National Breweries Ltd. and the Ontario Market, 1940s

In a 1944 issue of The Review, the house journal of Montreal-based National Breweries Limited (NBL), a detailed article described the Ontario office and sales organization of NBL.

Ontario then was new territory still for the Quebec breweries. Long accustomed to steady markets at home, they didn’t expand as quickly into ROC (rest of Canada) as they should have. Yet Ontario’s Labatt Brewery made repeated efforts, with some success, to enter the Quebec market from the late 1800s. So did other Ontario breweries, as I’ve showed in part earlier.

Molson Brewery finally built a plant in Toronto in the mid-1950s. It was too late for NBL, bought out in 1952 by sharp-eyed E.P. Taylor of Toronto-based Canadian Breweries Ltd. Still, NBL made some efforts to sell in Ontario.

The multi-page article (in French) describes the head office of the Ontario branch, at the Harbour Commissioners Building in Toronto. That historic columned building still stands in a now resolutely modern district, and last sold for $96M some years ago.

The article has a slightly envious tone, or so it seems to me, when describing this outpost. Unlike presumably any of NBL’s Victorian or early-1900s facilities, the Toronto digs were laid out in cool, modern style with a variegated colour scheme. The sleek, new wood furniture was noted as well. The article explained for readers that this was the prevalent style in Toronto. For most of them, Toronto might have been on the far side of the moon.

Even then, land around the Harbour Commissioners Building had been conquis, or reclaimed, from Lake Ontario; the edifice no longer stood as it once did at the edge of the water. Even as the area had changed, many ships still docked nearby to transact commerce, the article noted. This is a change from today except for tanker deliveries to nearby Redpath Industries, which still refines sugar, and perhaps the other odd bulk delivery by water.

The Ontario Brewers’ Retail system is described in detail, neutrally, but in a way that probably struck readers as somewhat regulated (it still is). Photos are shown, only one of which I’ve seen before, the “ice-cold beer” one. A glassed-in example of a Brewer’s Retail is shown. Despite the reputed Soviet-style grimness of these stores, the shop looks quite inviting with its shining glassed exterior – oddly similar to not a few brewpubs I’ve seen! Glassed frontage was continued in modified form into the 1970s, but looked better then.

The writer describes how the beer was ordered. Except for the wartime voucher system, and excepting the self-serve feature now available in many stores, the system is unchanged today, 76 years later. The customer states his request to the clerk. It is relayed by a speaker system to the back. There, an employee sends the packaged beer clattering down metal rollers to the waiting consumer.

Empty bottles were handled then just as today, as well.

Although I’ve read about interprovincial restrictions on beer, which did surely exist, the article makes no mention of this. Perhaps wartime exigencies relaxed the rules. The article makes clear that NBL’s beer was retailed at Brewer’s Retail. The only problem mentioned was long distances to get the products from Montreal to delivery point.

I should add, NBL’s sales force covered all geographic areas where the Brewers Retail stores – there were 130 in 1944 – were located, since store managers had discretion what to buy. There was no centralised buying, according to the article, but it does note that the managers tried to ensure a variety of beers available.

The cover of this issue shows, as another article explains, beer loaded at Canadian Pacific Railway’s Place Viger for shipment to Port Arthur, Ontario. It mentions a cargo of chopines and pintes, which were 12 oz. and 22 oz., respectively. Molson Coors still sells some beer in the old pinte bottles, at its Creemore Batch brewpub in Toronto. (In English, we called the small bottles pints and the large ones quarts, which shows you nothing is simple).

This article noted that the railcars were “heated” to maintain the beers’ condition. This seems odd, but the article, which appeared in March 1944, was probably prepared over the winter. And winters in eastern Canada were, famously we are told, much colder than now…

The main article claimed the beers, still all-malt in the NBL era,* were highly regarded in Ontario. Still, the transport factor alone would have lessened the profitability of these sales, viz. that is the Ontario brewers.

The rationing system was four coupons (free) per month, with one coupon entitling to six chopines. (One for every day except Sunday, right?).

Now, such ration doesn’t seem overly burdensome, particularly for families where not every adult drank beer, but the article described it as only “a little”. A window on Canadian beery proclivities and/or a loyal upholding of the corporate mission, take your choice.

I don’t know if Quebec had a similar system, presumably not as the article makes no mention of it.

NBL beer surely pleased some in Toronto, but not enough to make any difference to the company’s fate, clearly. The home market had to up its game enough, and it never did, at least not the way NBL was structured into the 1950s, with six operating breweries. These were Dawes Black Horse, Dawes Draft Beer Plant (formerly Ekers), Dow, and Frontenac in Montreal, and Boswell and Champlain in Quebec City.

NBL treated its employees well. Reading numerous issues of the house organ, one can tell this from the ambit of activities organized for them and various social benefits including retirement and life insurance plans. This was by no means common at the time. The City of Montreal’s virtual exhibition on Dawes brewery history, in which these magazines appear (covering 1942-1949), states that employee wages had doubled in the 10 years from start of the war.

I hope this largesse, to put it that way, didn’t contribute to the ignominious end of NBL. Certainly under E.P. Taylor things changed, with closures of some plants, paring of brands, and alteration of some recipes, as I will show soon.


*I’ll document this in another post soon.




