After some excellent sleuthing by a member of the Brewnosers, this story was published in the Chronicle Herald:
Purported original recipe taken from homebrew website
When you’re 192 years old, the truth can sometimes get stretched a bit.
The truth in question is the recipe used for Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, a beer crafted in the 19th century by a Scottish immigrant in Halifax.
A recent television commercial for the golden suds shows an antique hand-scrawled recipe as the phrase “it began as one man’s personal recipe” flashes across the screen.
Yet after some sleuthing, including scrutinizing high-resolution screen shots of the advertisement, a group of beer aficionados and homebrewers in Halifax say the recipe is a fake.
“What really surprised me is the ingredient list includes a new hop variety that didn’t exist 200 years ago,” Chris McDonald, a member of the Brewnosers, said in an interview Wednesday.
The flowery engineered hop called Amarillo stands out like a bad brush stroke on a forged painting, he said.
“It struck me as odd because that kind of hops is one of the new varieties being developed through cross-breeding and it’s only about 20 years old, if that. It’s definitely not 200 years old so something fishy is going on.”
McDonald jotted down as much of the recipe from the Alexander Keith’s commercial he could and searched it online.
“I stumbled across the exact recipe on a homebrewing recipe board. Homebrewers share recipes with each other all the time because we’re all about sharing the love beer-wise.”
He said the recipe used in the commercial is called Amarillo IPA and can be found at http://www.beerrecipes.org.
Labatt spokesman Wade Keller said the television commercial was meant to be symbolic.
“First of all we would never share Alexander Keith’s original recipe. We use that recipe to make beer and we don’t want to share that with other people that would perhaps try to make the same beer.
“This was a depiction of a recipe meant to be symbolic of a recipe for illustrated purposes in a television commercial.”
However, Keller said regrettably a contractor working for a creative agency used information he found online and copied it into calligraphy.
“We regret that we didn’t have permission to use this recipe and we’re taking steps to remove the ad. We take this very seriously; it should not have happened.”
But as far as the beer is concerned, Keller is adamant that the brewery continues to follow the traditions of Alexander Keith who began making beer in Halifax in 1820.
“We stand by the quality and we do over 120 checks to make sure the beer is of the highest quality. The ad was meant to sell beer but unfortunately there was a mistake in the ad and we’re taking steps to correct that mistake.”
Regardless, McDonald argued that the ad throws into question the authenticity of Alexander Keith’s beer.
“It seems like a lot of their marketing hinges on the fact that the beer is so close to what was brewed almost 200 years ago. I would say it’s misleading.”
The public relations snafu comes two years after a number of brew books with original recipes for Alexander Keith’s IPA as well as Oland Export Ale were donated to the Dalhousie archives, McDonald said.
The records were donated by Halifax businessman Bruce Oland — Oland and Son Ltd. acquired A. Keith and Son in the late 1920s — but were later sealed, he said.