This post by Frances Woolley is most interesting, arguing that some economic institutional differences help to explain why American beer is so varied with much swill produced by the big companies and better stuff by microbrews (so far, so good) compared to the large beer companies in Canada which produce better beer. Ooops. This is where I jump off of the beer-wagon.
I am loathe to criticize anything Canadian these days as my citizenship test is less than two weeks away, BUT big Canadian beer companies produce mediocre beer AND small Canadian micro-brews make excellent beer.
Canada and the US are apples and apples when we compare them in terms of beer (and most other things except political institutions, sorry, Canada). How so? Not only do both countries have big swill and small breweries cranking out the good stuff, but the liquor industries of both countries wish that they could engage in both intra- and inter- federal-unit trade without so many restrictions.
I have a hard time getting beer from Quebec and British Columbia in Ontario since trade is restrained by mystifying regulations. Same apparently is the case in the U.S. In Ontario, beer is sold by The Beer Store (province-sanctified chain owned by big beer producers) and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (state liquor store equivalent). Their rules make it hard for smaller producers to get shelf space, not to mention provincial regs that limit how many outposts (brew pubs) that one can open. I remember that Pennsylvania had similarly strange and restrictive rules--beer distributors for beer, state stores for liquor.
So, there may be some differences, as I do think that some of the mass Canadian beer (Alexander Keith's, Sleeman) is better than the mass American beer (ug), but the two markets are probably far more similar than different, especially if we want to add various European countries to our comparisons.
I had resisted writing this post, but the alternative was to read some graduate student stuff. So, there you go.