Altitudinal Drinking Returns

“The Scholar and the World”

In mid-1935 an American, Albert Abrahamson, authored The Price Study: The Price of Whiskey. It was not conventionally published, being an internal document the U.S. government commissioned when examining pricing for key consumer goods. (I’ve referenced the HathiTrust version, and Google Books has it as well, in full text).

Abrahamson, born in Portland, ME in 1905, was a Columbia-trained economist with a long career at Bowdoin College in Maine. He was also regularly engaged by governments to advise on economic policy, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal administration.

He was only 30 when the study appeared but it shows an uncommon sophistication. The book, about 60 pages long, has three sections. The first examines the lead-up to National Prohibition and drinking and alcohol supply during the Volstead period (1920-1933).

The second reviews current industry pricing for whiskey, and the last part discusses pricing through the prism of the consumer interest.

The full study is absorbing, but we found the first part of especial interest. Abrahamson considers that Prohibition largely resulted from the need to end the abuses of the saloon and the “tied house”, or brewers’ (mostly) control of saloons and bars. He also notes the ingrained, indeed continuing, moral opposition to drinking in large parts of the country.

Among the many interesting observations, this one may be cited, on the multifarious reasons for alcohol use.

One must distinguish the various shades — the quenching of thirst, the derivation of a slight glow to ease the incidence of social formalities, the desire for partial escape and the quest for complete forgetfulness and unconsciousness. Poets have forged immortal verses in praise of the virtues of whiskey; psychiatrists have justified its use as an escape from arduous endeavour; and a distinguished historian of English society has contrasted the rival consolations of religion and the public house. How much one drinks and what one drinks depend upon the goal one sets and how soon one wants to get to it.

A further element in demand arises from the wishes of some consumers to do the smart thing. This means that some people drink in emulation of movie actors, professional endorsers, social leaders, and other members of the tribe that sets the consuming pace for so many Americans. It is difficult to say when a vague desire to do the smart thing shades off into more compelling demands and finally results in a stubborn habit. The case histories of alcoholics would doubtless reveal many items of interest.

Can the demand for whiskey, partially indicated in the preceding paragraphs, be described by a word or a phrase? Can the demand in future years be predicted? Statistics are of limited value in describing so miscellaneous a phenomenon. The industry is too new to have a significant quantitative history. The figures of pre-prohibition days are not applicable, and the prohibition data are simply guesses.

I was struck, too, by his statement that once gin transferred from the distillery to the “bathtub” during Prohibition, gin replaced whiskey for the bulk of Americans. By this, he meant cheap home-made gin was available to almost all who wanted a drink, whereas whiskey had to be smuggled from Canada or elsewhere and hence cost more to buy.

An exaggeration perhaps, as whiskey did regain a major part of the liquor market after Repeal, but the later Dry Martini craze shows a certain truth in his observation.

He also considered that despite new alcohol control laws, the saloon in large cities continued in its essential form, hence his jaunty term altitudinal drinking (for standing at the bar, leitmotif of the old saloon).

He notes that following Prohibition the liquor industry gained enormously in sophistication, both in business structure and advertising techniques. The newly-legal distillers borrowed developments other industries, for example the public utilities, had pioneered in the 1920s. He found some of these questionable, citing as an example selling what appeared the same grade of whiskey at different prices. His “Royal Flush” example (see the text) is worth pondering.

Abrahamson was evidently much admired at Bowdoin, and while he died in 1988, is still remembered. This college blog by a 1976 graduate, whence our sub-title is taken, is warm in reminiscence. See also the comments from numerous former students and associates.


The Sand Porter of Montreal (Part II)

In my last post I discussed a “sand porter” advertised by two brewers in the Montreal area in the 1880s and 90s.

The most likely explanation for the term is that the porter was filtered through a sand bed, in order to be reasonably bright and stable in the bottle. Through the 19th century, recommendations appear to filter beer in sand (and other substances), probably as a spin-off of early water treatment.

The crevices of sand trap the yeast and protein particles, so the filtering works by physical action, as charcoal does, with a clarifying and purifying effect. The medium must be continually washed so the material can regenerate for use. Sand is virtually indefinitely re-usable, hence cost-effective and environmentally responsible. White sand was typically advised.

Today, among numerous other methods, diatomaceous earth (DE) is often used for close filtration, a sand-like, silica-based substance. DE is a better filter, as it is more neutral and traps more and smaller particles, but sand recurs for discussion among modern brewing technologists. One reason is that DE may pose certain health risks, cancer has been cited.

(The filtration issue has lessened in importance in craft circles, although much craft beer has been, and will continue to be filtered if only roughly).

The following references, among many more I consulted, will support the above. The second, an 1888 American bottling manual by Charles Sulz, covers more or less the period we are dealing with.


Sulz advises the sand filtering for light beers that otherwise would be liable to sour, versus strong beer that conditions by long standing but remains stable. It is interesting that he mentions molasses and sugar beers in this regard, as molasses may well have been used to bulk out the staple porter in Quebec. The old Champlain Porter, which I recall in the 1970s, had a light flavour of molasses.

Reference no. 1, an early 1800s British encyclopedia, offers a detailed discussion of beer filtering and advises sand for this use. A well-known engineer, Joseph Bramah, is cited, known among beer historians for his work on the beer engine or vacuum hand pump, associated with cask-conditioned beer.

Sand filtration was later superseded by DE and other methods, supplemented by pasteurisation. Still, the concept has never completely disappeared. Numerous studies continue to canvass its effects as compared to other materials, e.g., “Evaluation of a Substitute Filter Medium for Removal of Haze in Beer“, by Ma. Perpetua M. Marquez, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Adelaide.

