning to make a sour beer in the back-breaking style of old-world Belgian breweries.
“This is certainly the craziest brew I’ve ever done,” says the 31-year-old, who’s been brewing beer professionally and in backyards for 13 years. “It’s the most difficult brew to pull off; so much could go wrong.”
Vital to the plan is the winery environment, especially at harvest time, when the air is thick with wild yeast and bacteria that will—it’s hoped—float into the open vessels and ferment the grain mixture, or wort. This is a contemporary take on lambic beer, named after the town of Lembeek, Belgium, where the process was refined in the 1300s. Continue…
By Blog of Lists - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 3:23 PM - 0 Comments
In May, the biennial World Beer Cup was held in San Diego. Once again Canadian craft breweries had a strong showing.
Here were the winners:
1. Amsterdam Framboise
Brewery: Amsterdam Brewing Co., Toronto
Category: Fruit wheat beer
Number of Entries: 28
2. Boréale Dorée
Brewery: Les Brasseurs du Nord, Blainville, Que.
Category: Special honey beer
Number of Entries: 23
3. Glutenberg Rousse
Brewery: Brasseurs Sans Gluten, Montreal
Category: Gluten-free beer
Number of Entries: 15
4. Glutenberg Pale Ale
Brewery: Brasseurs Sans Gluten, Montreal
Category: Gluten-free beer
Number of Entries: 15
5. Glutenberg Blonde
Brewery: Brasseurs Sans Gluten, Montreal
Category: Gluten-free beer
Number of Entries: 15
6. Central City Oaked Porter
Brewery: Central City Brewing Co., Surrey, B.C.
Category: Wood- and barrel-aged beer
Number of Entries: 34
7. Belle Gueule Originale
Brewery: Brasseurs RJ, Montreal
Category: Vienna-style lager
Number of Entries: 41
8. King Dark Lager
Brewery: King Brewery, Nobleton, Ont.
Category: European-style dark/Munchner dunkle
Number of Entries: 34
9. Cameron’s Dark 266
Brewery: Cameron’s Brewing Co, Oakville, Ont.
Category: German-style schwarzbier
Number of Entries: 40
10. Saison Station 55
Brewery: Hopfenstark Brewery, L’Assomption, Que.
Category: French- and Belgian-style saison
Number of Entries: 44
Brewery: Russell Brewing Co, Surrey, B.C.
Category: English-style India pale ale
Number of Entries: 48
12. Red Racer ESB
Brewery: Central City Brewing Co, Surrey, B.C.
Category: Extra-special bitter
Number of Entries: 49
See also Most expensive houses
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The nswers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.
By Mike Doherty - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Edited by Garrett Oliver
A bumper crop of books has followed the recent proliferation of craft breweries, and this hefty tome is designed to loom over them all. Weighing in at nearly two kilograms—about as much as two pints of ale—it’s a one-stop resource for defining terms, historicizing styles and contextualizing beer business and culture, as well as a new way to settle arguments at the pub.
With over 1,100 entries by 166 contributors, the Companion is an encyclopedia in all but name. Its editor, Garrett Oliver, is brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, one of America’s largest and most esteemed craft breweries, as well as a colourful writer. He pens a polemic in his preface: “Wine, beer’s great rival . . . cannot begin to approach beer’s variety of flavour, aroma and texture.” Indeed, arriving 17 years after the Oxford Companion to Wine’s first edition, this title seeks to lend scholarly legitimacy to beer. Each entry includes a host of facts and figures, but one needn’t dwell on, say, the relative Plato gravity scale measurements of various versions of Scotch ale; there are, thankfully, some juicy bits. You’ll learn, for instance, about the battle between two breweries called Budweiser, the intemperate story of India pale ale, and the beneficence of beer gods—from Sumeria to Asgard. Subjects range from the general (“flavour”) to the historically curious (“Burton snatch”) and the self-referential (“beer writing”).
Brewing history is often murky, and not just because of hazy memories: beers and beer styles alter over time due to the inconstant availability of ingredients, the evolution of consumer taste, technological developments, laws, etc. In brewing, “tradition” is an ongoing process, and this book does an admirably comprehensive job of tracking it.
