“Toronto Brews” Exhibition, Market Gallery

Last night I attended a reception for the opening of the Exhibition entitled “Toronto Brews: Two Centuries of Beer Culture”. It is taking place at Market Gallery, the historic space above St. Lawrence Market downtown in Toronto. A team from the City of Toronto, led by its Chief Curator of Museum and Heritage Services, Wayne Reeves, organized the event. It runs until December 28, 2019, at 95 Front Street East, Toronto.

This page from the City of Toronto website describes the main features. As stated in the link:

The story begins with tiny breweries established in the early 1800s, then covers the scaling-up of the industry in Victorian times, the impact of Prohibition, the rise of Canada’s macrobrewers in the first half of the 20th century, and ends with a look at the microbrewery movement since 1985 and contemporary craft-beer culture.

A number of special events will be held over the run including special Thursday night tastings, and culinary demonstrations.

The Exhibition achieves its aims well via wall narratives, a video advertising compilation, and the many historical objects on display. A small number of exhibits are pictured below to give the flavour, and I included more on Twitter (@beeretseq) yesterday.

Reeves and the City, the sponsoring organizations, and participating area breweries all deserve a vote of thanks for their efforts and contributions, as do the numerous private collectors who loaned rare items for display. I was pleased to see the original, 1856 menu displayed for Mart Ackerman’s Saloon, which was located nearby on Wellington Street.

I mentioned that fascinating item here in a whimsical piece some years ago. The City had to reach all the way to an archive in New York City to obtain this item.

Anyone who is interested in Canadian brewing, business, or cultural history and can attend should not miss this event.

Item above is from O’Keefe Brewery in Toronto, probably 1930s. Brewery merged in 1989 with Molson Breweries of Canada, now Molson-Coors. The term mild ale in Canadian beer nomenclature was relatively unusual.

Crown & Anchor was the first name for what became Molson Canadian lager, which still enjoys a sizeable market. The Festival lager can was indicated as from 1970, but the nature of the festival was not stated or known. A number of festivals were held in or outside of Toronto in 1970 including what resulted in the rock concert at Varsity Stadium where John Lennon and Yoko Ono played.

Also in 1970 was the Strawberry Fields Festival at Mosport Race Park, Bowmanville. The Festival Express rock star train tour was staged in Toronto in 1970 among other Canadian cities (subject of an excellent documentary film a few years ago). Perhaps the beer was marketed at such events, and/or the Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo, ON in the fall of 1970.

Further images from the Exhibition appear below, of which the first was perhaps an oatmeal stout, with a pun on Dr. Jackson’s Meal. As to who the Jackson was, it was would satisfying to conclude it was an admiring reference to famed beer author Michael Jackson, but this Jackson was likely not even born when this bottle was sold, or at most a young child.

At the time, products like the U.K.’s Dr. Johnson’s Stout had currency – even in Canada – so it was probably a riff on that, the Jackson-Johnson assonance. If the Jackson was a chemist at Copland’s, or a favoured customer, we have a triple pun.

For good information on Copland’s Brewery in Toronto, which also produced the stock ale shown below, see Jordan St. John’s Lost Breweries of Toronto. Indeed we had a nice chat at the reception last night.


2 thoughts on ““Toronto Brews” Exhibition, Market Gallery”

    • Thanks Edd, indeed an excellent show. It’s displayed in a fairly compact area but they got a lot in. I did gaze for actual recipes but couldn’t see any.


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