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A Bit of Beer Diplomacy

This past weekend a special beer hit the Sherbrooke Liquor Store shelves. Sure, there are lots of special beer in stock at that store, but this one is significant in a very unique way. The beer itself, an 11% Coffee Vanilla Porter that comes in a 1.5 litre bottle, is formidable enough. It was brewed exclusively for Sherbrooke by Ugly Duck Brewing out of Denmark. It is Called Hans Across the Water, for reasons to be explained below.

Its brewing ambition is not what makes it special. It is the letter that Sherbrooke’s Jim Pettinger and Ugly Duck’s Martin Jensen sent to accompany the release of the beer. You see, they decided to send a little correspondence to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. The letter suggests that the two leaders come to Edmonton for a meeting to resolve a longstanding dispute between the two nations. As Pettinger and Jensen propose:

I’d like to invite the two of you to join me or one of my staff in a beer. Not literally in it, of course, for that would be an awfully large glass of beer (not to mention rather un-hygienic) but instead to sit down and share a bottle of our beer; Hans Across The Water. Brewed by one of the finest breweries in Denmark expressly for one of the best beer stores in Canada, Hans Across The Water is a sterling example of how international co-operation is supposed to work. If we can get along, why not you?

Pettinger goes as far as to offer his spare bedroom for the first of two PMs to RSVP; the latter will have to make do with the couch. They propose anchoring mano-a-womano talks with a bottle or two of Hans Across the Water (at 11% it is sure to get some lips moving, and then slurring).

But I can here you saying now: Canada and Denmark fighting?!? Whatever for? Well, they each claim sovereignty over a little chunk of rock nestled in the narrow channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. It is called Hans Island, and, for the most part, it is a rather insignificant chunk of granite. However, it sits right on the international border between the two nations, and thus both claim it as belonging to them. They have been fighting over it since at least 1971, and both have send delegations (including cabinet ministers) to plant flags and other assorted raspberries over the years. For a good, although a bit outdated, summary of the situation go here.

While there have been talks over the past few years, little progress has been made. Enter Pettinger and Jensen. Jensen came to Alberta more than two years ago on a promotional tour for Raasted Brewing, his former brewery, and he and Pettinger met at that time. (Incidentally, Jensen’s visit was one of my earliest posts here at They concocted the plan back then – part gimmick, part honest-effort at collaboration.

The project was delayed for a variety of reasons, including Jensen switching breweries, but it finally reached the shores (??) of Alberta and hit the shelf on the weekend. The label is also noteworthy, offering a send-up of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, with Jensen reaching out pouring a beer for a reclining, rather flattering image of Pettinger. Makes one wonder if this is Jim’s attempt to sneak himself into the Beer Gods Series? (Jim is not a God but he plays one on beer labels…)

No word yet from either PM, but I am sure Jim at Sherbrooke will keep you posted should anyone phone him back. All I can say for the moment, is that it has been quite the month for Sherbrooke, between the latest beer god beer, the 1000th beer, the West-v launch and now this. I wonder what encore they will offer for August?



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