A number of beer writers have, however, questioned some of the book’s historical details and interpretations of facts—there’s a wiki online to note disputes. Perhaps the second edition will clear these up. For now, one can nonetheless enjoy the book—ideally taken with a grain of malt.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 1:50 PM - 0 Comments
Experimental archaeology recreates ancient brews after analyzing pottery shards and bronze vessels
When it comes to food these days, everything old is new again, which isn’t that surprising after years of genuflecting in the church of molecular gastronomy. The only altar left for foodies to worship at is an old one. Jars of preserved goods, just like grandma used to make, line the kitchen shelves of countless restaurants. Noma, voted the best restaurant in the world last year, fashions most of its dishes from ingredients foraged from the Danish woods. Menus, including the one at Chicago’s Next, are built around a particular time and place, like Paris circa 1906. Chefs, including Charleston, S.C.-based Sean Brock, hunt down long-forgotten varieties of grains, vegetables and fruit, and Toronto’s own Jamie Kennedy prefers the rare Canadian heritage breed of wheat called red fife.
And then there’s Patrick McGovern, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum who, after analyzing the residue that lingers in the nooks and crannies of millennia-old potted vessels, is bringing ancient elixirs back to life. It’s gastronomical nostalgia on steroids.
McGovern, a pioneer in the field of biomolecular archaeology who did undergraduate work in chemistry and has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern archaeology, has collaborated on five beverages with Sam Calagione, the award-winning founder and president of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware: Midas Touch, an Iron Age beer based on samples found in the king’s supposed tomb; Chateau Jiahu, a Chinese blend of grapes, rice and honey based on the oldest sample of booze ever discovered; Theobrama, a 3,200 year-old Honduran chocolate drink; Chicha, a corn beer with Peruvian lineage; and Ta Henket, an Egyptian ale being released in December with 18,000-year-old components.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
As British brewers target women, Canadian companies find beer plays a broader role in our culture
With beer consumption falling for seven straight years and neighbourhood pubs closing at a rate of 29 per week, traditionally suds-soaked Britain is facing a beverage identity crisis while brewers are left scrambling to find new markets for their products. And at least one, Molson Coors Brewing Co., believes it has found the answer: women.
Molson Coors, the company that resulted from the merger of the storied Canadian brewer and Coors Brewing Co. in 2005, is rolling out a new brand in the U.K. and Ireland called Animée, aimed directly at the fairer sex, which currently accounts for just 17 per cent of beer sales there. Described as “lightly sparkling and finely filtered with a delicious fresh taste,” Animée contains four per cent alcohol by volume and comes in three flavours: “clear filtered, crisp rosé and zesty lemon.”
“We are way behind almost every other beer drinking country in the world when it comes to women,” says Kristy McReady, a spokesperson for Molson Coors in Britain, noting that 79 per cent of women in the U.K. say they never, or rarely, drink beer—in part because it’s viewed as being high in calories. “Beer is seen as very masculine, the way it’s marketed and sold. It’s drank from pint glasses and sold in big boxes.”
By Mike Doherty - Friday, August 5, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 22 Comments
Why so many Canadian brewers are making IPAs
Behind the colourful name of India Pale Ale is a colourful history: from the 1820s, the beer was brewed in the English Midlands and shipped in casks down to Brazil, around the Cape of Good Hope, and up to India, where, having aged over the rough journey, it was enthusiastically quaffed by English colonists. Nearly 200 years later, in another former colony, it’s surging in popularity. But why are so many Canadian brewers now making IPAs?
Ironically, given its imperialist history, the style has become a symbol of rebellion. It’s a bold beer, with a copper-to-amber colour, moderate-to-high alcohol content, and, crucially, a hoppy aroma and taste. For craft brewers, it’s a statement against the blandness of mainstream lagers, whose drinkers are slowly catching on—despite their often startled first impressions.