Sand porter is perhaps not the most elegant term, which may explain its demise in the Montreal market, but the process was probably more widely used than the name.



The Sand Porter of Montreal (Part I)

In the 1880s and 1890s in Montreal, at least two breweries advertised sand porter. The “s” in sand is not a typographical error, as I’ve reviewed numerous ads for the beer.

Here are two links to such ads. The first is from The True Witness and Catholic Chronicle of Montreal in 1892. Montreal Brewing Co. advertised typical products of the day – India Pale Ale, pale ale, stout porter (i.e., stout), and the sand porter.

Montreal Brewing Co. placed many such ads in the press in this period, in French- and English-language newspapers, especially the early 1890s.

Dawes Brewery was a much larger brewery based at the time in Lachine, Quebec just outside Montreal. It too sold sand porter. It advertised it in different-size bottles (pintes and chopines, old French measures). See in French at p. 3 its advertisement in Le Peuple, in 1882, or the same ad the same year in English in the Montreal Herald, here.

The fact that two brewers advertised such porter suggests “sand” was descriptive, not a trade or fancy name. No one surnamed Sand was connected to these breweries, as far as I know, or to a process for porter. There were no beaches near Montreal or Lachine of the type that would suggest an obvious borrowing from local topography.

Since porter was always regarded as a rich, restorative drink, it seems unlikely sand referred to a sunny holiday destination, something unrealistic for the time anyway.

There were no ownership connections between Montreal Brewing and Dawes brewery then, not until 1909 which is years after sand porter disappears from the scene.

Montreal Brewing was helmed by Thomas Cushing, son of prominent businessman Lemuel Cushing of Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Lemuel was issue of a well-known United Empire Loyalist family from New England. Thomas had set up in brewing in Montreal in 1876.

His brewery was one of the smaller ones in Quebec then. Still, it was prominently profiled in the 1898 La Presse article I discussed recently that described contemporary Montreal brewing.

In 1909, Montreal Brewing, Dawes Brewery, and most others in Quebec became part of National Breweries Limited, a Montreal-based combine. NBL endured until Toronto’s E.P. Taylor, a pre-eminent international raider, bought NBL in 1952 via Canadian Breweries Limited (since 1989 part of Molson-Coors Beverages).

Cushing had two sons who were associated with National Breweries. One was Gordon Cushing who later became a stockbroker but stayed on the board of National until the end.

Sand porter seems to disappear from the scene by 1900, it is not mentioned for example in the La Presse profile (while other brews of Montreal Brewing were). I have not been able to locate a label for it. As it endured at least between 1882 and 1892, it was not a flash in the pan. I would think it was the staple porter of these breweries, perhaps for bottles, with their stout being the premium grade.

Any ideas what it was?  I have an idea, but will solicit opinion first.

Part II follows.

Coffee Cocktail? Don’t Mind if I do

An interesting discussion on Twitter recently bore on the coffee cocktail, a concoction popular from the 1880s until 1920 when National Prohibition ended the official drinks culture.

I wlll summarize a review of the literature as I found it, but keep the references to a minimum.

There was both an alcohol and non-alcohol version. The alcohol one generally used sugar, port, brandy, and egg. The proportions of brandy to port varied, everything from a film of brandy on the wine to equal parts.

No recipe I saw stated the type of port to use, and I’d imagine in practice a variety was used from ruby to vintage. David Wondrich, an authority on cocktails history, stated if tawny port is used the drink actually resembles coffee or café au lait.

I haven’t tried any version as yet, so must hold my counsel on what the various combinations would produce.

A typical c.1900 recipe can be read here, in The Gorham Cocktails Book. A dusting of nutmeg is advised, as in some other recipes, but a flourish will not alter the essential taste, much as at Starbuck’s today. Similarly some recipes called for a dash of bitters.

Charles Mahoney, in The Hoffman House Bartenders Guide, is restrained on the issue of taste, all but suggesting a coffee cocktail does not taste like coffee. He states it looks like coffee, hence probably the name, but goes no further, and considers the name a “misnomer”.*

A similar view is expressed in 1894 in a French book on English cuisine and baking that takes in both English and American drinks. See Alfred Suzanne’s comments highlighted.

Brown brandy would have made even red port drinks look darker, as would brown sherry if that type was used, and at least one recipe I found called for sherry in addition to port. Where crème de cacao was used, as in this 1909 recipe (Daily Star, Long Island, NY), that would deepen colour and add a suggestion of coffee taste. An 1896 reference to the drink, in the magazine Table Talk, is to same effect.

The latter two recipes seemingly were intended to make a drink not typically tasting of coffee do just that. A parallel idea can be inferred from Jack Grohusko’s c.1910 manual on wines and mixed drinks. Under the japing name Sabbath Cocktail, what is clearly the coffee cocktail has “1/2 pony” of black coffee added.

In the early 1920s, as seen in this 1921 issue of the trade journal Hotel Monthly, a coffee cocktail was a small black coffee served before a meal, without charge. The discussion suggests it was either a temperance version of the alcohol coffee cocktail or a re-dubbed, non-alcohol restaurant staple, the “coffee appetizer”.

I found a few references to this version both before and after 1920 especially for the South. This makes sense as large sections of the Bible Belt went dry even before WW I.

