An interesting observation from Stephen Cavan of the Saskatchewan's Paddock Wood Brewing Company:
"If other breweries do feel an opening up on creativity and they start doing more flavourful, distinctive beers -- that's really good for the consumer." But Cavan cautioned that, in his view, there has to be minimum standards on some key ingredients for anything that wants to rightfully be called 'beer.' He said a failure to preserve some sort of baseline could see Canada go down the same watery road pursued by big brewhouses in the United States. "Some of the large industrial beers don't use any malted barley at all. Just corn and rice. They're just making water," he said.
What is this about? Well, in the Federal budget speech this week, the government announced it would allow more ingredients to be used in beer and still qualify under the law as beer. It's tiny news because it is not a budget item, just a tweek of a definition and not really a matter of financial consequence to the nation. A puff thrown into an otherwise dull speech that lead to not all that much. The "look - a kitten!" of budget day remarks.
There was much positive reaction from the lamb shank stout and spruce twig and bark IPA set. Cavan, on the other hand, makes a wiser observation. And, no, it is not the casual US bash that ignores Canada's proud role in the development of bulk international macro gak. It's that beer must mean something that can't be deviated too far from. It must in its core be more than just any low alcohol fluid, preferably founded on malted barley or in a pinch wheat. Actually, wheat played a bigger role in early beer around here so that pinch could well be applied any way if done with integrity. But that is not Cavan's point. Beer is something that can be lost in sugar syrups as much as hipster adjunct which, when placed in solution, taste exactly like they taste like.
The law as it stands today reflects two things: a list of permitted ingredients and the idea that beer is worth protecting by formal enforceable definition. And if it is worth defining it must be something worth protecting. So, what is it?