Ralph Morana, owner of Bar Volo in Toronto, recounts his first experience of craft IPAs at a beer festival in 2002. “I went, ‘Oh Christ, how can anybody drink that?’ I was a Coors Light drinker.” Nonetheless, he says, “Once your palate adapts to the bitterness, all you want is more and more and more.” To further his quest for hops, he converted his Italian café into a craft beer bar, where IPAs are his biggest sellers—and not just to stereotypical bearded, pot-bellied craft beer enthusiasts. “If you give it to a girl, they love it: ‘It’s neat; it’s floral.’ ”
By Cigdem Iltan - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 2:00 PM - 2 Comments
It’s last call for drinkers of Canada’s only government-brand beer. The New Brunswick liquor…
It’s last call for drinkers of Canada’s only government-brand beer. The New Brunswick liquor board, which created Selection Lager and Selection Light in March 2009 in response to lagging domestic beer sales and cross-border competition, has stopped production of the private-label beers. Selection Light wasn’t meeting the minimum sales cut-off of 100,000 litres per year, says board spokeswoman Nora Lacey. Selection Lager met the sales cut-off, but because the beers were marketed together, the board decided to stop sales of both brews to make space in its cold rooms for different products. “It’s all peformance based; we have to look at our own brands in the same light and take the appropriate action,” says Lacey.
At $19.99 for 12 cans, Selection was a clear choice for New Brunswick’s wallet-conscious beer drinkers. But reviewers on ratebeer.com seemed to agree that when it came to taste, drinkers got what they paid for: Selection Lager scored an average rating of 1.83/5, with one reviewer likening it to “water from a cheap plastic garden hose that’s been lying in the sun all afternoon.” Selection Light fared similarly, mustering up an average of 1.64/5 and comments that are far from ringing endorsements: “Pours a clear, pale, sickly urine yellow . . . probably the worst looking beer I’ve seen but merely pathetic otherwise.”
Lacey maintains that while Selection’s sales fizzled, both beers’ first year doubled expectations, with each boasting a one per cent market share. She turns to a recent overall decline in domestic beer sales across Canada as an explanation for its demise, rather than the particular taste of Selection’s suds.
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, March 4, 2011 at 10:08 AM - 2 Comments
Moscow opts to regulate the drink as alcohol
The state Duma is taking beer to task in Russia. In the past, the beverage was regulated by a 2005 law that classified it as a foodstuff. As such, its distribution did not require state licensing, and it could be advertised at night on TV and sold 24 hours a day in kiosks and supermarkets. Last week, however, Moscow almost unanimously adopted a bill that recognizes beer as alcohol. Beginning July 1, there will be new regulations for the drink that include restricted nighttime sales, and, like vodka, making it illegal to sell at street kiosks. The size of beer bottles is also set to decrease from 500 ml to 300 ml.
The new legislation is part of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s campaign to curb alcoholism and underage drinking in the country (another proposed bill is a nationwide ban on alcohol sales from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Russians are among the highest imbibers in the world: last month, a report released by the World Health Organization found that Russians drink an average of 15.7 litres of alcohol a year, compared to the world average of 6.3 litres. One in five Russian male deaths is caused by alcohol. And yet, the new beer legislation will only apply to suds stronger than five per cent—just a modest proportion of beer sales—leading some to criticize the legislation as too soft.
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 12:20 PM - 1 Comment
Australians are increasingly turning to wine instead of suds
Aussie lager lovers are a dying breed, according to the latest statistics on alcohol and wine consumption. The report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, titled “No Longer a Nation of Beer Drinkers,” shows beer consumption recently dropped by almost half to its lowest level in 50 years. Beer accounted for just 44 per cent of all alcohol consumed by Australians in the 2008-’09 financial year, compared to 76 per cent in its 1960-’61 heyday. Statistics show Australians drank 107 litres of beer per adult—an average of 3.6 pints a week—down from 190 litres (6.4 pints a week) on average 50 years ago. Over the same time, wine consumption has tripled from 12 to 36 per cent, attributed to evolving palates, the availability of more affordable domestic wines, and an increase in women drinkers who generally prefer wine to beer. But while wine sales are set to overtake beer in the next decade, the country’s beloved brew is far from hearing its death knell—because wastage and alcohol used in cooking are factored into the numbers, the report admits to slightly overestimating the consumption of wine and spirits.
