Hart’s Beer Returns in Quebec – 200 Years Later

In February of this year, I posted a blog entry on a c. 1800 beer recipe from the Hart family’s brewery in the Province of Quebec. A number of sources online mention the recipe’s existence and its number in the Quebec government’s archival system, including this one, but the recipe itself had not, to my knowledge, been published anywhere or discussed.

Initially I assumed the only way to read it was to travel to Quebec City and read the original lodged with the government. Then I went to the Quebec government’s Library and National Archives website and simply inserted the ID number in the search box. Lo, the recipe came up, it has been digitized. You can read it here. (Click on Voir les images). I included the link in my post and discussed what I felt were salient features of the recipe.

Later, a researcher from the Museum of Jewish Montreal found my article and read the recipe, which lead to the Museum collaborating with Le Réservoir, a brewpub in Montreal, to recreate the recipe. I did not participate in the discussions to recreate it, but was invited to speak at the official launch of the beer next Wednesday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Montreal at the Museum on St. Laurent Boulevard. A visit to Le Réservoir, which is nearby, will follow at which attendees will taste a beer from approximately 200 years ago.

The recipe mentioned the possibility to use either ale or porter malt for the beer, so the recreation might have been ale or porter. I believe it is an ale but am not 100% certain. I will soon learn more and have requested certain technical details.

The Jewish connection resides in the fact that the Hart family were Jews, early settlers in Quebec via the founder of the clan here, Aaron Hart. Aaron was the first permanent Jewish settler in Quebec. As explained in my original posting, he came with the British Army about 1760 and was a sutler, a supplier of goods to the forces. Three of his children set up a maltings and brewery in Trois Rivières, a city on the St. Lawrence River half-way between Montreal and Quebec City. The Harts were a wealthy and influential family although the brewery did not last past 35 years. Moses Hart sold it about 1835 to William Dow of Montreal, founder of the famed Dow Brewery here (later absorbed into what is now Molson-Coors).

So the Museum is honouring brewing and Jewish history in Quebec in one stroke. Congratulations to them for twigging to the idea to recreate the beer. I will report later on the event and my impressions of the brew. I was told though that great pains were taken to ensure authenticity including use of Quebec-grown hops, and malt prepared in Quebec.

As far as I know, this recipe may be the oldest extant recipe of a commercial North American brewery, vs. a home brew or estate recipe, that is.

The event, and beer, are called L’Affaire Hart –  The Hart Affair. The word affair is an allusion as well to a political and social controversy involving Ezekiel Hart (1767-1843), one of the brewery’s founders, which pertains to his Jewish background. Although elected to Quebec’s (then called Lower Canada) legislative assembly from his district, he was not permitted to sit due to being a Jew. This is a well-known incident in Quebec, Canadian, and Canadian Jewish history. More details can be found in his Wikipedia entry, here.

Below is an extract from the English part of the Museum’s Facebook announcement giving more detail of the event and what I will talk about:

Hart Affair – Beer Tasting

The Musée du Montréal juif – Museum of Jewish Montreal and Fletchers – Espace Culinaire, in partnership with Le Reservoir, is excited to invite you to this event The Hart Affair featuring a 200-year old beer recipe created by the first Jewish family to settle in Quebec along with the chance to taste this one of a kind beer!

Have you heard of the Hart Family? Well-known as the first Jewish family to settle in Quebec, they also created the first synagogue in Canada and helped secure Jewish political rights. Less well-known is that in 1796, they set up a malt house and a brewery in Trois-Rivières called M & E Hart Company. When one of our researchers read about the discovery of a 200-year old beer recipe, we knew we had to try it!

Over the past month the Museum has been working with Le Réservoir to recreate the Hart beer. Following the scribbled indications on the written manuscript, Le Réservoir prepared a barrel of this all-barley malt using exclusively organic and local Quebec ingredients. Whereas the Hart family grew their own hops, we have used Newport hops and Frontenac malt, to mirror the tradition of beer brewing that was happening in 18th [sic] Quebec.

/////////// SCHEDULE ///////////
Meet us at 7:30pm at the Museum of Jewish Montreal where we will begin with a discussion by beer blogger Gary Gillman on the general characteristics of English beer and ale circa-1800. Then historian and author Denis Vaugeois will introduce us to the story of the Hart family and how they marked the history of the ”Quebec melting pot”.

We will then head down the street to Le Réservoir to have a taste of this famous beer. This is a unique opportunity for beer-lovers and those interested in Quebec history to discover the hidden tradition of an early Quebec brewery. Come and hear about the Hart Family story, and of course share a glass with us!

////////// Get your Tickets ///////////
Ticket cost is $25 and comes with 2 bottles of beer
Get your ticket via Eventbrite

Limited spots!


Hart family history, interesting as it is to me, is not my area. Beer is, and I will speak on the general characteristics of English beer at the time. Aaron’s sons, albeit born in Canada, were supplying at least in part British people or those recently descended from same. The British too were in control of Quebec then – we are speaking of a British Colonial setting. I believe the beer made by the Hart brewery would have been in an English style, to appeal to British tastes. This is not to say of course that anglophones were the exclusive purchasers.

The brewery was popular enough to have lasted a generation and its beer must have had a market amongst francophones, too. Indeed they acquired a taste for ale and porter that lasted throughout the 1800s and well into the 1900s.

Stylistically the Harts’ beer would have been similar to some of Dow’s and Molson’s beer in Montreal, which were all ales and porters in this period. Indeed the recipe itself suggests an English approach to brewing by its very vocabulary (e.g. “porter” is mentioned), instructions, and language (English). But we will see if the recreation presents characteristics of English beer then.

Either way, it will be nothing less than fascinating.

For those able to attend and interested in beer history and what ancestral tastes were like, this is not to be missed.