Canadian Government: If it’s a Fermented Liquid, Call it a Beer

Lavender, strawberries, quinoa, avocado – if it’s fermented with yeast, you can call it a cold one.

That’s more or less what the Canadian government is proposing in a new push to revise beer standards. Federal officials are looking to expand the number of ingredients in brew that would still allow the beverage to be considered beer. Additionally, brewers will be required to list every ingredient used in the brewing process.

The motivation is the explosion of craft breweries and hipster ales that fall beyond the boundaries of what’s currently understood to be a beer. There are now more than 750 breweries across Canada, with more than 7,000 beer brands at our disposal. The changes are being proposed in the name of innovation.

“It allows [brewers] to hold on to what is traditionally thought of as a beer while at the same time allowing them to innovate within that category,” said Luke Harford, president of Beer Canada.

Currently, a beer is defined as such when it “possesses the aroma, taste and character commonly attributed to beer.” While there has always been some leeway – Bud Light Lime, which does none of the above, is considered a “beer,” for example – I believe the proposed changes afford a little too much flexibility. Sure, it’s nice to allow for experimentation, but we’re getting awfully close to blurring the lines between, say, an avant-garde milk and beer.

Germany, by contrast, has 500-year-old law called the Reinheitsgebot, or German Purity Law, that says a beverage can only contain water, barley, and hops if it wants to be officially considered a beer.

We should probably aim for somewhere in between.