By the editors - Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 12:20 PM - 39 Comments
Nearly every province mandates minimum prices for the stuff
Canadians find beer an endlessly interesting topic. We enjoy drinking it, brewing it, watching ads for it and even following the delivery of equipment used to make it. Consider, for example, the daily press coverage of the recent transportation of six massive beer fermenters, each seven metres high and capable of holding one million bottles of beer, to the Molson Coors brewery in Toronto. The $24-million operation required shutting down several highways and lifting 1,600 service wires: it also had its own logo, website and Twitter feed. Despite all this fermented fascination, however, there’s one aspect of beer in Canada that receives far too little attention: the fact that nearly every province mandates minimum prices for the stuff. These policies stifle competition and choice and force all Canadians to pay more than they should for their favourite alcoholic beverage.
The issue of minimum beer prices made a rare appearance in the news last week with reports that the Quebec Brewers Association is lobbying the provincial government for a bigger boost in the floor price of beer. Quebec’s minimum price is reviewed annually and adjusted for inflation. The brewers, however, are arguing beer prices should be hiked by more than the national consumer price index. At current rates, they warn, beer will soon be cheaper than milk. We can only hope.
Every province except Alberta mandates minimum retail prices for beer across a wide variety of categories. (Manitoba only mandates the price for single-serving cans.) Using a case of 24 bottles of light beer as comparator, minimum prices range from $26.55 in Quebec to $38.14 in Newfoundland. (In Alberta, tax hikes in 2009, and the fact of a monopoly distributor, has meant prices aren’t always lower than other provinces’ minimums. Still, retailers are free to put beer on sale, as it was in Calgary this week, where 24 Bowen Island Special Light could be had for $24, plus GST.) Most provinces also regulate the price of beer sold in bars. In Alberta, for example, the lowest legal price for beer in a bar is $2.75, or 16 cents per ounce for draft.
Minimum beer prices, or “social reference prices” as bureaucrats like to call them, are designed to keep Canadians at a distance from our own baser instincts by making beer too expensive to binge on wantonly. Whether such prohibitionist regulations are successful in preventing public drunkenness or excessive private drinking is open to considerable debate. Unfortunately, consumers appear to have no say in this matter. Politicians, lobby groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the big beer companies are all strong supporters of minimum prices.
While the Brewers Association of Canada frequently complains about federal and provincial taxes on beer (at 51 per cent of the average retail price, our beer taxes are among the highest in the world), it has no such qualms about minimum prices. Last year the organization’s president extolled the benefits of Canada’s floor prices to the Scottish legislature.
The brewers’ association claims it supports minimum prices as a damper on excessive drinking. And yet floor prices are also quite handy in preventing bothersome competition. In 2008, following an apparent request from the brewing industry, Ontario quietly moved its minimum price from $24 a case to $25.60, thus shutting down popular “buck a beer” promotions by cheaper brands. This is how beer price wars are avoided.
It is hard to escape the suspicion that increasing revenues is the real motivation behind the brewers’ support for social reference pricing. Consider the influential National Alcohol Strategy report from 2007. This document, assembled with input from government, addiction researchers and the beer industry, has a particular fascination with U-Brew operations. The report recommends that these do-it-yourself outlets be forced to charge the same minimum price per bottle as retail stores, which would amount to an enormous price increase. Raising U-Brew prices would do nothing to prevent spontaneous binge drinking—it takes several weeks to produce a drinkable product—but it would certainly reduce the competition faced by beer companies.
Problem drinking as a social issue already receives considerable government attention. A very high level of taxes boosts the price of beer and provides ample funds for necessary intervention efforts. From this perspective, minimum pricing laws are redundant and unnecessary. It’s impossible to raise beer prices sufficiently to discourage all under-aged drinking without punishing legal-age adults as well. And where there’s an identified problem with specific products, such as high-alcohol single-serving cans, Manitoba’s specific approach seems appropriate. Beyond this, if a beer maker or retailer wants to compete on price, why should the law say no?
Ultimately, minimum pricing punishes the vast majority of Canadians who enjoy their beer in an entirely responsible manner by reducing choice and raising cost. For a nation that loves its suds as much as Canada, that seems warm, flat and stale.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 4 Comments
Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Molson-Coors and Labatt Blue, The NHL and Stan Lee
Vince Vaughn and Kyla Weber
The 39-year-old Wedding Crashers star shed his Hollywood swinger reputation by marrying a 31-year-old former Calgary realtor in Chicago in January. The couple, now expecting their ﬁrst child, met through mutual friends in 2008 and quickly became fixtures at Chicago Black Hawks games before Vaughn sealed the deal with a US$125,000-ring.
