Oh, Canada Day: Friends, Neighbours, Partners, Allies

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This is somewhat of an inside joke. When I was in D.C. a few years ago for the Craft Brewers Conference, I went for a long walk around the city, a little sightseeing. I made my way past the Canadian Embassy, in part because I had been invited to an event there later that same night by my good friend Stephen Beaumont, and I wanted to know where I would be going so as not to get lost. As I ambled past the embassy, I noticed four sleeves on four columns, part of a circular ring of columns, in front of the building. On each, was a word expressing the nature of Canada’s special relationship with America: Friends, Neighbours, Partners, Allies.

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I chuckled to myself, but for some reason it stuck in my mind and when I saw Stephen later that day, I badgered him incessantly, repeating to him — in a low, serious voice — Friends … Neighbours … Partners … Allies. I changed the delivery, the emphasis and inflection, each time, like an actor trying out different versions searching for just the right one. If it was funny the first time (and I say charitably it was), by the fiftieth, Stephen’s patience was wearing understandably thin. But I was too far gone, it was an earworm caught in my head like an annoying song that you can’t stop from replaying over and over again until you want to scream. To his credit, he suffered through it for the next few days until the conference was over. But seeing that today is Canada Day, it brought back those four little words and so I’d like to say to everyone I know in Canada: “Happy Canada Day to my Friends … Neighbours … Partners … Allies!”

Historic Beer Birthday: Emil G. Sick

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Today is the birthday of Emil George Sick (June 3, 1894-November 10, 1964). Sick was the “son of Canadian brewer Fritz Sick, who built Sick’s Lethbridge Brewery.”
“He was a brewing worker and industrialist in Canada and later the US. He is well known for his involvement as owner of baseball teams and stadiums in Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia from the 1930s until 1960.

He was chairman of the board of Sick’s Rainier Brewing Company and president of Sicks’ Brewery Enterprises, Inc., both of Seattle, and a director of three other firms, Molson’s Brewery, Ltd., and Sicks’ Breweries, Ltd., both of Canada, and the Peoples National Bank of Washington. He also was a director of the Seattle World’s Fair.”

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Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Sportsman. Northwest baseball pioneer. Former owner of the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Rainiers. He constructed Sick’s Seattle Stadium which opened in June 1938 and served as home to the Seattle Rainiers, Seattle Angels and the 1969 major league Seattle Pilots. He rose to prominence in the brewing industry along with his father Fritz, operating breweries in Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Great Falls, Spokane and the Rainier Brewery in Seattle. Active in civic affairs, he served as president of both the Seattle Historical Society and Seattle Chamber of Commerce. He was also instrumental in the founding of the King County Blood Bank and as chairman of the Washington State March of Dimes.

“In 1934 the Sicks made their most important transaction. It would transform Emil Sick into one of Seattle’s most significant citizens and impact the game of baseball in the state for decades. They acquired exclusive rights to sell the Rainier brand in Washington and Alaska from the Rainier Brewing Company of San Francisco.”

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And this is his obituary from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on November 11, 1964 edition, from his Brewery Gems.

Emil G. Sick, 70, long-time Seattle civic and business leader, died early yesterday morning in Swedish Hospital of a stroke following an operation. Mr. Sick had been in failing health recently but had continued to take an active part in his numerous and varied business interests in, the United States and Canada.

He was chairman of the board of Sick’s Rainier Brewing Co. and president of Sicks’ Brewery Enterprises, Inc., both of Seattle, and a director of three other firms, Molson’s Brewery, Ltd., and Sicks’ Breweries, Ltd., both of Canada, and the Peoples National Bank of Washington. He also was a director of the Seattle World’s Fair.

Mr. Sick was equally well known for his leadership in civic activities. He led two successful $100,000 fund raising drives. One played a leading role in saving St. Mark’s Cathedral. As chairman of the non – denominational committee, he saw $100,000 collected to wipe out the church’s debts and beautify the picturesque building.

