Comedy·CBC TELEVISION

American beer not even worthy to flush: Newfoundland's 'Son of Critch' tells the truth

It was imported beer or no beer in 1985, as workers at the big three breweries across Canada went on strike. Some beer drinkers even turned to home brewing kits to make their own beer, while independents like Amstel Brewery in Hamilton saw hundreds line up for hours.

There are few things all Canadians agree on, except for one: American beer is piss.

Young Mark looks at a can of American beer.
Young Mark, I'm sorry that your first beer was American. It gets better, bud. (CBC)

It was imported beer or no beer in 1985, as workers at the big three breweries across Canada went on strike. Some beer drinkers even turned to home brewing kits to make their own beer, while independents like Amstel Brewery in Hamilton saw hundreds line up for hours.

Sure, there was imported American beer, but as any Canadian who has warmed themselves at a bonfire in the bush knows, American beer is piss!

No brew in Newfoundland

37 years ago
Duration 2:12
Workers for Labatt, Molson and Carling O'Keefe in the province are off the job because two of the breweries are enforcing lockouts in support of the third, where workers are striking. Aired on CBC's The National on Aug. 29, 1985.

The Canadian beer strike is one of many historical moments showcased in the '80s-set sitcom Son of a Critch, based on the award-winning memoirs of This Hour Has 22 Minutes star Mark Critch. You won't be surprised to hear the following complaints about American suds on the show either, including:

  • "You can barely get a buzz"
  • "Tastes the same going in as it does coming out"
  • "Tastes like fish piss"
  • "Wouldn't use that to flush a toilet"

The conflict was specifically about aluminum cans, and the job losses they would cause at the breweries for workers. Originally it was Labatt's workers that went on strike, and the breweries had an agreement that if one shut down, they would all shut down, so workers at Molson's and Carling O'Keefe were also locked out.

Union members sported the badge, "Glass is class. Ban the can." Many believed that the switch to aluminum cans at breweries meant that companies would be able to ship canned beer further than bottled, which could lead to the closure of smaller, regional bottling breweries in favour of larger, centralized canning breweries. While on Son of a Critch the beer strike was shorter, for much of 1985 there was no commercial beer made on The Rock, and locals turned up their noses at the imported beers from Europe and the United States. When the strike finally ended in November that year, and Canadian beer returned to the shelves, the remaining American beer was heavily discounted. But vendors still had a hard time moving the inferior suds.

I don't think there's any better way to put a bow on the great 1980s beer strike story than by citing the Newfoundland poet, Ben J. Ploughman, and these verses from his work, "The Beer Strike of '85."

We didn't like the 'Lone Star'
That came from Texas land,
Such hangovers were never heard of
After suckin' it from the can.

Then there was 'Blue Ribbon'
'Blue Star' it could never beat,
We drank it by the two-four
And stood firmly on our feet.

They brought in 'Old Milwaukee'
The best one of the lot,
Another American import
Another can of froth.

now