The NHL and Stan Lee
The legendary creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men, joined forces with the National Hockey League in October to form Guardian Media Entertainment LLC, a platform for 30 “Guardians,” one for each NHL team. The project, to be unveiled in January, isn’t set in the world of hockey but “organically and authentically incorporates various NHL elements.” Climb down Spider-Man, Slapshot-Man is coming.
By Kate Fillion - Monday, November 22, 2010 at 9:15 AM - 1 Comment
On what to eat to avoid catching colds, herbs that work, and being a human guinea pig
The bestselling health writer is a participatory journalist who has tried everything from body scans to biofeedback to rolfing. In The Secrets Of People Who Never Get Sick, Stone supplies tips (and the scientific rationale behind them) from unusually healthy people.
Q: One of the health tips in your book is to take brewer’s yeast daily. What’s the scientific basis for that?
A: Brewer’s yeast is a pretty amazing way to get your vitamin B: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, panthothenic acid, folic acid—it’s got everything except vitamin B12. Vitamin Bs also keep homocysteine levels low. Epidemiological studies have linked high levels of homocysteine to stroke and coronary heart disease. And brewer’s yeast is a good source of protein, plus you get all these amazing minerals like selenium and potassium. It’s a natural way to get substances your body needs, without having to buy a bunch of different pills.
Q: If you drink beer regularly are you getting the same stuff?
A: I talked to a beer manufacturer who claimed that you did, but it’s not absolutely clear. It looks like if you skim the top off of a beer you might be getting the same stuff, but oddly enough, no one has ever done a double blind, random controlled study on beer as a preventative for colds! Seriously, things that tend to be free or easily available aren’t money makers for drug companies, so there isn’t much research on them. That doesn’t mean they don’t work.
By Michelle Magnan - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 5 Comments
In the Wineman Duathlon, runners chug a beer every mile, and try not to ‘purge’
Trevor Soll and his buddies are good at drinking beer. They’re also very good at running. And mixing the two, they believe, results in a very, very good time. Thirteen years ago, they devised the Wineman Duathlon: runners down a beer before and after each mile in the six-mile race. It’s no small feat. But when Soll and his friends started the event in Regina, they were world-class triathletes. Today, the annual race attracts both Olympians and weekend warriors looking for a challenge. Others are just looking for a buzz. “They don’t run,” concedes Soll, now 36 and the owner of a sporting events company, “but they sure can drink.”
Aside from introducing two new distances—a sprint (three miles, four beers) and an “AA” length race (13 miles, 14 beers)—the Wineman hasn’t changed much. It still starts in Soll’s backyard, now in Edmonton, and involves one-mile loops through his neighbourhood. The prize is still a cheap bottle of wine. On a chilly Saturday near the end of October, nearly 50 people have gathered for the 5:30 p.m. start. “I’ve probably done 25 races this year, and this is my favourite,” says Trevor Durie, 34. “Everybody’s got a gift, and drinking and running might be mine.”
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
FESCHUK: There’s no better economic indicator than the state of useless innovations in beer
Many economists waste their time studying a variety of data to forecast where the economy is heading. The truth is they need only consult the one indicator known to be foolproof: the index of Utterly Pointless Innovations in Beer.
The theory is so simple that an actor in a Coors Light commercial could understand it: if beer companies are investing millions in the development of highly expensive and Utterly Pointless Innovations, the economic outlook is promising.
Think back to the sweet times of 2006. The economy was strong. The stock market was soaring. And actual university-educated people were actually employed to make the mountains turn blue on Coors Light labels when the beer inside gets cold. (This technology was widely mocked, but consider its potential. With only a few tweaks, we could use it to determine when our coffee is still hot enough to drink, or when Nicolas Cage has finally stopped overacting. Has he turned blue? No? Then I think I’m going to skip that Sorcerer’s Apprentice movie.)
By Leah McLaren - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Salvation lies in the country’s pubs, and an age-old drinking culture
Once a year at the Old Spot pub in Dursley, Gloucestershire, barman Steve Herbert hosts a beer tasting for graduating students at the village school. He calls it finishing school for sixth formers. “The point is to get them off the fizzy, sweet stuff before they head off to university,” he explains, “so they don’t end up rushing into pubs, drinking shots and throwing up all over themselves.”
