Alexander Keith rolling over in Grave

Here is an interesting item that is making the day of a lot of homebrewers out there. Last year when Bruce Oland passed away, he donated to the Dalhousie archives a huge treasure trove of old material from the Keith's brewery. For those not in the know, Keith's got bought by Oland's in the 1920s, and then Oland by Labatt in 1971. As a bit of an aside, the Oland family brewing tradition has another branch which ends at today's Moosehead breweries in New Brunswick.

Homebrewers have always bristled over the "India Pale Ale" moniker on Alexander Keith's flagship beer. Those who know beer, know that this beer is most decidedly NOT an India Pale Ale. An IPA should be a fair bit darker in colour, and significantly more bitter from hops, and higher in alcohol. Here are the full details on the style, from the Beer Judge Certification Program website. That tells you what certified beer judges look for in an IPA. Incidentally, the style of beer gets its name from the fact that it was brewed hoppier and higher in alcohol to survive the trip to India, to supply the British troops there when they were colonizing India. Both alcohol and hops are a preservative. Alexander would have been one of the brewers shipping his beer overseas at the time.

Homebrewers have always said that there is no way in heck Alexander Keith brewed a beer that was anything even remotely similar to the beer which today bears his name.

Turns out they were right! Craig Pinhey is a well-known beer-o-phile from Halifax. He's spent a lot of time pouring over this new treasure trove of archives, and has finally proven what homebrewers have long suspected - that poor old Alexander Keith must be rolling over in his grave with what they put his name on these days.

In spite of the blazingly obvious, the Corporation maintains to this day that the the beer "for more than 185 years [... holds] true to its time-honoured recipe, steeped in tradition.". They go on to say that "Even as times change, Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale proudly remains the same" (quoted from just now). It would now seem to be pretty clear that these claims are bold-faced lies.

In 2002 when Ottawa had a (short-lived) annual Beer Fest, I spoke with Bill White who was at the time a brewmaster at Labatt and their public spokesperson for their beer. He used to be on TV a lot so you may be familiar with him. I asked him some very pointed questions about this matter and he danced around them much like the current brewmaster does in the linked article.