Volume 95, Issue 84

Wednesday, March 13, 2002
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Vaadering unclear about What Lies Beneath his art

Student filmmakers get festive

Brewed in Canada paints beer history

Shaggy recycles some classics

Brewed in Canada paints beer history

Brewed in Canada
Allen Winn Sneath

The Dundurn Group

By Colin Butler
Gazette Staff

Ah, beer – is there anything it can't do?

In Canada, this statement should be the national motto. Beer offered the early settlers a potable drinking source and prevented scurvy. Today, as various t-shirt slogans profess, beer allows ugly people to get laid and allows much needed relief from thinking. Beer was and continues to be a staple of survival and will continue to shape Canadian history.

Allen Winn Sneath's book Brewed in Canada acquaints those of the alcoholic intelligentsia with the "untold story" of Canada's 350-year-old brewing industry."

Sneath sees beer as an important cultural icon in Canada like hockey, adding the brewing industry represents 1.3 per cent of this country's gross national product and produces approximately 98 per cent of the $6 billion worth of beer for Canadian consumers every year.

As you've probably already guessed, Brewed in Canada deals mostly with the business history of beer and reads more like a textbook than a good novel.

Sneath recounts that the first beer ever recorded in the New World was brewed by natives and was given to Jacques Cartier and his hearty crew to combat scurvy.

Brewed in Canada also tells tales of business moguls who helped define the major brands we see in Canada today, profiling such national heroes as Alexander Keith, John Molson, John Labatt and John Sleeman.

Many of them like Keith – famous for his India Pale Ale – made huge fortunes from the art of brewing and used their money to become leaders in the business community.

One of the more interesting parts of the book is a chapter dealing with the rise of the temperance movement and Prohibition. Sneath offers a noteworthy story of how many Ontario breweries survived the Prohibition years and still managed to sell their brew.

He details mail-order beer – a way around the Ontario Temperance Act. According to the act, brewing and possession of beer was not illegal, provided it contained 2.5 per cent alcohol or less. Ontario drinkers could write to a middle-man in Quebec or the United States with an order of beer because it was not illegal to buy beer outside Ontario.

Brewed in Canada contains many interesting tidbits of Canadian brewing history, but tends to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of the business of things – more colourful facts are few and far between. They represent few oases in the desert of Sneath's arid writing style.

This book should only be read by die-hard boozers or history buffs.

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