As president of the Seattle Historical Society, Mr. Sick led the drive which collected $100,000 for construction of the Museum of History and Industry.

Mr. Sick was a long-time leader of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president in 1941. Thirteen, years later he was elected an honorary life-time member.

Mr. Sick entered the brewery business as a shipping clerk with Lethbridge Breweries, Ltd., in Alberta, Canada, which was founded and owned by his father.

In the following years he headed numerous corporations which operated breweries in Spokane; Salem, Ore.; Missoula and Great Falls, Mont.; Vancouver, B.C.; Edmonton and Lethbridge, Alta., and Prince Albert and Regina, Sask. Some of these later were closed or sold.

In 1937, Mr. Sick purchased the Seattle Rainier baseball club and a year later built the stadium which bears his name. The club was sold in 1960. He also was past state chairman of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and was a founder of the King County Central Blood Bank.

In 1949, Mr. Sick became the first Washingtonian to be named for the Disabled American’s Veteran’s award for outstanding civic leadership. And he was named Greater Seattle’s First Citizen in Sports for 1963.

Mr. Sick was born June 3, 1894, in Tacoma. He attended Western Canada College, Calgary, and Stanford University. He resided at 260-39th Ave. E.

He married Kathleen Thelma McPhee in 1918. She died in 1962, and last December he married Mrs. Martha Gardner, widow of a Seattle business leader.

Survivors include his wife, Martha; sister, Mrs. J. A. Blair, Vancouver, B.C.; three daughters, Mrs. Chandler Thomas, Guatemala City, Guatemala; Mrs. Robert Minton, Concord, Mass.; and Mrs. Winston Ingman, Mercer Island; a son, Timothy Sick, London, England; an adopted son, Alan Ferguson, Seattle, and 16 grandchildren.”

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ABI To Introduce Budweiser Prohibition Brew, Non-Alcoholic Bud

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Anheuser-Busch InBev is introducing a new non-alcoholic beer, at least in Canada (for now), called Budweiser Prohibition Brew. According to AdAge:

Budweiser is introducing a buzz-free version in Canada. The new non-alcoholic beer is called Budweiser Prohibition Brew. It could enter other countries, including the U.S. “Budweiser Prohibition Brew is only available in Canada for now, but we’re excited by the prospect that it could eventually be offered in the U.S., the birthplace of Budweiser, sometime in the future,” said Ricardo Marques, VP for Bud in the U.S.

The beer “leverages the latest de-alcoholization technology to create a beer that has 0.0% alcohol by volume and yet delivers the great taste of Budweiser,” according to Budweiser Canada. It is “an ideal choice for a work lunch or casual afternoon with friends, as well as designated drivers and people with active lifestyles,” said Kyle Norrington, vice president, marketing for Labatt, which is the Canadian division of Anheuser-Busch InBev. In the U.S., A-B InBev currently markets the non-alcoholic O’Doul’s brand.

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It certainly seems like ABI is beginning to take some radical marketing steps recently. First, there was renaming Budweiser as “America” and now using the Budweiser brand for a non-alcoholic beer, both of which seem like steps the old management would never have taken, because of concerns of harming the core brand perception. But ABI, of course, has no loyalty to the brand, or indeed anything, as long as profit can be squeezed out of it. Their approach seems more like a scorched earth way of thinking.

And we still haven’t seen what they’re planning to do, if anything, with all of the area codes that they tried to trademark. And you know there’s an end game with all of the acquisitions of smaller breweries they’ve been buying up. If history is any judge, the last time there were over 4,000 breweries, consolidation was rampant in the next few decades, and by 1900 — just 25 years after the high point — there were only a little more than 1,800. And by the time Prohibition took effect, there were less than 700, which represents only 17% of the 4,131 in 1873. So there is some precedent to watch out for, consolidation is nothing new. Some is inevitable due to market forces, the fact that not every brewery can compete in their local market for a variety of reasons (quality of their beer, business acumen, etc.), but sometimes its predatory as a way to squash competition. The next decade will certainly be enlightening as everything plays out.

