A pint of bureaucracy, please

We asked a few experts to review the New Brunswick government’s new beer



The New Brunswick government is now in the beer business, this week introducing two light ales—Selection Lager and Selection Light.

It is the first beer produced by a government in Canada, and officials say the move is a way to support sagging sales, as many New Brunswickers cross into neighbouring Quebec to take advantage of their cheaper prices. So why does the government think people will drink its brand? The price helps. In New Brunswick, as part of an effort to prevent binge drinking, beers are not allowed to sell for less than $20.55 a dozen. Exceptions can be made that allow stores to sell at a lower sale price, which the government is using to sell Selection for $18.67 a 12-pack.

The new brew has angered many in the industry, who worry it will cut into their market share. “There are a lot of draconian laws about alcohol in New Brunswick,” says Jesse Vergen, executive chef of the Saint John Ale House in Fredericton. The market is overly regulated, Vergen says, and it is difficult to import beers from the rest of Canada, let alone other countries. “The government should be working on opening up the market rather than making a mass market beer.”

To make the beer, the government hired Moosehead Breweries. The result is a beer, sold in cans, that tastes almost identical to Moosehead Light, says Vergen.

To get a better taste for it, Macleans.ca asked a few local experts to review the brew:

Vergen: “The flavour isn’t very pronounced. It doesn’t have a lot of crazy hopiness or intense maltiness. Its meant for the masses; for the BBQs in the summer and on the weekend, where you drink a case of beer. It’s a weekend warrior type beer.”

Doug Williams, owner of the Fredericton-based Garrison District Ale House: “Its mainstream, inoffensive, light domestic beer. It’s interchangeable with Coors Light or Bud Light.”

Mark Taylor, founder of www.diningpick.com, a New Brunswick restaurant website: “A light beer, with a crisp flavour. It tastes similar to a Molson or Labatts.”

Shawn Horgan, an assistant manager at the Saint John Ale House, “There’s a slight citrus note to it. Its nothing special. I wouldn’t buy it for myself.”


A pint of bureaucracy, please

  1. I can only begin to imagine what Mr. Andrew Coyne has to say about this idea. Man, why couldn’t they have modeled it on Pilsner Urquell? Then we’d have had a fantastic counter-argument for Mr. Coyne: “Ah, but could the market produce a Canadian beer like Pilsner Urquell? No, it took the Province of New Brunswick, etc. etc. !” As it is, sounds like we just have another watery beer. Damn it, it’s enough to make a man believe in capitalism.

  2. Damn it, it’s enough to make a man believe in capitalism.
    Come over to the Dark Side of the Force, Luke…

    • “Together we can rule the gullet as hops and barley . . .”

  3. A random thought: is this the worst beer name of all time or what? At least reach into the storied history of New Brunswick: what about “Tilley’s Own Lager” (as in “I’ll take a Tilley, please”), after that great Father of Confederation, Lieutenant Governor, and temperance advocate, Samuel Leonard Tilley? We gotta move the product, move it! The kids can’t get enough of Tilley’s!

    • It would have to be bilingual, j’ose croire. Any bets there’s an artistic rendition of a sharp accent “é” decoratively swirled over that first “e.”
      And the 33.5 FTE civil servants, representing a cross-section of all the beautiful regions of this fine province, and who toiled feverishly over the length of their six-month mandate to come up with a name, await your apology.

      • Good point, and I admit that “Selection” is mildly less dumb in French than in English. And probably Samuel Leonard Tilley has some ghastly skeletons in his historical closet re: our Acadian comrades — at least, you just know that the moment you named a beer after him they’d come tumbling out.

        So, alternative idea: total minimalism. Just a yellow can with red letters, “BEER” on one side and “BIERE” on the other. (You could waive all that ingredients nonsense and alcohol content etc. This is capitalism: if you’ve got an advantage, use it!) For the light beer it could be a red can with yellow letters. It would look totally cool.

        • So, then, Evangeline is out for a name, for sure?

          • Hmm, I’d say that would be a bit on the melancholy side. Still, people do seem to like Longfellow’s hexameters . . .

            Smooth on the tongue and a boon to the heart, a traditional lager,
            Not great tasting, but still not bad, and it’s rather like Moosehead,
            Brewed from an old, traditional recipe formed in committee,
            Aged for about three days in the best steel vats in New Brunswick,
            Cheaper than most of the weird new beers you can get in Rimouski,
            Edmonston, yes, we’re talking to you — oh, we need that 12-million!

