Mountain springs, pure water, the finest hops and barley. What more could there be to beer?
More than 100 things, actually.
Additives in beer is not a new idea. In the 15th century brew masters threw a live chicken into the beer kettle and called the result ****'s ale. Today, no chickens, but the Candian government still allows as many as 108 ingredients in beer.
They make tiny bubbles tinier, foamy head foamier, liquid more transparent. But which of those 108 actually end up in your brew? You'll never know by looking at the label, because when it comes to listing what's inside, Health Canada makes an exception for beer.
"There are all kinds of ingredients that could go in there, certainly," says Sharon McDiarmid of Health Canada. "That doesn't mean everybody uses them. They're optional. These are ingredients that are approved for use by Health Canada."
"They're not doing it to try and poison the consumer," he says, adding, "There's really never been a case of ... of a beer killing a person, with very, very few exceptions."
One of those exceptions happened in 1964, when a Quebec brewery, Dow, put cobalt sulfate into its beer. 16 men die and millions of gallons were flushed down the sewer.
"They died of cobalt sulfate poisoning," said McKenna "Now, cobalt at the time, heavy metal, was used as a head retention agent."
"Whether you view beer as a ... a drug or as a food product or merely as a recreational libation, there is no other product, whether it be Coca-Cola or ice cream, bread, pharmaceuticals, they have to list the ingredients on them to protect the consumer, to allow the consumer to make an informed decision about what they're applying to their body or putting into their body," McKenna said.
Liam McKenna has made beer labels a national issue here, lobbying parliament to make Ireland the first country in Europe to require mandatory ingredient lists.