Here’s the reaction from the Canadian press, or at least the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post.

Beerish Birthday: Nathan Fillion

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This is not, strictly speaking, a beer birthday, which is why I called it a “beerish” one, but my wife and I are both Browncoats, fans of the criminally short-lived television show Firefly. Like many Browncoats, we’ve continued to follow its cast members, especially the star of Firefly, and its companion film Serenity, Nathan Fillion. Today is Nathan Fillion’s 45th birthday.

Fillion is currently one of the stars of the hit TV show on ABC: Castle, which is now in its seventh season. He was also Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog (in fact a few years ago in All About Beer magazine’s “It’s My Round” when I wrote Living In The Silver Age, the photo showed me wearing a Captain Hammer t-shirt). Some of Fillion’s films include Waitress and Slither, and he was the “wrong” Ryan in Saving Private Ryan. Some of his television appearances include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Drive and Desperate Housewives, and he got his start on the soap opera One Life To Live.

Before he’d had a hit TV series, my wife attended a Firefly convention in Los Angeles and Fillion not only attended it but was at one of the after parties that she was involved in. Thanks to me, she brought the beer — a collection of whatever I could part with from the cellar at that time. Sarah snapped a photo of Fillion drinking one of those beers, Drake’s IPA, through a curly straw. Join me in wishing Nathan a very happy birthday. And if you aren’t watching Castle or haven’t seen Firefly, you owe it to yourself to right that wrong.

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Storm Brewing Releases $1,000 Beer Bottle

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I suspect that by the time you read this, all ten bottles of the newest release from Storm Brewing, of East Vancouver in British Columbia, will already have been sold, despite the hefty $1,000 per bottle price tag. The new beer is Glacial Mammoth Extinction, and is described on Storm’s website. Essentially it’s a sour beer that, according to brewer James Walton, was frozen “into one big, solid ice cube at -30 degrees Celsius, a process that took him about a month to complete.” Then the water was removed, and the remaining liquid was “aged in French oak barrels for two years until it was ready.”

Part of the expense of the beer is the packaging, with a hand-blown glass bottle fashioned by a local artist, using a 14K gold clasp and 35,000-year-old ivory for the pendant hanging from the neck of the bottle. The beer weighs in at almost 25% a.b.v. and is described as “quite sweet, almost like a port.”

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The Beer: The Glacial Mammoth Extinction is the first beer of its kind (in the world!!) and the result of freezing a strong sour beer to -30C in two stages over a one month period. The sweet alcoholic liquid was separated from the extinct ice glacier that was left in the tank and then aged in French oak barrels for two years until it was ready. The final product is a rich, complex, and viscous 100% malt beverage that resembles Port more than beer.

ALCOHOL – 25% ABV
RESIDUAL SUGAR – 80grams per litre
VOLUME PRODUCED – 400 litres

The Brewery: For over 20 years brewer James Walton and the Storm Brewing team have been bringing Vancouverites innovative and unpretentious craft beer. James is hailed as a craft beer pioneer by both media and trade and is proud to be one of the very first brewers in North America to brew sour beer. The brewery sits at the corner of Commercial Drive and Franklin Street in gritty East Vancouver and is considered a “must-visit” destination by craft beer fans worldwide.

The $1000 Bottles: A total of ten bottles were designed and made of hand blown glass by Terminal City Glass Co-op’s Brad Turner. Adorning these bottles are one of a kind prehistoric mammoth ivory pendants made by local sculptor Richard Marcus. The ivory used for these pendants is from a tusk estimated to be 35,000 years old and they are complimented with a 14K gold clasp. Both of these East Vancouver artists are renowned for their craft and their studios are located within walking distance from the brewery.