        • I heard the NB government committee created a ballot listing ten possible names. These ballots were distributed to nearby watering holes, and beer drinkers were asked to circle whichever name they liked best.
          Unfortunately, most of the beer drinkers had quaffed a few too many, so they circled the first word they saw on the ballot – “Selection:” – rather than the actual choices, which were listed beneath.

          • LOL! Any idea what the other names were?

          • “Aged pulp & paper mill effluent” must have failed the focus group.

          • No, but I’m sure they were mostly lame variations of place names like “Moncton Malt” or “Brunswick Brew”.

  4. Interesting piece, but I’m still left with a burning question: why on earth is the New Brunswick government in business of hiring breweries to make private label beer?

    • Is the Ontario government still in the business of selling beer?
      Why are governments in the lotto business?
      Passenger rail?
      Automobile manufacture?
      Low-demand aircraft design?
      Grain marketing?

      • You can’t compare those industries to having an official provincial beer. Beer is far better than all that stuff.

        • Oh, to trade away all that other crap for a simple little crown corporation brewery…

          • Of the five you mentioned, I can see the logic of government being in the lotto business and the passenger rail business, but not the last three.

          • Actually, now that I’ve thought about it some more, I can think of convincing reasons for the government to be in all six (including grain marketing). The nationalization pandemic that has gripped the world must be catchy.

          • Hey, CR, that promotional case of two-four was supposed to be shared with friends in one night. Somebody take his keys away! Go crash upstairs. Bathroom’s second door on the left.

          • LOL.

      • I totally agree that our government should not be in the business of :
        “Passenger rail / Automobile manufacture / Low-demand aircraft design / Shipbuilding . . .”
        I want “skinny government”
        with all the restrictions on the way government does business, it makes more financial $ense
        for them to promote real business and tax them lightly

        For a host of other reasons our government should not be in the business of :
        selling beer
        selling the lotto

        Why sell the item that helps put so many on the provincial dole?

  5. interesting how private companies have to sell their product for at least $20.55 a dozen but the government has given itself an ‘exception’ and is selling it’s product for $18.67 per 12-pack. Nothing like the government giving itself an unfair advantage. I wonder how long before private brewers pull out of the NB market.

  6. I hope the opposition uses this to hammer New Brunswick incumbent government in the next election.

  7. So what’s next on the list in competing with private enterprise?

    Maybe it would be a good time for them to get into marijuanan production to make some real money.
    Sad thing is, this is where they could see a difference in income generated as well as the lowered expense of investigationg, prosecuting , defending & incarcerating the guilty, but it will never happen.
    But to make a cheaper beer to compete with lower taxes in Quebec for people who cross the border (and the population of these bigs cities is?) is fine – more affordable beer for students & alcoholics.

  8. What I don’t quite get is why they can’t just reduce the beer tax to Quebec levels and, if need be, supplement it with something else, like a pet tax or something. Surely that would be popular.

  9. In the interest of the beer drinking public, it is really unbelievable that it has gone this far…not only is NB a Gov controlled monopoly on Booze, but it is probably the highest priced in North America and now they are selling cheap beer under their own private label for $18.67…come on…I’m still going to Quebec or Maine..heck, It’s even cheaper in NS for that matter..and I can get a brand name..for those of you who that matters to. You can get a 2 4 of Moose Light at the border for $20…think about that. So finally, instead of 5 price hikes this year on booze, the NB Gov decided to blame our neighbouring provinces for selling “cheap” beer and decided somehow that it would be better to get an independant brewery, without a tendering process, to package some of their beer and sell it cheap under their own private label. I wish for 2 seconds we could take back the time and more importantly the money that went into this project and inject it into health care and leave the beer making and marketing up to the professionals. It is embarrissing that the people we have elected have somehow come to a conclusion that this is a good idea and it actually passed legislation…honestly, think about how much this would have been deliberated on and it still came to fruition…well, to make a long story longer, I am really looking forward to not only NB Vodka Select, But the new Wine Bar that NB Gov is opening in Sussex and the NB Gov Selection 2 x 4s I can get at the new NB Gov Hardware store…not to mention handy NB Gov Selection bread at the new NB Gov Bread plant…guess I better start looking into a Gov Job, the rest of the business in NB is being eaten up by the Monopolistic actions of it’s government!

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