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Canada: Beer, Eh?

Canada, for all its geographic proximity, has a very different beer scene when compared to that of the United States. Most beer connoisseurs will attest to the fact that the mass-market Canadian pale lagers, if not the world’s greatest examples of the brewer’s art, are somewhat stronger and more full-bodied than their U.S. counterparts. Many also swear that they are better when sampled in Canada than when exported south of the border.

Many of Canada’s provinces are subjected to a provincial government monopoly on beer distribution and retail beer sales. This can, however, allow for the rapid growth of microbreweries, as a successful relationship with the only show in town, a provincial liquor board, permits instant market penetration. It is interesting to note, however, that Quebec, one of the provinces with an independent retail sector, boasts the liveliest and most colorful craft-brewing scene in Canada, with British Columbia, similarly unregulated, not far behind. Unibroue from Chambly, Quebec, has been recognized by the Beverage Testing Institute and many other critics internationally for their outstanding range of Belgian-style ales. McAuslan of Montreal boasts an excellent range of more Anglo-styled ales, which are also found in a number of U.S. markets.

Beyond the artisanal products that are only a drop in the bucket of Canadian beer exports, most consumers encounter Canadian beer in the form of Labatts, Molson, or Moosehead, the three best-known Canadian brands in the United States. Additionally, a considerable amount of beer from other countries is brewed under license in Canada: Guinness of Ireland, Foster’s of Australia, and Carlsberg of Denmark are three well-known brands. Consumers may often not be aware that they are drinking Canadian-brewed beer, as, typically, these brands have the word "Import" emblazoned in larger characters than the words "Brewed in Canada." Such are the subtleties of international beer brands.

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