The discussion on Twitter concerned a text a tweeter posted on bartender etiquette. Source and publication date were not mentioned, it was apparently 1920s (when Prohibition was in force) but perhaps earlier. The context was usual drinking matters without reference to restrictive laws, that is.

A tip for bartenders stated that if a customer requests a coffee cocktail, do not retort that you have no coffee. Our exchanges bore on the meaning of this statement. David thought it was probably a bartender’s joke, because the alcohol version involved more trouble to make than many other drinks.

This is plausible, certainly, but if the instructions were written in the 1920s, the tip may have meant, don’t deny the customer a complimentary coffee, an item patrons might request to obey the Prohibition law, or lessen the effects of (illicit) alcohol consumed.

The coffee cocktail illustrates one of the many mysteries of etymology and origin in food and drink history. From steam beer to Stilton cheese, from Welsh Rabbit to the Michigan hot dog, people still argue how these things got their name and what they really meant.

The temperance version must take the cake though (further felicity of outcome!) as it was a simulacrum of a simulacrum.

N.B. As might be expected, in the early years after Repeal in 1933 the coffee cocktail has sporadic appearance. Here is an example from Buffalo, NY in 1934. G. Selmer Fougner, the New York-based drinks writer of the 1930s, mentions the drink a couple of times in the same year. But as for most of the pre-Prohibition cocktail panoply, it disappears for practical purposes by WW II certainly.


*It appears the misnomer idea originated with pioneering cocktails writer Jerry Thomas, whose 1887 edition of his bartenders guide first gave the recipe. Thomas states neither bitters nor coffee enter into the recipe, which appears to be true as a general rule, but later recipes did occasionally incorporate coffee, or another drink made with it, as shown above.



Reinhardts at Lagerheads

In the last three essays, we’ve seen how Gottlieb Reinhardt’s Montreal lager brewery, whose roots went back to 1852, had to meet competition from namesake Reinhardts in Toronto who were not related. They sent their Salvador lager to Montreal to compete with his, and finally (1900) set up a brewery just a hop and skip from his.

Some would consider that unfair dealing, but there was never a lawsuit, to our knowledge. Two Reinhardt-branded beers in Montreal had to share a rather small market to begin with: lager vs. ale or porter.

Both breweries ended by being absorbed into National Breweries Limited in 1909. This ended Gottlieb’s brewery and his lager of apparently high repute. The Toronto Reinhardt brewery continued on for some years.

If it wasn’t strange enough that unrelated Reinhardts competed to sell the same type of beer in Montreal, the same thing occurred in Ontario. Gottlieb, with his son Edward Victor, set up a brewery there as noted in an 1889 Montreal business directory.

They did that not in Toronto, where Lothar Reinhardt, Sr. started his brewery, but in Berlin – Berlin, Ontario – which is about 60 miles from Toronto. (The city is now called Kitchener, a change instituted during WW I).

Which side of the equation was aggrieved? In other words, who first sold his beer in the other’s Province?

I can’t answer this definitively as I have not been able to tell when in particular the Toronto Reinhardts started shipping beer to Montreal agents. They were doing so at least in 1886, the year Gottlieb and son Charles (increasingly running the business) noted in an ad in the Montreal Gazette that their business was unrelated to the Toronto brewery.

After working for the Walz brewery in Toronto Lothar Reinhardt, Sr. went into business for himself in 1880-1881, according to an early Toronto and area history.

The agent Montreuil in Montreal, from at least 1893, advertised Reinhardt Salvador together with Dominion White Label and Labatt IPA. Initially, as seen here in 1893, the ads did not state the Reinhardt name in connection with Salvador, but later, e.g., here in 1894 and after, they did. The change seems rather unfair to us, but again there was no lawsuit.

Regarding Gottlieb and Charles’ foray into Ontario, Waterloo Region Generations states that younger son Edward owned a small brewery on Queen Street in Berlin. The brewery is also noted in the 1988 The Art and Mystery of Brewing in Ontario by Ian Bowering, at p. 61. The years during which it operated are not stated, just the approximate period.

However, it seems the brewery started in 1886 and ran until about 1890. Edward was probably selling mostly just draft beer locally. The production was quite small, 10 barrels per day; the Toronto Reinhardt brewery was much larger by comparison.

This biographical entry on Edward in Industries of Canada: Historical and Commercial Sketches (1886), adds more information. An 1888 Waterloo County business directory also contains this listing for Edward as brewer in Berlin.

On August 31, 1889, a box ad for the brewery, about 2″x 2″, appeared in Toronto’s The Globe & Mail (institutional access or paywall). The brewery was called Berlin Brewery, with a statement that “E.V. Reinhardt, Prop.”, was “manufacturer of the celebrated Berlin lager” on Queen Street. The ad was in a group of ads from town merchants that accompanied a multi-page feature on Berlin life and industry. Seemingly the business was on a good footing at this time.

One imagines that the Toronto Reinhardts were not thrilled to read this over breakfast in their home city. True, it was small beer in relation to them, but as an outpost of an older, well-established Montreal brewery, they probably experienced disquiet over it, apart from seeing “their” name used by someone else.

We think it probable the Toronto Reinhardts entered the Montreal market before Edward starting brewing in Berlin, but cannot be 100% sure. Whatever the explanation, we doubt Lothar, Sr. would take an incursion into Ontario by another Reinhardt lightly, even in a small-volume market (if it was).

