Bright Ale Joins Clear Northern Waters
The brightness obsession for beer obtained strongly in the period leading up to WW I. And it was international: brewing then was a surprisingly small world. Scientists’ work was quickly publicized in areas distant from their labs; brewers moved around the globe looking for new work, hence beer styles too; equipment makers shipped their latest designs far and wide.
The small Silver Springs Brewery in Sherbrooke, Quebec was no exception. At the time the area was an English-speaking, regional centre. Many Loyalists and late-Loyalists, those who came in the early 1800s as a by-product of the initial surge, settled the area, whose French character was less pronounced than in other parts of Quebec at the time.
Britons immigrated finally as well, and so side-by-side with a francophone population the area developed a unique, bi-cultural character, somewhat like Montreal but in a rural, small town setting.
In this context, brewing did well and Silver Springs was able to resist pressures from the large Montreal and Quebec City breweries selling into its territory. In fact, when most of Quebec’s breweries merged in 1909 to form the National Breweries combine, Silver Springs did not join. (Molson Brewery in Montreal stayed out as well).
Silver Springs in 1900 was run by Seth Nutter. Nutter had been a partner in the business with John Bryant, but Bryant left to found a ginger ale business, the Bull’s Head brand. It is a sign of how pod-like, to use a currently fashionable term, life was in Quebec of the 1950s-70s when I lived there that I never tasted Bull’s Head.
We had our own brands in Montreal: Gurd, Kik. Canada Dry was everywhere.
Bull’s Head is still made, having gone through a number of hands since the 1970s.
On the beer side, Seth Nutter stayed with the business until the mid-1920s when it closed.
This Sherbrooke Daily Record ad of 1900 (via Google News searches) shows the bright beer obsession to the max. So oddly written is it that one imagines the brewer was making fun somewhat of the craze. It is tempting to think his surname was meant to emphasize this, but I don’t think so. For one thing his name was regularly used in more conventional ads for Silver Springs ale and porter.
Today, the rage for unfiltered, opaque, and other beers of foggy depth is unabated. The brilliant beer advocates of 120 years ago – which pretty much was everyone in brewing who intended to stay in it for very long – would have been scandalized.
Tastes change, aren’t absolute.
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