The Canadian Myth

I was up in Ontario for a wedding, in the beautiful Niagara wine region, this past summer, and got to try a number of different wines. It was a marvelous location, and the wines, mostly Rieslings, were quite good. However, I was eager to try the beer.

From days long gone, I had heard that Canadian lagers were all higher alcohol than their American counterparts. That is, if I purchased a Molson in Buffalo, it would have 1–2% less alcohol than one purchased less than 10 miles to the north. I went to a state college in New York, so this was a big deal. There were legends abound about intrepid 19 year-olds (the drinking age was less there, too!) taking beer runs to Canada just for that small increase in potential.

Of course, now, I am a consumer in a nation of craft brewing, where supermarkets sell beers with varying amounts of alcohol, and where I can pick up barley wines with alcohol contents in the double digits. But realize, in those days, college kids were maximizing their potential alcohol per dollar spent. Cheap-ass Canadian beer was a siren’s song.

So, when I finally made it to Canada, I couldn’t resist. I wanted to get my hands on that 6 or 7% alcohol version of Molson when I was up there. I sidled up to my hotel’s bar and asked, “What’s the percentage of alcohol in that lager?” Oddly, it wasn’t a question often asked, since the bartender had to look it up.

“5%,” she discovered. Huh, I thought. Well, let me ask about these others.

A full pint of Creemore Springs Premium Lager

Creemore Springs Premium Lager, which is perfectly normal in alcohol content, thank you.

And I did, but disappointingly, the Canadian beers all had the same amount of alcohol as their American versions, even the goddamn Molson. It’s possible that there was a time when Canadian beers were higher in alcohol, but not in this century. My friends, I lost a bit of my childhood, that day.

So, instead I tried a Creemore Springs Premium Lager. As far as I know, it’s only available in Canada. It’s somewhere in the 4.5–5.5% range, as are almost all lagers. I remember it was nice and crisp and clean, but I took no notes to properly review it later. All I have is the bittersweet memory of a fading youthful belief, and a blurry photo of the pint glass that I was served.