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Beer In Ads #1749: Putting A Schooner In A Bottle Is Skilled Work


Friday’s ad is for Oland’s Schooner Lager Beer, from 1967. The Oland Brewery is from Nova Scotia, Canada, though today it’s owned by Labatt Brewing, and ultimately ABI. The tagline, “putting a Schooner in a bottle is skilled work,” plays nicely on the beer’s name and follows through with the punchline at the bottom, “taking it out is pure pleasure.”

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Beer In Ads #1710: Let’s Get Together With A Friendly ’50’ Ale


Friday’s ad is for Labatt’s ’50’ Ale, from 1956. This is another example of my theory that beer in the Fifties was much more “friendly” than today. I keep finding examples of beer companies at that time describing their beer as “friendly” in advertising, but this is the first Canadian example I’ve come across. I do love the backyard party scene, such a happy-looking gathering. How friendly, just like the beer.

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Beer In Ads #1707: You’d Almost Think It Flew Away …


Tuesday’s ad is for Moosehead, from 1955. With a moose up a tree, perched above them, two hunters are stumped as to what happened to the animal they were tracking. “You’d Almost Think It Flew Away ….” The footprints just stopped. These are apparently not the smartest hunters in the Maritimes. One too many Mooseheads, I suspect.

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Labatt Breweries Buys Mill Street

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This morning, Labatt Breweries, itself part of the family of brands owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, announced that they were purchasing Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery.

From the press release:

Labatt Breweries of Canada today announced that it has purchased Mill Street Brewery, an award-winning craft brewer based in Toronto. The deal will allow Mill Street to deepen its traction with consumers in the fast growing craft beer segment, where it has an extraordinary variety of unique beers, as well as brew pubs in both Toronto and Ottawa. To help achieve this, Labatt will immediately invest $10 million in Mill Street’s Toronto brewery, which includes a state-of-the-art brewhouse and packaging capabilities.

“Mill Street has continually distinguished itself with its energy and success in innovation, and powerful commitment to great-tasting quality beer,” said Labatt president Jan Craps. “Our partnership and investment will accelerate its growth in one of the most dynamic beer segments, while fully preserving Mill Street’s creative character and pioneering spirit.”

“With the success of Mill Street has come the challenge of serving a growing demand for our brands,” said Irvine Weitzman, Mill Street CEO, who will continue with Mill Street along with co-founder Steve Abrams and famed brewmaster Joel Manning. “Our partnership with Labatt is a natural evolution in our growth that will allow more Canadians to enjoy our beer and secure the legacy of our brands by allowing us to remain focused on the authentic characteristics that have made Mill Street what it is today.”

Founded in Toronto’s Distillery District in 2002, Mill Street is an award-winning craft brewery and the largest producer of certified organic beer in Canada. It has won numerous beer quality awards including the Canadian Brewery of the Year Award in three consecutive years. Core brands include Ontario’s first organic beer, Mill Street Original Organic Lager, along with 100th Meridian, Tankhouse Ale, and Cobblestone Stout. The brewer is also renowned for permanent specialties including a strong golden ale Betelgeuse, an Irish-style red ale Bob’s Bearded Red and nitrogen-charged Vanilla Porter, as well as for several small-batch specialty beers.

“Throughout our history, our dedication to our craft and our passion for pushing the envelope have allowed Mill Street to make waves in Canada’s craft beer segment,” said Abrams. “We are excited about the prospect of working with Labatt to build even further on our successes and sharing our brands with more beer lovers across Canada.”

Mill Street brands will continue to be brewed under the expertise of brewmaster Joel Manning.
“This investment in a state-of-the-art brewhouse that Mill Street will run on a stand-alone basis positions us to reach the very top of our craft,” added Manning. “We couldn’t be more pleased by this fantastic opportunity to further entrench our reputation for innovation and quality, and bring more great brands to more consumers.”

Labatt and Mill Street Brewery announce purchase agreement
From left to right: Irvine Weitzman, Mill Street CEO, Jan Craps, President of Labatt, Joel Manning, Brewmaster at Mill Street, and Steve Abrams, Co-Founder of Mill Street. (CNW Group/Labatt Breweries of Canada)