Canadian Government Broadens Beer Definition

News by | Jan 2015 | Issue #96

The Canadian government has recently updated the country’s “Beer Standards of Identity,” the definition used to determine if a beverage can be labeled and sold as beer.

According to a statement by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the new standard aims to “remove the red tape for the beer industry” by “expanding the definition of beer to allow for non-traditional ingredients such as spices and fruit.”

While many breweries agree that loosening regulations is good for business, others worry these changes may lead to a less accurate depiction of products offered for sale.

“We’ve never had an issue making the beers that we want to make using ‘non-traditional’ ingredients like chocolate, fruit, tobacco and spices,” says  John Graham, owner and head brewer of Church-Key Brewing in Campbellford, Ontario. “We—mainly for marketing reasons—proudly told consumers that these ingredients were in the beer. The consumer then could make informed decisions.”

“The wording of the new standards could allow less ethical brewers to add ingredients that are then not disclosed to the consumer,” Graham continues. “This opens the door to artificial flavors, GMO ingredients and intentional misrepresentation, like a pumpkin beer that doesn’t contain pumpkin, or a nutmeg beer only using synthesized nutmeg flavoring.”

Neil Herbst, founder and co-owner of Alley Kat Brewing in Edmonton, Alberta, echoes this sentiment. “I don’t believe that the updated law will affect us in any way,” he says. “It’s really targeted at malt-based coolers, and was done largely at the behest of Canada’s multinational brewers.”