Part II: BEER!
(in which many misconceptions from both sides of the pond will be utterly destroyed!):
During his recent election campaign to become Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford used the rally cry ‘buck-a-beer!’
Those who voted for him based on this promise (and many did) thought it meant beer would suddenly cost a dollar if he won, not that he’d merely lower the required minimum amount it can be sold for in Ontario.
Despite Doug’s unpopularity with Ontario’s left and the similarities to certain claims made on the side of a bus during the Brexit referendum, when Ford won the Province’s unwashed didn’t take to the streets in demand of the record being set straight and another vote.
The outraged Canadian backlash came in the form of social media posts from a couple of breweries underlining they had no interest in the ‘opportunity’.
The offended breweries tend to retail cans between the $3.20 to $4 mark (making them around 1.80 UK pounds per can).
One local brewery did decide to give the buck-a-beer bandwagon a go. With just one catch – they changed the can size to the same as Red Bull.
In the UK I walked into a Tesco’s (supermarket) only to be confronted by a sign offering a box of twenty Buds for twenty pounds. A pound a beer, which not only is twice the price breweries could sell beer for if they wanted but don’t in Ontario, it also isn’t as catchy.
But wait, there’s more:
The offer was also BOGOF! (buy one, get one free). So making the price equal to a buck-a-beer.
While the UK goes: yeah, so? Canadians will be surprised to hear it’s not an uncommon offer when it comes to the UK, supermarkets and beer.
What the UK will be surprised to hear is that Ontario has only just started trialling supermarkets selling beer, only allowing a select number to do so.
Until recently it could only be bought in special ‘Beer Stores’ or LCBOs – a government run off-licence.
Perhaps if it gets rolled out across the board, the Ontarian Dream of a buck-a-beer promised by Doug Ford and already fully alive and kicking-off after one too many in the UK (and, tbf, the Province just to the east, Quebec – haven’t been the other way to Manitoba to know what happens there) will become a reality without the need of smaller cans.
Though it will count for nothing if it ends up being as, well . . . in being British I can hardly bring myself to say it!
I’m currently quaffing a Sunseeker Tangerine Pale Ale (4.7%) from Lake of Bays and it’s so fucking delicious I can’t resist drinking it in five minutes when I’d envisioned gently supping over a good hour or so.
That’s right, UK types: despite everything we’re brought-up being taught, Americans don’t just drink wishy-washy lager (btw Budweiser in North America is 5% while 4.5 in the UK) they also drink ale—real beer—and when they do, it’s waaay better too.
The only place where both taste and choice came close to the abundance on offer here: the Brew Dog brewery pub in Bristol (it has about twenty pumps; one local Toronto pub, The Craft, has one-hundred-and-twenty).
Unfortunately, one new trend does seem to have made the transition no problem; that of making good beer really expensive, while trying to hide it by selling it in smaller volumes.
Easy to spot on a supermarket shelve, but trying to figure out how much the goldfish bowl-esque glass just handed one might measure up to a good old fashioned pint after already having a couple or three, not so.
One could look at the stamp on the glass, ask the cheery bartend or try read it off the beer board.
But the information would only lead to having to do maths (math), and who wants to be doing that while half cut (a bit drunk)?
No one goes down the pub to do sums. That would be ridiculous (unless they work behind the bar, obvs).
This from recent experience:
‘Can I have a pint of?’ got me the reply: ‘We only do that in 16 oz.’
My choice: proclaim ignorance, ask for a detailed explanation or just say, okay.
The price $8, so comparatively 4 British pounds – about what one might expect to pay for a pint somewhere expensive in the UK, whereas this was a shitty little bar in downtown Toronto.
But we are talking a quality beer, so $8 a pint could well be fair enough.
So long as it’s a pint
It looked like a pint, but looks can be deceiving . . . or not. It all depends where you’re at. 16 oz is a pint in the United States, whereas in the UK and Canada the Imperial version is just under 20 oz.
Despite having the appearance of cute hamsters, cheek pouches bulging with smugness, hipsters are apparently greedy capitalist bastards too.
Though at least the product was quality.
Meanwhile, back in the UK:
The mint chocolate nitro stout (can’t remember the brewery – something about ‘steamed’?) from the Co-op (a communist supermarket chain exclusive to the UK) was not the party on my palette expected.
Instead it was far more minty peas; something I would only ever want to taste if eating lamb, and as I don’t eat animals, it goes without saying.
In Canada, if it says mint chocolate, then it will taste of mint chocolate and beer.
Tbf, minty-pea-beer-gate is by far the worst UK example. But even when it came to the best, the flavours were there . . . just hiding in Victorian bathing suits behind beach huts high up the beach lest any further appearance might cause the slightest offence to what could be considered right and proper in a pint.
Though knowing the Brits as I do, breweries only being prepared to dip a toe in the Olympic size swimming pool of flavour is actually a sound business decision.
Brits shouldn’t think flavour like how one might expect an American (United States of) to behave at a beach: running into the water naked at full pelt while hooting, whooping and splashing anyone nearby.
Instead: blended beautifully, with consideration and care; crafted not only in name, but in nature, quality ingredients all that way (happy little hipster hamsters taking their puffed-cheeks time to brew while sucking on vapes made to look like pipes).
Proof is said to be in the pudding.
The only conclusion to come to (and by conclusion, I mean wild assumption without foundation, in case anyone thinks of suing) is that it wasn’t minty chocolate being used, but some kind of chemical concoction meant to taste like it (and failing dismally).