Indeed, late-1890s notices in Waterloo County trade directories (not paginated, see under General Index) show that Lothar’s agent F.C. Brandt was marketing Salvador and Export lager in Berlin. That probably occurred as soon as Edward started brewing on Queen Street. Brandt’s work may have hastened Edward’s departure from Berlin, and it’s an interesting question whether Brandt was touting Reinhardt beers from Toronto even earlier.*

Edward, born in 1860 – see the Waterloo Region Generations reference above – may have been Gottlieb’s youngest child as in that year Gottlieb, born in 1812 in Germany, was 48. By mid-1890, Edward is in Stuttgart, Germany where on July 23 he met an early demise, at only 30 (see ditto reference).**

Why did he leave Berlin? What explained his youthful passing, and a decamping far away to Germany, albeit Wurttemberg the province of his father’s birth? I hope to find out more soon.

Note re image: image was sourced from this page of the Toronto Reference Library. Used for educational and historical purposes. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the sole owner, as applicable. All feedback welcome.


*While not strictly relevant here, Lothar, Sr. operated from the East End Brewery on River Street in Toronto prior to establishing, c.1887, his Salvador Brewery on nearby Mark Street.

** While it states Edward was born in Montana, this is almost certainly a transcription error, and Montana should read Montreal. The Montreal Reinhardts had no apparent links with Montana, as far as we know.

A Brave Venture – Imperial Breweries Ltd.

On September 7, 1907 Montreal’s La Presse, in a regular news item, covered the recent launch of Imperial Breweries Ltd. (see p. 25). The story explained its unique characteristic, not just for the province of Quebec but even apparently all Canada –  it was a brewing cooperative.

The Cooperative Plan

The paper explained for readers’ benefit that a cooperative combines the functions of production and consumption, and reduces costs by eliminating the middleman. At least 200 hoteliers and grocers bought shares, pooling their “small capital” to create a viable alternative to existing brewers and distributors.

A cooperative also has the feature, not expressly mentioned in the article, of one vote per member irrespective of financial investment. An element of democracy is thereby injected that is absent from standard business associations, where votes are a function of the equity invested.

Cooperatives had developed traction in Quebec since 1900, not least by the landmark creation in Levis, QC (near Quebec City) of the quickly spreading Caisses Populaire. The cooperative movement was in tune, stated the item, with growing socialist sentiment in the West. Imperial Breweries, it noted, was following similar developments in the U.K. and Germany.

The Nationalist Spirit

The paper made a frank appeal to “French Canadians” to support the new venture. While La Presse generally avoided a strongly nationalist posture from the mid-20th century, here nationalism was invoked to support a largely francophone commercial venture.

This handsome ad appeared the same year in the Prix Courant, a weekly commercial newspaper:

The appeal in essence was to support one’s own, not unreasonable given industry ownership in Quebec at the time. It was a way for French Canadian capital to enter brewing at scale from a standing start. Montreal’s Frontenac Brewery, established in 1911 only four years later, was also a French Canadian venture albeit with a conventional corporate structure in that case.

Both developments, as for the Caisses Populaire, showed Québécois developing traction in an economy that had been dominated by “les Anglais”, to use the Quebec vernacular. Other French Canadian breweries had existed, in Quebec City and elsewhere in Quebec province. But in Montreal, Imperial Breweries and Frontenac, as far as I know, were the first to be owned by French-speakers in the British era (1770s onward).

Financial Matters

Imperial Breweries had an authorized capital of $400,000, which seems to have been raised. $300,000 was spent to acquire the freehold on St. Paul Street, see page 8 in this contemporary report, formerly occupied by the Reinhardt Salvador Brewery.

Despite the hopes invested in the fledging company, not to mention the hard cash of investors, the plan did not succeed. Only two years later, the brewery was sold to newly-formed National Breweries Limited, which took in all breweries in Montreal except Quebec’s oldest brewery, Molson’s Brewery.

Based on numerous press stories, Imperial had gone into liquidation ahead of the 1909 sale, indeed Lothar Reinhardt, Jr. was co-liquidator, with C.A. Savage.

A sale at auction was ordered and according to news reports of land registrations in Montreal, Lothar himself bought the brewery, for $179,724.66, and then sold it for the same price to National Breweries. The deeds appear both to have been registered during August 1909 but in reverse order, the sale to National, then purchase from the bankruptcy.

I am not clear why this was done. Perhaps Lothar pledged to a bank the securities issued by National Breweries as consideration for its purchase to obtain the cash to pay the bankruptcy.

Press reports on the National Breweries merger plan appeared at end of March 1909 and ascribed a value to Salvador brewery of $100,000, for which a combination of preferred shares and bonds would be issued in payment. See this sample story that indicated land, plant and equipment would be transferred for a combination of these two forms of payment (not cash).

Yet, an 1916 American export trade report listed the value of Imperial Breweries at $400,000. It seems all values were revised upward when the final deal was done, some by a great margin, some for less, as can be seen comparing the respective figures. Dow’s was about half initially what it ended as.

Likely for the breweries considered to have goodwill, that was paid for in issuance of common shares. For what it’s worth, the Lothar land transfers stated that goodwill was included (“clièntele“). No mention was made of stock in trade, but we think probably this was included.*

As to receivables, a notice by Reinhardt and Savage in Le Canada in October 1909 stated that claims against subscribers (créances) would be sold to bidders at auction.

