Roistering in Toronto the Good (?), 1949

Strange Brew, Look What’s Inside of you

In my last post, I discussed the temporary English pub, Lion and the Unicorn, built in October 1969 for “British Week in Canada”, a trade and cultural event.

I mentioned the beers served, bottled beers from the renowned Bass, Whitbread, McEwan’s, and Mackeson. There were three English ciders to boot.

Another trade event in Toronto featured another English pub, 18 years earlier. 1949 is very early for such a thing in Toronto. I’m fain to call it the first Canadian showcase for the 20th century British pub.

Certainly, to sample English beer in a “British” pub in Canada in 1949 was a novel experience. The pub was an exhibit of a British brewery participating in the Canadian International Trade Fair (CITF). The CITF ran annually from 1948 to the late 1950s at Exhibition Grounds in Toronto. This is the city-owned building and park complex where the Canadian National Exhibition, or “Ex”, is held annually in August. The CITF was an off-season event, held in spring.

The 1949 edition featured an impressive “eight-booth” exhibit of Hope & Anchor Breweries in Sheffield, an ambitious regional brewer. It saw its future in international expansion. Brian Glover tells the Hope & Anchor story in his 2009 The Lost Beers and Breweries of Britain, see here. He states Hope & Anchor participated in North American business exhibitions in this period.

It had two beers marked for export in particular, oyster stout and a honey-based ale. You see them in the 1950s ad above. Both were mentioned in Toronto press stories on the replica pub, named Rose and Crown Inn.

A May 25, 1949 Globe and Mail account stated the pub was part of a 15-ton, 80-foot long exhibit built in England and shipped here for the fair. It comprised a Manx cottage with cauldron and spinning wheel, English scenes, and depiction of Windsor castle. At the pub you could play darts and shove ha-penny. Other than noting that oyster stout and honey-based ale were “out of the ordinary”, the Globe perceived no exotica in the beer sold.

Perhaps it was bemused more than anything else.

The New Zealand oyster concentrate used in the oyster stout, mentioned by Brian Glover, is referred to by the Globe as well. It’s an ostensibly strange beer ingredient in those pre-craft times, but was taken in stride, including evidently by the fair-goers.

On June 10, 1949 the Globe reported that beer supplies at the Rose and Crown ran out! Hope & Anchor had to fly in more.

The bar was one of six on site (stated the Globe), another featured Czech beer, probably Pilsner Urquell, and was so popular supplies were “rationed”.

A June 6, 1949 story (same paper) reported the avidity of fair goers to visit the Rose & Crown. A harried CNE staffer told the paper:

Four out of every five people have wanted to know where that pub is. It is about the only thing we have to know.

Stout and porter by this time had practically died out in Canada, yet oyster stout was lapped up at the fair, as was rich Bohemian lager.

Hope & Anchor marketed the oyster stout across North America in the 1950s. Brian Glover states it even enjoyed a cult status in California c. 1952; this is interesting considering where modern craft brewing started.

Here you see a 1954 ad in the Times-Union of Albany, NY for over 30 imported beers. Manx oyster stout and the mead (honey) ale of Hope & Anchor are included. This ad is a striking example of the pre-craft interest in imported beers. This history played a large role in what became our modern craft culture.



On May 25, 1949 the Globe reported that so successful was the Rose and Crown, Hope & Anchor was mulling setting up a brewery in Canada. It would make oyster stout using Canadian oysters, and honey ale with Canadian honey. Makes sense!

Brig. Basil Hopkins who led the trade mission for Hope & Anchor announced the hopeful plan to the journalist.

The landscape of Canadian brewing might have changed considerably had this occurred. Maybe by the 1960s a vibrant craft beer industry would have emerged.

The history took a different turn, but anyway Toronto showed, in the days of supposed civic rectitude, that it could party with the best of them, with discrimination.

It would again in 1969 when 50,000 bottles of British beer sold out in 10 days at British Week in Canada.

Coda. The Globe on June 7, 1950 reported the pub was still on the fairgrounds, surplus to requirements and seeking a buyer.* The brewery hoped a well-heeled Canadian would buy it for a basement bar or “rumpus room”. What happened, I don’t know.

Maybe it is lodged in the nether regions of a Rosedale or Forest Hill manse. For all I know, it could be 1000 yards from where I write – outside the precincts of either district, I might add.


*For those interested this account gives a detailed description of the English pub on which the replica was based. The Globe stories discussed are behind a paywall, but available without charge via JSTOR to those who have a Toronto Public Library, or other institutional, account.