Roistering in Toronto the Good, 1949

Strange Brew, What’s Inside of you

In my last post, I discussed a temporary English pub, the Lion and the Unicorn, at the 1967 “British Week in Canada” fair.

18 years earlier, in 1949, another trade event in Toronto featured another English pub. 1949 is very early for such an event, in Toronto or almost anywhere (the 1939 New York World’s Fair featured something similar, although more a restaurant).

To sample British beer in a British pub, in Canada in 1949, was certainly a novel experience. The pub was an exhibit of a British brewery which participated in the Canadian International Trade Fair (CITF).

The fair ran annually from 1948 until the late 1950s at Exhibition Grounds in Toronto, the city-owned building and park complex where the historic Canadian National Exhibition, or “Ex”, is held annually in August. The CITF was the off-season event, held in spring.

The 1949 fair featured an impressive “eight-booth” presentation by Hope & Anchor Breweries in Sheffield, England, an ambitious regional brewer which saw its future in international expansion.

Brian Glover discussed Hope & Anchor in his (2009) The Lost Beers and Breweries of Britain, see here. He stated the brewery participated in numerous overseas exhibitions in this period.

It had two beers marked for export in particular, an oyster stout and honey ale. These are included in its 1950s-era ad above. Both beers are mentioned in Toronto press stories describing the replica pub at the 1949 fair, the Rose and Crown Inn.

On May 25, 1949 the Globe and Mail reported the pub was part of a 15-ton, 80-foot long exhibit built in England, shipped over for the fair. It comprised a Manx cottage with cauldron and spinning wheel, picturesque English scenes, and depiction of Windsor castle. At the pub one could play darts and shove ha-penny.

Other than noting oyster stout and honey ale were “out of the ordinary” the Globe journalist perceived nothing unusual in the beer types. Probably they were more bemused than anything else.

A New Zealand oyster concentrate was used for the stout, as mentioned by Brian Glover. The odd-sounding ingredient was noted in the Globe story as well, making for a strange brew in those pre-craft times, in Canada certainly but Britain too. All was taken in stride, evidently as well by Toronto fairgoers.

On June 10, 1949 the Globe reported beer ran out at the Rose and Crown. Hope & Anchor had to fly in more! (Czech beer was a hit too at another beer outlet onsite, according to the report).

The same paper (June 6, 1949) mused on fairgoers’ avidity to visit the Rose & Crown. It quoted a harried 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 had withered in Canada, but the oyster stout was lapped up, as was rich Bohemian lager, even as Canadian breweries were making their beers lighter.

Hope & Anchor marketed its oyster stout across North America in the 1950s. Brian Glover states it was even a cult item in California, c.1952. This is interesting, as to a considerable extent modern craft brewing has its origins in the state, some 20 years later.

As archived here, a 1954 Times-Union (Albany, New York) ad touted about 30 imported beers. Manx oyster stout and honey (or mead) ale from Hope & Anchor were included.

The ad demonstrates pre-craft North American interest in a variety of imported beer. That history is part of craft evolution as well, as craft brewers would later routinely brew styles reflected in the ad, and then some.



On May 25, 1949 the Globe reported the Rose and Crown was such a success Hope & Anchor was mulling setting up an affiliate here. It planned to use Canadian oysters to make oyster stout, and our honey to make honey ale.

The plan made perfect sense but was ahead of its time, and never implemented. Once again, similar efforts by small independent brewers a generation later were acclaimed by an emerging craft market.

Anyway, in an era of supposed civic rectitude, Toronto in 1949 showed it could party with the best of them. Oyster and honey beer? Bring it on.

A repeat of pre-craft taste occurrred in 1967 when 50,000 bottles of British beer sold out in 10 days at British Week in Canada. 

And still, Canadian beers were getting ever lighter. It seems the big brewers just didn’t get it. Their consolidation and retrenchment only proceeded apace.

What happened to the replica Rose and Crown?

The Globe reported, June 7, 1950, it was still at the fairgrounds, it’s mission ended and seeking a buyer. The brewery hoped a well-heeled Canadian would buy it for their basement bar or “rumpus room”.

Whether that happened or not, who knows. The pub could be lodged in the nether regions of a Rosedale or Forest Hill mansion, for all I know. Or maybe a Muskoka cottage. If so, I hope the current owners know its history.