Volume 95, Issue 8

Thursday, September 13, 2001
Search the Archives:
Tips for searching

Campus and Culture
Submit Letter
Contact Us
About the Gazette


The great Canadian beer myth

The history of suds

Beer banter

Beer: a friend through joy and sorrow

Every beer has its special moment in time

The great Canadian beer myth

By Chris Lackner and Lindsay Satterthwaite
Gazette Staff

Canada is known for its beer, cold weather and hockey. After all, we are Canadian.

But, despite being a fixture in the Canadian cultural fabric, perhaps the great Canadian beer myth has been something only perpetuated by advertisements and pop culture. Are we hosers or not, eh?

Craig Pinhey, an award-winning author on beer, as well as a member of the Guild of Beer Writers, said the Canadian beer identity is largely over-blown by the advertising campaigns run by the bigger breweries. "They're just bullshit commercials. We're not very high up there in the world of per capita beer drinking. "

Jeff Armour, site manager at The Wave, agreed Canadian consumption is low. "Drinking has decreased because it is not the cool thing to do anymore," he said.

Twenty years ago, everyone used to have four or five drinks at the bar, but now there is only the semi-alcoholic who does not stop and the non-drinker, he explained. Armour attributed the shift to an increase in the availability of drugs to younger students.

Gazette file photo
SOON TO BE ON THE NEW CANADIAN FIVE DOLLAR COIN. Bob and Doug Mckenzie -- beer swilling fools and national icons (many would argue both are one and the same).

Despite the decline in alcohol consumption, drinking has been a concern during Orientation week. "Last year, we sat down as Orientation staff and decided to go with an entirely dry program," said VP-student affairs, Wes Brown. Sophs were challenged to be creative and develop other innovative events, Brown added.

"There is a lot of liability involved with a whole week of programming when it surrounds alcohol," Brown said, noting a multitude of things can go wrong, even without the complication of intoxicants.

However, it is difficult to avoid beer when students are inundated with mass advertising. "Our main target audience is the 19 to 24-year-old demographic," said Michelle Robichaud, a spokesperson for Molson Canada. "We like to sponsor entertainment, culture, sports, music and television programming – anything that caters to that age group."

"Most beer drinkers form their loyalty at a young age," she said. "We need to create a bond between the product and the individual."

She said Molson will continue to promote their product through advertisements which centre around national pride and aim to touch Canadian heart-strings, such as the famous "Joe Canadian rant."

"It certainly raised awareness of Molson Canadian outside of this country," she explained.

Robichaud said she did not think beer references in Canadian and American pop-culture such as the film Strange Brew, or college party films such as American Pie, make a huge difference in beer sales across Canada.

According to Kyle Winston, a member of the Inter-fraternity Council at Western, contrary to the popular Animal House stereotype, many fraternities at Western have decided to keep dry houses. This means there is no alcohol allowed on their property.

Winston said most fraternities have alcohol at outside events one to two times per week, but the Animal House image is inaccurate. "We hold a level of prestige, like a gentlemen's club, where we interact with other people," he said. "Of course, we do have parties and we like to have fun, but we are responsible about it."

Frank Robert, head of marketing and promotions for Labatt Brewing Company Ltd. in London, said both Labatt and Molson tend to advertise to Canadians through "things which happen in their daily lives" as well as catering to their nationalistic fervor.

"Canadian beer – it's a brand which identifies with our consumers," he said. "Sometimes [Canadians] take for granted the quality of Canadian beer."

Paul Whitehead, professor of sociology at Western, said Molson has always carried a beer called "Canadian," but is just now tapping into the nationalism associated with the name.

There are a variety of images and symbols important to our culture and beer is one of those that has made its way into mainstream pop culture, he added.

"The big companies push stereotypes and popular lies with their images of Canadian beer," Pinhey said. "We think we're different – I don't think we are. The biggest budget in [all] advertising goes into marketing beer."

Whitehead agreed the major companies not only target the younger market with advertising, but further reach out to them with contests and free give-aways.

"The average dork is still drinking Canadian and Blue because they sponsor everything. People drink it because [sometimes] it's the only choice."

To Contact The Campus and Culture Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2001