“Make beer, not war,” brewers urge prime ministers

Danish and Canadian brewers are joining together to put an end to a decades-long border conflict between their two countries

Friendships can sometimes be forged and disputes mended over a bottle of beer or two.

And that’s exactly what Canadian liquor store owner Jim Pettinger is hoping will be the result of the Hans Across the Water beer, created in collaboration with Denmark’s Ugly Duck Brewing Company. Pettinger hopes to play a part in resolving the Hans Island dispute between Canada and Denmark by inviting PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to his store for a couple of chilled beers. 

“I’d like to invite the two of you to join me or one of my staff in a beer,” Pettinger wrote in an email sent to the press. 

“Your respective calendars are likely far more full than mine, but I’m thinking that if you looked real hard, you could probably find a weekend in there somewhere with not too much happening that requires your immediate attention and simply pop on over to Edmonton.” 

In his message, Pettinger also acknowledged “the associated costs of any little jaunts”, and offered the prime ministers lodging at his home. The first to respond gets the luxury of a spare bedroom, while “the slow poke will have to settle for the couch”. 

While Pettinger’s invitation may sound like a joke, the dispute over Hans Island is not.

Uninhabited and measuring just 1.3 sq km, Hans Island has been the subject of a sovereignty dispute between the two countries for almost 40 years. It lies on the maritime border between Canadian and Greenlandic territory, in the Kennedy Strait, and as the search for oil and minerals in the region has intensified, so too has the dispute over the island

The disagreement escalated in 2005 when Canada’s defence minister at the time visited the island, leaving a Canadian flag as a memento of his trip. The Foreign Ministry did not appreciate the impromptu visit, and said that it considered the island to be Danish. Since then, efforts to reach the island are made by both countries each summer as a show of sovereignty.

“Personally, I’m all for splitting the Island down the middle,” Pettinger wrote.  “No one loses face, everyone wins and no one goes home a loser.” 

The brew that Pettinger is confident will help open lines of discussion between Thorning-Schmidt and Harper is an Imperial Vanilla Coffee Porter. It’s a dark beer with hints of vanilla and coffee, and sold in 1.5 litre bottles containing 10 percent alcohol. 

“At the end of that bottle, we should all be good friends,” Pettinger said.

The label for the bottle is a parody of Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’, with Pettinger in Adam’s position, and Martin Jensen, a brewer at Ugly Duck and a veteran of the Danish craft beer industry, as God. Jensen is pouring beer into a cup clutched in Pettinger’s outstretched hand, and both men are set against backdrops of the flags of their countries. 

Canadians who live outside Edmonton will have to go out of their way to try the beer, as it is only available at Pettinger’s store. And with only 960 bottles produced, they should act fast.

Danes, on the other hand, have a home-field advantage – Ugly Duck, located in the village of Nørre Åby, Funen, is selling the porter, although in smaller, 33 cl bottles and without the eye-catching label used in Canada.

“We loved the beer so much that we wanted it in our regular portfolio,” said Jensen. 

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