There may be another explanation for the bump-up in Imperial’s case. Perhaps the plant was re-valued when Dawes brewery moved from Lachine to Montreal, in 1916 as it happens, and took over the St. Paul Street brewery. Maybe Lothar owned adjoining lands that he sold to National at some point before 1916, as National expanded the plant footprint, according to its 1934 25th anniversary report I’ve mentioned earlier.

The March 1909 information in any case was “early days”, as Molson Brewery was included at a valuation of $500,000, but did not participate in the final deal.

Role of Lothar Reinhardt viz. Imperial Breweries

I cannot locate a bankruptcy notice for Salvador Brewery in 1907, and its financial condition prior to the sale to Imperial Breweries is unclear to me. Perhaps it was simply a convenient exit for the Toronto Reinhardts from at most a secondary production market, vs. shipping in from Toronto as they had done before 1900.

Albeit clearly among the smaller breweries of Montreal, Salvador Brewery may have been profitable under Lothar, the actual position is not known, to my knowledge.

In a La Presse story of July 1907 describing a reception held to inaugurate Imperial Breweries Ltd., Lothar is mentioned three times in the piece (see p. 10). Addressing the gathering, he lauded Salvador Brewery for its “progress” since construction in 1900, with a 10,000 gallon per day production capacity, a Linde refrigeration machine, and other advantages. He forecast a bright future for the cooperative, invoking the Mutual Union Brewery in New York as a model for high returns.

The tone seems at odds with a business in the dumps prior to the sale, but it is hard to tell at this juncture.

It seems probable Lothar retained a role in Imperial’s business before its fall, if only to guide new owners presumably unfamiliar with brewing. His presence and remarks at the inaugural reception suggest a continuing involvement, although he was not among the listed directors and officers, all seemingly francophone.

Perhaps he was a paid advisor, or even the general manager reporting to the new President, a M. Gravel. The appointment as liquidator also suggests an earlier continuing involvement. Co-liquidator Savage was likely a professional bankruptcy trustee, in contrast.

As well, in 1908 Imperial Breweries placed prominent ads, e.g. in Le Samedi, that continued to show Reinhardt’s name:

Reasons for the Fall of Imperial Breweries

Yet, Imperial Breweries failed at its mission, within only two years. Did the cooperative model simply not work as anticipated? After all even in 1911, two years after National Breweries was formed, Frontenac Brewery, owned by francophones, entered the fray (albeit finally absorbed also by National Breweries, in the 1920s).

Probably competition was too fierce and the anticipated cost savings, too small to grow the business quickly. Also, the hoped for custom from French Canadians may not have arisen in sufficient numbers. Beer drinkers had long been accustomed to choosing amongst established brands, names such as Molson, Dow, and Dawes – the new kid on the block, while a sentimental favourite, did not get enough brand support, it seems.

Also, Salvador was primarily a lager brewery, and lager then was in comparative infancy in Quebec. Nor was Salvador’s lager the only game in town, as Ekers (later also known as Canadian Breweries) made a Milwaukee Lager, and G. Reinhardt & Sons continued to sell their lager. The newspapers show numerous ads as well in this period by American brewers, for beers such as Blatz and Budweiser. The small lager market was rather crowded, and seemingly Imperial could not make a dent in the existing ale and porter market.

The Game of the Name

Some may wonder at the English name “Imperial Breweries”. There were two reasons for this I think. First, at the time, some French Canadian-owned breweries bore English names, e.g., Royal Brewery, and also Fox Head Brewery. This was likely due to the strong association of beer at the time, even lager, with British tradition.

Second, Salvador brewery under Lothar used the term Imperial for some products, so there was a continuity here. The continued use of the name provided the happy circumstance to market an Imperial Porter, which will please dark beer enthusiasts in 2019.

N.B. Today, craft brewing features a number of cooperative breweries, La Barberie in Quebec is one, and London Brewing in London, Ontario another. In France, Terken Brewery in Roubaix, formerly Grande Brasserie Moderne or GBM, a merger of breweries in 1920, lasted until 2004, on a cooperative basis. The cooperative will always be an attractive model to some persons, and more so perhaps in today’s socially aware business environment.

Maybe Imperial Breweries was simply ahead of its time.


*Dow’s valuation in the 1916 trade report, the only one to exceed $1,000,000, makes one realize that the power of the brand in Quebec of the 1950s and early 60s – until the additives scandal in 1964 – wasn’t created from thin air by business genius E.P. Taylor. Dow beer had long enjoyed eminence in Quebec, as numerous attestations showed even in the 1800s. Hubert LaRue’s 1880s book is among them, as I discussed earlier.





The Brewing Reinhardts in Ontario and Quebec

After consulting dozens of sources, I came to understand there were two, albeit unrelated, Reinhardt breweries in Montreal in the period leading up to the 1909 merger that resulted in National Breweries Ltd.

I was continually put off-track in following a skein or narrative for each “branch”, until I realized this fact.

Montreal’s population was almost completely of French or British stock then, but there were small numbers of other origin. The Germans had a tiny representation, some descended from Westphalians or Hessians who had fought with the British in the late 1700s in North America.

It was understandable, due to this influx, that one would enter brewing, and one did: Gottlieb Reinhardt, in 1852, and his descendants continued the business until said merger. Gottlieb himself died in 1895, having come to Montreal in 1831, from Wurtemberg. See the birth details in the second listing, here.

He is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, a leafy resting place for the social and business elite.

