Monday, August 22, 2011

Beer, the "natural health product"

Canada, being a weird conglomeration of liberal and conservative ideals, has a lot of restrictions on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. That same conflicting set of ideals also has led to a relatively unfettered "health product and supplements" industry.

In my year and a half of brewing beer, I've had a number of people implore me to start selling my homebrew. In an admittedly cursory look into the type of licensing I'd require to begin selling my homemade suds, I've noticed that it looks like a very large and extremely pricey endeavor to obtain permission to produce and sell alcoholic products here in Canada.

Then I noticed this expired can of energy drink that was gifted to me about two months ago, which wound up being left sitting behind the speakers at my desk. Its label claims that it contains taurine, and is a "natural health product".

I hate energy drinks. They are basically over-priced sugar water with the extract of some obscure root or leaf that's supposed to either keep you awake, give you some kind of dexterity bonus, or polymorph your penis into the same shape as a tiger's genitals. Most of the herbs are pretty much benign, and of course offer no real effects other than placebo. However, labeling these drinks (not to mention a host of other herbal medicines and remedies, beyond mere sugary beverages) as "natural health products" essentially frees the manufacturer from much responsibility, especially when it comes to efficacy claims and performing tests on the product.

In Canada, natural health products are a relatively unregulated market, especially when compared to pharmaceuticals and alcohol brewing. Although there is a lot of noise coming from the alternative health industry that Bill C-36, passed in 2010, allowed the government to regulate the natural products and supplements industry a lot closer.

Typically, "health product" claims are fairly nebulous, as most snake oil salespeople always want to avoid assigning any quantifiable and testable quality to their creation that could be used against them, especially in court of law.

So here's what I'm thinking: Add ginseng, willow bark, dandelion leaves, or some other herb or additive that won't affect flavour or color to my beer, and begin marketing it as a natural health drink. Maybe I can get all the altie health nuts to join me in my crusade against government regulation of my health drink. After all, it's no more than steeped grain and herbs, infused with yeast and left to age for a month before bottling. What could be more natural than that?

Dandy Lion Pale Ale, anyone? Harnessing the twin powers of yeast and dandelions, it has been anecdotally proven to provide energy, improve joviality, maximize well-being, and has been noted to increase sexual attractiveness. Warning: consuming large quantities of this product can lead to loss of balance and social skills, vomiting and memory vacuums.

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