“I am whatever you say I am, if I wasn’t then why would I say I am…”

by Katie Pizzuto on June 16, 2011

in beer,Uncategorized

Their bottle-neck dangler screams “Canada” at all points, and pushes the idea of “microbrewery” with every turn of phrase. Wherever you look on the bottle, the words “Nova Scotia” seem to appear. If you are privy to the press release (which the average consumer wouldn’t come across) you’ll stumble on the fact that, although it’s a Canadian brewery that’s being fabled, the beers in your hand were brewed in Baldwinsville, NY. That, in and of itself wouldn’t be the end of the world, were it not for the fact that the bottles all say that the beer is brewed in St. Louis, MO. Then BAM, it hits you across the face like a lead-knuckled glove…or at least it should hit you the moment you hear “St Louis, MO” and “beer” mentioned in the same sentence.

Alexander Keith’s is easily one of North America’s oldest breweries, having been established in 1820 in Novia Scotia. Now, after…what…almost 2 centuries, they’ve decided to sell beer stateside. The three beers available here aren’t sold in Canada, though—they were created specifically for US sale and are being marketed as “Novia Scotia Style” lager, pale ale and brown ale, whatever the hell that means. Mind you, I gave no thought to any of this as we cracked them open last Friday evening…my disappointment was purely reactionary to the flavor, or lack thereof. My tasting notes included thoughts like “light head, short finish, only mildly bitter (for the pale), flaccid, typical chugging lager.” I was utterly, deeply, fucking disappointed because I was expecting micro and I was given goliath—classic bait and switch. And I was even more disappointed because I had emailed their PR contact beforehand, offering suggestions on how to better reach American beer bloggers and therefore the American market. Ugh.

Then I began reading the literature: “noble hops”, “two-row malt” and “cascade hops”…and at about the same time my husband asked me why it said “St. Louis, MO” on the bottle if I had just gotten done mentioning that it was brewed in New York. “I dunno” was the immediate answer but it pissed me off because I knew what “St. Louis, MO” was always prefaced by: “Anheuser-Busch”. And I was right. I’m always right. But sometimes it sucks being right.

If Alexander Keith’s wants to sell themselves to A-B, that’s a perfectly legitimate choice. I don’t begrudge anyone the hope of expansion…of prosperity…of growth. But we’re being sold the idea of “old Scottish brewer making craft beer in Canada” and getting “American brewer making mass-produced beer in New York and calling it Canadian-style” (A-B owns a brewery in Baldwinsville, which is how they get away with avoiding the mention of St. Louis in their press releases and sell sheets). They are banking on the fact that you’ll assume you’re getting an Alexander Keith’s original recipe. They are sure that you won’t notice that all 3 beers, regardless of style, have the exact same ABV (5.4%). And they’ll bet the farm that you won’t ever, ever, ever associate this brand with the likes of Budweiser and family. But this isn’t anything more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and although they have every right to push the envelope of truth in marketing, I have every right to call bullshit.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nyplayful1 June 16, 2011

First time I even heard of these guys. Might be the last time too. Love your writing! “sucks being right” 😉


2 Larry June 16, 2011

Thanks 2 million for the heads up. Avoid like plague. Got it. Thanks to you and your husband for falling on this grenade for us.


3 Katie Pizzuto June 16, 2011

The slings and arrows I suffer for you guys! Geez! Seriously, stay far away from these…utter disappointment.


4 coupe 60 June 16, 2011

Wow Katie…Great expose…That kinda bullshit really pisses me off. You have to think it violates some kind of truth in advertising law somewhere….


5 Katie Pizzuto June 16, 2011

The biggest irony in all this is that if you look closely at the label it contains to latin words: Veritas Vincit. Know what that means? Truth Conquers.


6 coupe 60 June 16, 2011

and because I think like a 14 year old…

“light head, short finish, only mildly bitter (for the pale), flaccid,”

Still talking about the beer right? Or did you have two disappointments in the same evening…



7 Katie Pizzuto June 16, 2011

LOL, I often use flaccid as a descriptive term for beer and wine, and I find that most men cringe when I use it.


8 PintofStout June 16, 2011

Why does A-B hate beer? I’m pretty sure a parallel can be drawn between the watering down of our culture – from most television to food to beer – and the industrialization if it all. Industrialize and mass-produce the hamburger and you get McDonalds. Industrialize and mass-produce entertainment and you get mind-numbing reality television. Industrialize and mass-produce politics and you get our current long-running farce.
I don’t mean to try and say small is better, because that would be the wrong correlation. Rather, craft and care taken for the sake of the product rather than a pure profit motive just seems to work on a small scale, though larger scale are surely possible. Anyway, buyer beware and all that.

“How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.”
— Edward Abbey


9 Katie Pizzuto June 16, 2011

1. Love the quote.
2. “Buyer beware” is exactly why I wrote this. What began as a simple “please review our beers” took a huge turn.
3. Agree on all points. Small doesn’t necessarily mean good, but growth is a very fuzzy line to walk when you are making craft brews. At least with McDonalds and the like, consumers already know they are getting a compromised product, most just don’t care. With beers like this, they dress themselves up to look small, in the hopes of fooling the consumer. They’ve been doing it for years.


10 PintofStout June 16, 2011

Drives you to drink, doesn’t it?


11 Katie Pizzuto June 16, 2011

Hah! Yeah….bourbon 🙂


12 FrankoT June 16, 2011

In Canada, AK used to be a big indie, but now it is owned by Labatt, itself part of mega-group Anheuser Busch Inbev, based in Belgium. Ah, the ramifications! Calling their ordinary swill “craft-brewed” is like calling Stella Artois an “import”! It is all part of the plan to flood the market with product in the hopes of hurting the real craft brewers. Another technique (thinking of Molson) is buying microbreweries in order to reach, as they say, the “specialty market”. In other words, they’re too lazy or set in their ugly ways to try and brew some real or even decent beer!


13 castello June 17, 2011

Devious Bastards! Like you said they’ve been getting away with it for years and taking up more valuable shelf space in the stores.


14 kid rock August 27, 2011

wait what


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