Anything But The Beer

Monday, July 26, 2004


Written by Kyle Lambert

Yesterday, Canadian brewing giant Molson announced that it had entered into a $6-billion merger with American company Adolph Coors Co. The announcement ended what was essentially a week of speculation about the joint beer producing venture and created one of the biggest brewing companies in the world. Both Coors and Molson stated that the move would be good for business and would not impact the wonderful quality products which each one markets – though many beer drinkers may argue that quality is not the best description of many Molson and Coors products.

Before this article turns into a story best read in the business section of a national newspaper, I suppose I should get to my reasons for writing about the great beer merger. From everything I’ve read and heard about this story, it seems that Canadians are quite worried about losing full ownership of something so important to Canada as Molson beer. Well have no fear Canada, because beer isn’t important. I’m the first to admit that I found the Joe Canadian ads amusing, but I’m also the first to snicker when they are used to describe Canadian culture. For some reason Canadians seem to identify with the two giant Canuck-owned brewing companies as though they are members of some greater family. While we look at other major companies like Nike as nothing but a cash-seeking pariah (not that it stops many from buying their products), Canadians have this incredible ability to view multi-million dollar beer companies above the basic of capital-producing enterprises. Ask just about anyone on the street to associate a word or two with Molson or Labatt and I highly doubt they’ll say “money” or “artificial culture-producing crap”. Maybe its their affiliation with hockey that makes us treat Canadian brewing giants like friendly neighbours. Whatever it is, this notion of beer as culture is foolish.

There are many more important cultural commodities in Canada that are routinely being Americanized. Not too long ago was Nestle Pure Life water called “Aberfoyle Springs”, named after that small town in which the wells are located. It seems to me that many Canadians love to tout our rich resources as one of their country’s greatest assets. However, apart from a few small complaints, I heard very little outrage about Nestle’s acquisition of Aberfoyle Springs. Call me crazy but foreign ownership of our water supplies should be a little more troubling than foreign ownership of our beer companies. The presence of American retail giant and known slayer of locally-owned businesses Walmart has bothered a few in Guelph, but not enough to avoid having one of those chilling big box malls in many Canadian cities. Nearly every store in those malls is American-owned, yet people flock to their sales everyday without a thought. Oh well, as long as Molson and Labatt remain Canadian our culture is safe.

I’m not trying to put down beer drinkers who prefer to buy a Canadian beverage at their favourite pub or at the good old Beer Store. I’m the last person who should be criticizing anyone for seeking Canadian beer. Believe me, I’m a big fan of Sleeman, Alexander Keiths etc. My problem is the wicked double standard that beer companies are allotted. Their slick advertising has managed to somehow make many Canadians equated their citizenship with beer, as if drinking Molson Export is the equivalent of tattooing a Maple Leaf on one’s proverbial ass. At a time when Canadians should be concerned about foreign acquisition of our water and resources supplies, we are up in arms about a joint, cross-border beer merger. Come on folks, let get our priorities straight.

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