Welcome to Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale—a growing movement to preserve the traditional drinking habits of a culture whose relationship with alcohol is as historied as it is confounding. For years, Britain has seen the decline of local pubs. At present, 39 traditional boozers close each week. At the same time, binge drinking—and its attendant hooliganism—is on the rise. According to the most recent study conducted by Britain’s Office for National Statistics, more than a third of adults drink over the safe alcohol limit at least once a week.
What’s the solution to this cultural conundrum? According to a growing number of Britons, the answer may be fermenting at the bottom of a traditional cask of local ale.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
The U.S. microbrew industry is on the rise, eclipsing Canada’s not just in size, but taste, too
Canadians may not be quite the beer connoisseurs we make ourselves out to be. The most popular place to sample some of the tastiest new ales? America (former land of the watery beer). The craft beer market has been growing steadily in Canada and the U.S., but south of the border is where it’s really booming. According to the Brewers Association, 1,595 craft breweries were in operation last year in the U.S., the highest total since before Prohibition.
“In terms of flavour, Canadian beer is not as avant-garde as the States,” says Ian Coutts, author of Brew North, a new book chronicling Canada’s beer history. Coutts says that Americans are more daring with the flavours they use and their production processes. However, he says the adoption of American craft beer isn’t just about the taste. Population density is another factor that favours U.S. microbrewers. “If you have a micro in a place like California, you have 35 million people within a day’s truck ride of your brewery,” says Coutts.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 3:20 PM - 5 Comments
Surpassing Europe in beer production, if not per capita consumption
The stereotype of the lager-swilling German in a Munich bierhalle or the Guinness-guzzling Irish pub patron may soon be usurped by Asia’s great thirst for beer: the continent now brews more than Europe.
According to the research arm of Japan’s Kirin brewery, Asia has surpassed Europe as the world’s leading beer producer for the first time in history—or since records for world beer production began in 1974. Last year, when Europe’s beer output shrank by 5.1 per cent, Asia saw a 5.5 per cent surge in production. This upswing was fuelled by Vietnam, which had a 24 per cent rise in manufacturing, and whose beer—Hanoi, Saigon—is enjoyed the world over. India followed with a 12 per cent production increase, while China’s beer output grew by seven per cent last year.
While impressive, though, Asia’s brewing boon should not be equated with a rise in per capita consumption. Analysts at Credit Suisse determined that an average of 80 litres per year is consumed in developed countries, compared to 32 in China, and one in India.
By Philippe Gohier - Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
SABMiller plans to spend $22.8 million on promotion during World Cup.
By Sonya Bell - Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 2 Comments
Thirty-two soccer fans living under one roof. How to keep the peace? Hire a Canadian.
This wouldn’t be a house party that needed beer goggles. That much was obvious to the Budweiser executives plotting Bud House, a reality television series set in South Africa during the FIFA World Cup tournament. The house would be home to 32 attractive soccer enthusiasts, one from each competing nation. It would have a palm-tree-lined patio, two swimming pools, four bars and the biggest flat-screen television in South Africa.
But something—or someone—was missing from the concept, says Andrew Sneyd, Budweiser’s global advertising director. What would keep the 32 diehard supporters from rioting over a handball or offside call? The cry for help went out on Craigslist one month before the June 11 kick-off: “Casting: big normal-looking funny Canadian men.” A Canuck would be responsible for keeping the peace, in a role we can all say cheers to—the house bartender.
Peacekeeping is a role Canadians take very seriously, of course. And a Canadian’s impartiality in this matter would be assured by the fact that Canada didn’t qualify for the World Cup (and hasn’t since 1986). A casting agency found Danilo, a 39-year-old veteran Toronto bartender, in Los Angeles, pursuing an acting career. On his way to Bud House, near Cape Town, Danilo had to give up two things—his lifelong support for the Italian team, and his last name. Budweiser won’t let it be used as part of the security for the cast.
“It’s the easiest gig I’ve ever had,” Danilo says from behind the bar. Budweiser is the only drink on the menu. The only question is: can or bottle? “I did show them something,” he says, opening the bar fridge and removing a glass. “Frosted glasses. Very Canadian. Everyone loved it.”
