Is the Molson’s (Canadian) beer sold in the U.S. watered down?

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Dear Cecil: My husband and I moved to the U.S. from Canada three years ago. The last thing my sister said to me before we left was, “My condolences on the American beer.” At the time I thought she was being funny, but after sampling several of the local varieties of what passes for beer around here, I began to realize what she meant. Finally, in a fit of nostalgia, I bought some Molson’s Canadian, at twice the price of American domestic. You can imagine my disappointment at the discovery that it did not taste the same as the Molson’s Canadian I had known and loved at home. The same thing seemed to hold true for European beers. So my question is this: Does my jaded palate deceive me, or is the beer exported to the U.S. by Canada and other countries in fact different from what they sell at home under the same label? I am sure you can appreciate the international significance of this issue. Mr. and Mrs. Puzzled Canuck, Chicago


Illustration by Slug Signorino

Cecil replies:

Listen, acid rain is nothing compared to this. For what it’s worth, a taste panel organized by James Robertson, author of The Great American Beer Book, agreed with your low opinion of the Molson sold in the U.S. When asked about this, Martlet Importing Company, which handles Molson’s U.S. sales, claimed the American and Canadian versions were identical when brewed, and said that any differences arose from the fact that beer is perishable, and can go stale in the time it takes to reach American supermarket shelves.

To check this, Robertson procured samples of Molson Ale, Golden Ale, and Canadian in Montreal and had the taste panel compare them to samples of the same Molson products that had just arrived in New Jersey. Except for one batch of U.S. Molson Ale, which was described as “skunky,” the panelists agreed the fresh U.S. and Canadian versions were virtually identical, the one difference being that the Canadian stuff, which came in cans, was more carbonated than the bottled U.S. variety.

Seems to me we can draw one of two lessons from this: either there’s something about merely living in the U.S. that dulls the tastebuds, or else your memory of the beer you drank in Canada is a little rosier than the reality warrants.

Cecil Adams

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