Roistering in Toronto the Good (?), 1949

Strange Brew, Look What’s Inside of you

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

I mentioned the beers served: bottled beers from renowned Bass, Whitbread, McEwan’s, and Mackeson breweries. 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.

To sample English beer in a “British” pub in Canada, in 1949, was a novel experience. The pub was the exhibit of a British brewery which participated in the Canadian International Trade Fair (CITF). It ran annually from 1948 until the late 1950s at the 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 the off-season event, held in spring.

The 1949 edition featured an impressive “eight-booth” exhibit of Hope & Anchor Breweries from 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 confirms 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, called Rose and Crown Inn.

According to a May 25, 1949 Globe and Mail account the pub was part of a 15-ton, 80-foot long exhibit built in England, 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 types. Likely it was more bemused than anything else.

A New Zealand oyster concentrate used in the stout, mentioned by Brian Glover, was noted by the Globe as well. It was an ostensibly strange ingredient in those pre-craft times. All was taken in stride, including evidently by fairgoers.

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. Czech beer was available at one, probably Pilsner Urquell. It was so popular supplies were “rationed”.

A June 6, 1949 story (same paper) reported fairgoers’ avidity to visit the Rose & Crown. Spake a harried CNE staffer:

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, and rich Bohemian lager.

Hope & Anchor marketed oyster stout across North America in the 1950s. Brian Glover states the stout was even a cult item in California c. 1952. This is interesting considering where modern craft brewing started 20 years later …

Here you see a 1954 ad in the Times-Union of Albany, New York for about 30 imported beers. Manx oyster stout and the mead, or honey, ale from Hope & Anchor are included. The ad is a striking illustration of interest in imported beer before the craft era. That history played a definite role in the craft culture to be formed.

 

 

On May 25, 1949 the Globe reported that so successful was the Rose and Crown, Hope & Anchor Brewery was mulling setting up an affiliate in Canada. It would brew oyster stout using Canadian oysters, and honey ale using Canadian honey. Makes sense.

Brig. Basil Hopkins, who had led the trade mission for Hope & Anchor, announced the hopeful plan to journalists. The landscape of 1960s Canadian brewing might have been quite different had this occurred. Maybe a vibrant craft beer industry would have emerged, rather than 30 years later.

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

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

The Globe on June 7, 1950 reported the pub was still on the fairgrounds, now 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 the pub 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 bounds of either district, I hasten to add.

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*This press account gave a detailed description of the original English pub on which the replica was based.