“You’ve seen no-name macaroni and cheese and generic dog food — this is generic beer,” Kevin Tibbles, a reporter for Canadian news station The National, said in an April 1992 television segment. The beer, brewed by Drummond Brewery in Red Deer, Alberta, was “simply called, ‘Beer Beer.’”
It was a hit. According to the report, “little” Drummond Brewery was selling 1.5 million cases of Beer Beer per year. That is, until Drummond began distributing to its neighboring province.
Saskatchewan’s local government deemed the generic brand “illegally cheap.” Beer Beer, priced at $10.80 for a 12-beer case, was $2 less than competing beers. “It wasn’t expensive enough,” Tibbles said.
Drummond Brewery threw money at the problem — literally. In response to the reprimand, the brewery began packing $2 bills into each case of Beer Beer destined for Saskatchewan. It was a creative solution, but the liquor board didn’t buy it. “All we ask is that everybody play by the rules to give our brewers a fair chance to compete,” Darrel Cunningham, then provincial minister responsible for the liquor board, told The National.
Beer Beer was pulled off the shelves, victim of a 45-day ban in Saskatchewan. “It’s not being fair to the consumers in Saskatchewan to suggest that little Drummond Brewing Company is going to bring Labatt’s and Molson’s to their knees because we offer a generic product in Saskatchewan,” Terry Myers, Drummond Brewery president, said in an interview. He pointed out that the “competing” behemoths had a “200-year start” on his much smaller brewing company.
After the ban, Drummond brought Beer Beer back at a higher price point and was welcomed back to Saskatchewan liquor stores. But it didn’t exactly play by the rules. The beer was still reportedly priced 60 cents lower than its competitors’ generic brands.
Interestingly, Canadian governments are still grappling with how low beer can go when it comes to pricing. In August 2018, Premier of Ontario Doug Ford lowered the minimum price of beer bottles and cans to $1 each in what he called the “buck-a-beer challenge.” It offered participating brands prime shelf space in government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores.
It proved a challenge indeed, namely for the brewers that couldn’t afford it. “Ontario craft breweries said they couldn’t brew quality beer that cheap, while the big breweries largely ignored the government’s plan,” the CBC reported in December 2018. By that time, only one brewery was participating in the program, and it raised its price to $1.25 a month later.
Beer Beer was spiritually reincarnated in February 2019, however, when Canada’s largest food retailer, Loblaw, launched its dirt-cheap, generic No Name Beer. The beer was $1 a can for a limited time.
“The new no name beer [sic] will stand out with its recognizable yellow label, and one word: Beer,” Ian Gordon, No Name’s senior vice president, said in a press release. “It’s a beacon for customers looking for a great taste at an unbeatable price.” Sometimes, a low price is hard to beat.