The Salvador Brewery established in 1900 on St. Paul Street in Montreal, often called the Reinhardt Salvador brewery, was a venture of a son of Lothar Reinhardt, who came from Cologne and was not related to Gottlieb. Lothar, Sr. settled in Ontario and established a well-known brewery in Toronto.

The Toronto business and family history have been well-documented, but the Montreal Reinhardt story, much less so.

It’s long odds that two German-descended Reinhardts would brew lager beer in a mostly French and English city and not be related, but there we have it.

The Reinhardt Salvador brewery merged in 1907 with the newly-established Imperial Breweries Ltd. but it appears Lothar Reinhardt, Jr. continued involvement with the new business. There was a specific reason, which I’ll explore in a future post.

Finally, Imperial Breweries too was rolled into National Breweries in 1909, but its brief story is of absorbing interest, which I’ll return to as mentioned.

The ad below (freeview clipping from, sourced here) shows clearly there was no connection between the two Reinhardt families. German Street, or rue Allemande, was later renamed Hotel de Ville Street.



The Ten Breweries of Montreal (in 1898)

In 1898 in a splashy advertorial-style piece, the French-language newspaper La Presse wrote up the ten breweries then in business in greater Montreal. La Presse was founded in 1884 by William-Edmond Blumhart, a descendant of a Hessian officer who served with British forces in Quebec.

By the start of the 20th century La Presse was a major force in Quebec publishing, friendly to business yet with a liberal, inclusive outlook. At least as I remember it, La Presse was never strongly nationalistic, for example. Today, the paper is digital-only and run as a social (non-profit) trust.

The breweries described were Molson, Dow, Dawes, Ekers, Union, de la Court, Reinhardt (claimed as first lager brewery in Montreal, 1852), Star, Canadian Brewing, and Montreal Brewing. The three oldest were Molson (1786), Union (formerly Williams Brewery) (1808), and Dow (1809). Today, only Molson survives, now called Molson Coors Beverage Inc.

Brewing continues in Molson’s historic location by the St. Lawrence River but a new plant is being built in St. Hubert, Quebec. When turns the key, that will spell the end certainly of mass production of Molson-Coors beer by the riverside in Montreal.

The article was probably financed by the brewers as a kind of joint anti-Prohibition exercise, as it continually suggests the health, economic, and social benefits of moderate drinking. The breweries are given disproportionate space to their size, Molson got only a small paragraph, for example. It is difficult to know why, perhaps each paid for so much space.

The piece is noteworthy for the historical detail, ownership and management information, and product descriptions.

Most breweries were owned by Anglophones despite the fact that Montreal has always had a French-speaking majority. Star Brewery was owned by a Belgian financier, Count Debellefeuille. The de la Court name suggested a possible second European connection, maybe Dutch.

Many breweries were staffed by British-trained brewers, e.g., in Burton, Scotland or Ireland.

In the 20th century, brewing in Montreal was started up by Francophones, e.g., Frontenac Brewery, and today of course most craft brewing is probably owned by Francophones. The 1890s was a time when English-speakers still dominated the economy in Quebec.

The types of beer made were pale ale, India Pale Ale, stock ale, porter, stout, and lager. Some made both lager and ale, Ekers for example produced a Milwaukee Lager. Its plant was – and is, the building – on St. Lawrence Boulevard north, past the Schwartz smoked meat restaurant many readers will know.

Dawes, then in Lachine, Quebec also made a No. 1 Heavy Ale, suggesting Scots influence in the range.

What happened to these breweries? De La Court ceased in 1900 according to the late Allen W. Sneath’s Canadian brewing history. It seems Star Brewing had ceased business as well by that year.

All the rest, excluding Molson’s, merged in 1909 with a few breweries outside Montreal in Quebec, to form National Breweries Limited. Dow, Dawes, Ekers, and Boswell in Quebec City, were the main surviving units. National Breweries later acquired other breweries in the province, notably Frontenac in Montreal, and Champlain in Quebec City. For further details, see on page 8 this financial “historique” of National Breweries in a Quebec newspaper in 1930.

Toronto industrialist E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries Ltd. (CBL) acquired National Breweries in 1952. In 1989 the successor of CBL, O’Keefe Brewing, merged into Molson’s. The canny Molsons ended with it all, today sharing control with the Coors family and the whole shebang now run from Chicago. But Geoff Molson, of the seventh generation, is still actively involved in management.

La Presse cited various names as likely to be long remembered in Montreal brewing, but the Molsons, given relatively short shrift in its coverage, ended up claiming that honour.

Note re images: the first image was sourced from the story identified and linked in the text. The second, from a later period in Montreal brewing history, is from the City of Montreal’s online exhibition,To Get a Drink You Have to Sell, which memorializes Dawes brewing history.  All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.





India Pale Ale in 1867 Canada – Heady Brew

I have uncovered a significant report on beer strength in 1867, from a report by a Quebec-based chemistry préparateur. This French term meant probably a “TA” today, or teacher’s assistant.  The report was in French and published only in Quebec, but also serialized in a number of Quebec newspapers that year.

I searched but could not locate an English version; I believe none was prepared. The writer was A.C.P. R. (Phillipe) Landry. His biography appears in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, see here. He did the study when at Laval University in Quebec City. Landry was trained in chemistry and agronomy, and later became a noted federal politician. He died in 1919.

To my knowledge his work has not been previously cited in Canadian beer history studies. (I have not read every single one, so if anyone did mention Landry’s study, I’m happy to know).