In Bud House, the contestants are always decked out in their team’s colours, no matter which match is on. There are egos, and three tickets to the final game, at stake. Two tickets will go to the contestants from the countries that play in the July 11 final. The third will go to the person who wins the most points during the show’s daily challenges, which include ostrich riding, quad biking and shark diving. (All of which can be seen at budhouse.com.)
Danilo’s primary responsibility is to help everyone get along. This means laying down the law when countries are misbehaving. “The bartender sees everything,” he says. On the first night, he spotted Lolade from Nigeria quietly change the channel when the Italian team was introduced. Ilaria, the Italian contestant, was confused—and then outraged. That kind of prank could get ugly in a game situation, Danilo says. This resulted in a new house rule—the remotes are taken away from the participants at game time. And when North Korea’s Daniel antagonized Greece’s Maria over her team’s 2-0 loss to South Korea, Danilo consoled her. That North Korean guy is a pill, he says—he may have to cut him off at some point.
When peace has been negotiated, the Canadian bartender is relieved from duty by his Russian or Irish counterpart. Away from the world stage, the perks of the job emerge. While the other guests sleep in dorm-style rooms, Danilo has his own private room. Inside, he turns on the TV, throws open the shutters that separate the bathroom and living room, and watches the action of a soccer game from the bathtub, drinking a Bud. Not that he would brag about his digs to the other countries. “That’s not nice,” he says.
By macleans.ca - Friday, April 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM - 5 Comments
Carlsberg employees walk out in protest over caps on free beer
As many as 800 employees of the Carlsberg brewery walked off the job this week after being told they’d only be allowed to drink at lunch. A spokesperson for the Copenhagen-based brewer confirmed the free beer that had previously been available in company fridges had been removed and that workers would be limited to the beer available at the lunch canteen. Much of the staff is said to be striking in solidarity with drivers and warehouse workers, for whom the changes mean they’ve lost the right to their three beers a day.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM - 1 Comment
(But they did, for a few terrifying hours, run out)
The email from a colleague arrived around 6. He had heard, via the Olympic grapevine, that Saxony House is so popular they’d run out of beer. What? A German pavilion without beer? So as Maclean’s intrepid party/Pilsner reporter, I hoofed it over to Stanley Park’s Vancouver Rowing Club—which has turned the space over for the Olympics—to investigate. My interrogation began with two staff in the main party room, where a band played Omp-pah-pah and Dire Straights covers and patrons were downing plenty of liquid barley. The line of questioning seemed to amuse them. “Are you a spy?” one of them asked. “She’s a spy!” the other declared.
Undeterred, I worked my way into the VIP lounge for the lowdown—and some fabulous sausage smeared in Saxony mustard (like Dijon, only more mellow). As it turns out, the rumour is true. Last Friday night, they exhausted the 270 kegs of Wernesgruner pilsner they’d imported, forcing beer-drinkers (i.e., everybody) to switch to Kostritzer, a dark beer for a few hours, Antje Rennack, assistant to the managing director, revealed. But the next day, another shipment arrived.
Mystery solved. But by this time I was enjoying myself nobbing among the Saxony VIPs, finding out more about the German state, and taking in the lovely views of English Bay. Since they can’t legally import sausage, a father-and-son team from Saxony (part of the VIP contingent) make it daily at a local German butcher using imported spices. They expect to go through two tons by the Games’ end.
Saxony House’s managing director Hans-Jürgen Goller arrived to field more questions. He’s been planning for the Olympics for three and a half years, he said. His first choice for a headquarters was the Roundhouse in Yaletown, now home to Casa Italia, but he wasn’t sure he could fill it nightly. Then there was a wrangle with the IOC over the fact that Saxony is not an IOC member.
But he seems happy where he is. The crowd is 90 per cent Canadian, 30 per cent of them of German origin, and 10 per cent German tourists. Usually there are line-ups. It’s far quieter on nights when Canada’s men’s hockey team plays, he says. “Canadian fans tend to stay in the city core. They want to be alone.”
He says one of the reasons Saxony set up at the Games is to stir awareness. Apparently it’s not yet on tourists’ radar. That’s a shame. If Saxony House is any indication, the actual place must be a blast.