One of my favourite beers is a guava flavoured Gose (a style of brewing from Germany, so no excuses for it not making its way just to the UK) sour that was originally released as a limited run tall can at a reasonable price (I still have one in the fridge).
It proved so popular it’s recently been re-released (see here) in a smaller can for more money (see above).
It’s made with real fruit; small strands can easily be found in it.
Recent Beau’s release ‘London Fog’ is described as ‘brewed with an infusion of DAVIDsTEA Organic Cream of Earl Grey tea blend’.
Ingredients are listed as: Local spring water, barley malts, oats, lactose (milk), Cream of Earl Grey Tea (black tea, marigolds, cornflowers, natural flavouring), hops, vanilla extract, brewer’s yeast (organic).
I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an Earl Grey latte and would have wanted absolutely nothing to do with it if I had.
But now someone’s combined it with beer, how that works out is something I suddenly really ‘mead’ to know.
Some other differences, most of which are beer related:
If it’s a question of going down the pub for a ‘few’ drinks, the British definitely have more fun; however if the pub is a venue and there’s a band involved, atmospheres are better in Canada.
These converse positions can be explained by the fact Canadian bars aren’t meant to serve you more than two drinks an hour and are legally liable if you leave drunk, step out in front of a car and get run over.
I’ve only experienced it enforced once – in a casino. But it does seem—along with rigorous IDing (I still get asked) and restricted alcohol sales (see above)—to bring something to the general mindset vs. booze.
Concert tickets and merch in the UK are easily double, if not more, the price of Canada.
Apparently Brits are financially forced to higher expectations and therefore a greater likelihood of disappointment in a live music situation.
But don’t worry, Blighty: comfort can be taken from the fact Guinness here is thoroughly appalling and nothing like the thick creamy treat it should be; neither is the cheese up to much either unless visiting specialist stores.
If British, can you imagine being limited in how much booze you can take from England to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and/or vice-versa?
No, of course not!
Neither could Canadians Province to Province, but much like how they thought weed was legal years before it was (see Part I), there are some serious restrictions in place, like only a twelve pack, but I can’t be more specific as to make things more confusing it varies Province to Province (and no doubt that includes the Territories too).
In 2017 the BBC reported how Gerard Comeau was taking his case to the Canadian Supreme Court, after he’d been stopped by Mounties laying in wait for people committing precisely that crime, fining him and confiscating all his just purchased grog as a consequence.
From the report: ‘Comeau’s argument is that under Section 121 of the Constitution, Canadian goods shall “be admitted free into each of the other provinces” ’ (full report here).
In 2018 Canada’s CBC reported (here) how Mr Comeau lost the case due to a load of technical mumbo-jumbo about what the Constitution really meant.
Unlike in Europe, where one of the legitimate anti EU gripes is the double-standard way trade laws are applied to private individuals vs. business when legally they should be equal, in Canada the rule about booze applies to producers of alcohol, like all the wineries in Niagara, too.
They can’t simply sell their product to the rest of the country they pay corporation tax to as part of.
It doesn’t stop at trade:
In Canada ID cards are required to get healthcare. In Ontario, an OHIP card (Ontario Health Insurance Plan).
Before the Doug Ford government (that guy all this started with) OHIP offered a small level of coverage to card holders when in a foreign country.
Something most Ontarians I know didn’t know it did when it did, so for them, see more here.
One might expect it covers all of Canada, being as how that’s the country it’s in.
Regardless of Dougs, there’s plenty not covered once outside Ontario (and vice versa for other Provinces), such as things like ambulances, which, given the massive size of the country and the bleak and mountainous nature of much of it, can easily mean ‘air ambulance.’
From the Canada Star (full report here): in 2015 Alberta and Ontario agreed to split an air-ambulance charge of circa $10,000 so Alberta resident Amy Savill wouldn’t have to foot the bill alone, having gone into labour two months early while on holiday in Ontario.
The air-ambulance ride was within Ontario, not to get her back to Alberta – she was still left needing to raise $50,000 to do that!
The idea there’s free healthcare in Canada works when compared to the USA and even then only kinda.
All the Canadians (and all the Canadians have) who’ve made snide remarks about what a mess Brexit will leave the UK in might want to have a think about how the situation here with trade and healthcare means they’re living in a kinda ‘hard Brexit’ situation not only already, but also within their own country.
Brexiteers should possibly reflect on how what they’ve just read had them recoiling in horror, while before they’d always assumed countries like Canada places to aspire to – somewhere the UK could become once free of its oppressive EU shackles.
While Remainers need to realise the hard Brexit they keep screaming will lead to Armageddon is not only already ticking along quite nicely within Canada’s own border, but more so its inhabitants think it’s the best country in the world!
More of that in Part III, Flags (coming soon).
Part I ‘Fags’ can’t be found right here.
Other posts featuring beer:
- N. P. Ryan vs. Youth a poem about staring Hebe, goddess of youth, in the face and making wise choices
- Planet Caramel beat poetry reflecting on caramel and all the wonderful things it flavours
- Summer Lovin’ (call me a cab) more beat poetry; this time beer and musing the folly of love lost
- Zen and the Art of Holding Beer Properly like it says on the tin
- Small Town Conspiracy Chapter One of The Medusa Protocol in full (in which the main protagonist quaffs ample)
Thanks for reading 🙂
N. P. Ryan.