I have made extensive searches on beer strength in mid-1800s Canada, for practical purposes this meant ale and porter, then. Very little hard information is available. Based on a variety of sources, the strength varied, including in the United States, from five to nine percent ABV. It depended on the region, the brewer, and type of beer made.

Some of the reputed Albany Ales for example, which are relevant as New York State is adjacent to parts of Quebec and Ontario, seem to have been at the higher end. I cited references in my recent article in Brewery History called Fleming’s Golden Ale“.

Ale brewed at Helliwell Brewery in Toronto around 1830 may have been 9% abv according to this history of Toronto breweries by Jordan St. John, but there is little solid data (apart from Landry) until the 1890s. In that period, the federal Government reported assays on a wide range of India pale and pale ales.

By then, these beers were 5-6%, which are IMO by weight in the summary linked, therefore, 6-7% abv.* The average in the 1867 study was by my calculation 8.4% abv, so 6-7% abv is about a 23% decline, which is consistent with a long-term drop in beer gravities internationally until craft brewing came along.

You may read Landry’s report here, the full title is Boissons Alcooliques Et Leurs Falsifications. See numbers at pp. 29 et seq. This is an extract showing the average he calculated for four breweries:

The percentages are by volume based on internal evidence. For example, he states that whisky is generally 50-60% alcohol, which suggests ABV based on my reading. Also, he states that Parkes in his (English) brewing text sets out alcohol percentages from one to 10 for beer. That was evidently by volume as the equivalent values by weight and in British Proof are listed in adjacent columns.

Hence, the Canadian beers had to have fairly high starting gravities, in some cases around 1085 and more, and rather inconsistent as well. The alcohol level for Labatt’s India Pale Ale was (an average) 9% ABV, and for Dow again, 8.53%.

The four breweries were McCallum in Quebec City, Boswell in the same, Labatt in “CW” (Canada West), also called Upper Canada in the report, and Dow in Montreal.

In my opinion, this is further evidence that IPA was originally a strong beer, 8-9% ABV, as I argued in this essay. Canada was a British colony until the very year of 1867. Due to distance, the small number of settlers, and limited communications and transport, colonies often preserved practices later abandoned in the metropole. Many foods show this, pulled pork, say, which is originally an English dish.

Nonetheless some English IPA remained strong, at what I consider the “historic” end of the range. It is proven that pale ale from Salt Brewery in Burton was 9.8% ABV in 1862 as I discussed here, even stronger than the above Canadian pale ales in 1867. Dow IPA was still quite strong in the 1890s but this appeared the exception for the Canadian pale ales and IPA then tested.

India Pale Ale was new in 1867 at Labatt in London, Ontario, having been introduced by John Labatt II after a brewing apprenticeship in West Virginia between 1859 and 1864. So the data of Landry is extra-important as reporting the strength of one of Canada’s early and most reputed and longest-lived IPAs. Yes? Yes, in a roundabout way.

Landry examined India Pale Ale from the Labatt Brothers firm in Prescott, Ontario. That was a different brewery than Labatt in London, set up by two elder brothers of John Labatt II who were excluded from the London brewery by their father John Kinder Labatt.

However, the Prescott operation was established by the American George Weatherall Smith, precisely the person with whom John Labatt II had studied IPA brewing in Wheeling, West Virginia. John Labatt II also worked with Smith in Prescott c. 1865 until Smith went home. See my discussion and references in this post.

Labatt II then returned to London to grow the Labatt we know today and his brothers took over the brewery in Prescott. For this reason, I think it is safe to say all three brothers made the one and the same IPA. (As Matthew Bellamy reports in his fine new history of the Labatt brewery, Prescott did not prosper and was later absorbed into the main Labatt business).

The foregoing ties in well IMO to Racey’s Strong West India Ale, a Quebec City beer advertised in 1837 in the Montreal Herald.

The “India” is the common link. Whether stylistically the Racey’s was an India Pale beer, as I believe, or not, is less important. Putting it a different way, Canadian brewers, following as I infer the original (Hodgson) IPA standard of c. 1800, caught up to Bass and Allsopp later in the century. That is, by better controls on their gravities and by selling more units of lower gravity than higher gravity, they stayed competitive and more profitable.

Despite Bass, Allsopp and other IPA brewers who brewed at c. 6% abv, some English brewers continued the older style, through the Victorian period, for top-grade IPA. As did Salt, indubitably. Did Salt, or the Canadian brewers, ramp up an iconic original just because they could? I doubt it, things generally don’t work that way, especially given the indisputable, long-term decline in top-fermentation gravities of Anglo-Saxon tradition up to the First World War.

This is on top of all the evidence I marshalled in the post that the original IPA was a strong beer.

Finally, Hubert LaRue in his 1881 book (also in French) that I discussed in 2016, states that Quebec beers averaged 7-8% G.L. (abv) in a study he performed years earlier. In fact, Larue was Landry’s supervising professor at Laval, as the Dictionary of Canadian Biography confirms.

Larue included no technical data to support his lapidary statement, or even the beer types. Landry’s report of 1867 provides the vital missing link. And indeed 7-8% abv corresponds essentially to Landry’s data, as McCallum’s average abv was 7.76%. To quibble that 8.9% is not 9% is bootless. Larue’s remarks may be seen at p. 199, here.

I am also not aware that Canadian beer historiography cited Larue’s book before my post in 2016.