Golden Returns to Ontario
Canadian-brewed Molson Golden Beer has been sold consistently in the States for decades. This ad shows a six-pack image, from a Florida retailer, ABC. The label reads beer, not ale. We stopped seeing Molson Golden in Ontario perhaps 15-20 years ago, but recently it reappeared at The Beer Store and LCBO.
The bottle size and shape, 625 ml or 22 Imp. oz. harks back to the old “quart” of Canadian beer lore. But Molson-Coors Beverage has covered the bottle in a garish tight gold-coloured wrapper. I like the bottle, don’t love the mega-label. I’d have used the same bottle with a standard, maybe gold-coloured paper label.
But the beer, always the beer… By standard Canadian beer histories Molson Golden was introduced in 1954. In a 1956 news ad (Plattsburgh Press-Republican, August 21, 1956) we see the range as advertised in the United States. Media in Ontario carried similar ads (behind paywalls).
It was the trio of Crown & Anchor Lager later re-dubbed Molson Canadian, Molson Golden Ale, and Molson Export Ale.
That Golden presumably was entirely top-fermented. Fast-forward to 1982, James D. Roberston in The Connoisseur’s Guide to Beer writes that an “industry source” told him Golden was “a blend of ale and lager beer” (p. 162). In 1978 Robertson wrote an earlier version of the book, called The Great American Beer Book. He reviewed Molson Golden but did not include the statement about blending.
Quite likely it was such a blend in 1978, as Robertson doesn’t suggest the taste changed in the intervening years. (He was more preoccupied by what he felt was a skunking problem).
In both books he called it lighter and sweeter than Molson Export, which he preferred.
In the 1982 book a Molson Golden label is shown that clearly states “Ale”. It’s a Canadian label, as the French side reads “Bière“. This suggests the ale term was used even though the beer was partly lager. It may still be true today, of course.
Crown & Anchor Lager/Molson Canadian was first produced in Toronto in 1955, an adjunct (rice) brew. In theory, 1954 seems a little early for Molson Golden to be a lager-ale blend. But of course we don’t really know.
Maybe it was, or became, an ale krausened with fermenting lager, as many North American ales were starting from the late-19th century. Perhaps even it was, or is, a blend of Molson Export and Molson Canadian in some way.
The final and real answer is in Molson-Coors’ records.
My History With Molson Golden
I first drank it in the late 1970s when – I’m fairly certain of this – it was new in the Montreal market. Previously it was known elsewhere in Canada but not there. I remember my first taste, at a friend’s place on Northcliff Road in Côte-des-Neiges.
It seemed quite different than Export Ale, is all I can remember at this juncture. Export was then my go-to.
Once craft beer and good imports became more available I did not buy Molson Golden very often if ever.
My Assessment in 2020
I cracked it yesterday ice-cold because that’s the way it was drunk back in the day and meant to be drunk.
I liked it. It had a lightly malty taste, with evident hops undergirding. The hop may be Galena as some U.S. sources suggest for Molson Golden Beer. Galena is a high-alpha acid hop that suits the type and scale of brewing.
There is a faint fruity taste from the hop I think, but nothing obviously “craft”. Good soft carbonation too, almost draft-like. If it is a blend of Export and Canadian, I like the way they’ve done it.
In contrast, the Coors line – far from a fave of mine – has an evident corny tang, IME.
I had a craft pale ale after and it didn’t seem that different. Most craft ales are typically more assertive, though.