Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Duke of Duckworth and Blue Star

The Duke of Duckworth is one of my favorite places to drink when I’m in St. John’s, not only because they have a killer fish and chips, but because they have a great selection of local taps and a great collection of beer history memorabilia.

The Duke’s Own Sign, 2012

If you’re new to Newfoundland beer, the Duke is a must visit. They’ve usually got everything that’s currently being brewed by Storm Brewing, a few Quidi Vidi (in particular 1892), and – and this is special – the Duke’s Own. The Duke’s Own, advertised as a “private collection of uniquely brewed beer” and “Newfoundland’s Pioneer Brewpub,” is the closest to an English Ale you’re going to find being brewed in Newfoundland. While the signs seem to indicate there used to be a range of Duke’s beer, today there is only one: The Duke’s Own (an English Ale).

Here’s the deal to the best of my knowledge. The Duke used to have a very small (nano) brewery in their basement but were forced to close it to either expand their kitchen or install a women’s bathroom (accounts differ). Either way, if you ask the bartenders today they’ll tell you it’s contract brewed out of Storm brewing in Mount Pearl. They are very clear though, it’s not a Storm beer – it’s their recipe and ingredients – Storm is just the contract brewer.

The Duke of Duckworth is great for local beer selection, but they also have a great collection of beer memorabilia. They have old Tetley’s beer signs and signs for Upper Canada Dark prior to Upper Canada selling their brewery to Sleeman and converting their brands into discout beers (the brewers from Upper Canada ended up being fired and started up 3 Fired Guys brewing, better known as Steamwhistle in downtown Toronto). One piece of memorabilia that’s important for me is this fine specimen:

Blue Star (early 1980s) at the Duke of Duckworth, St. John’s. (2012)

Behind the bar (pretty much behind the Storm taps) stands this old Blue Star “The Sportsmans Friend” bottle. As I was looking at it to find the vintage, it says Labatt on the side and the stubby was phased out in the mid-1980s so it’s likely from the early 1980s, I noticed that the cap was with it.

Blue Star Cap

Then I noticed something, the cap wasn’t just replaced on the top of the bottle: it was an unopened bottle of Blue Star! You can see the beer line in the above photo. Now, they didn’t seem ready to part with it, but this is an amazing find. A bottle of Newfoundland beer that’s likely over 30 years old. I’d have to fight to urge to drink it! Anyway, if you’re in town and interested in Newfoundland’s beer history, ask to see this lovely bottle.

There is also an (opened) stubby of O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock, but that’s a mainland brand and not really my focus here. I’m sure there are other NL beer history treasures at the Duke, so be sure to search them out when you’re there!

Below, as a closing note, is the Duke’s account of their microbrewery and the brewing process. You can see this poster yourself on your way to the Duke’s downstairs bathrooms.

The Duke’s Own Microbrew History

The Duke’s Own Process

The Brewing Process

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Filed under Advertisement, Blue Star, Contemporary Beer, Material Culture, The Duke of Duckworth

Newfoundland Beer Brands

This blog was started with the intention of unravelling the histories of some of the corner store favorites of Newfoundland beer drinkers. The thing is, I’ve been looking at the traffic that I’ve been getting on this site and I’ve noticed something: there are a lot of non-Newfoundlanders interested in our beer brands. That’s great news, but, unless they have access to a Marie’s Mini-Mart, they don’t really know what the beer scene here is all about. (Update: I’ve made this post a permanent page with larger images and a nice layout.)

Before I talk about these beers I should note that this is just about the brands made by Molson and Labatt. If you are interested in the other brewers in Newfoundland, the craft brewers and brew-pubs, then check out Quidi Vidi Brewing, Storm Brewing, and Yellowbelly. That’s all the craft beer in the provence! If you’re looking for “real ale” (cask ale) or anything that keeps up with North American Craft beer (or even a year-round IPA), you’re going to have to wait a few years.

This post is intended as an introduction to the old Newfoundland Beer Brands, what I like to call “nostalgia marcos.” They are beers brewed by the big brewers (Molson and Labatt) but that throw back to an older brewery or brand. This is not unusual in the brewing world. Latrobe Brewing, known for their Rolling Rock lager, is a brand belonging to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Alexander Keith’s is Labatt’s. Even Labatt’s beer (like Blue) are really a brand of Anheuser–Busch InBev, so there are a lot of what historians call “invented traditions” in the beer industry. Brewers, big and small alike, like to connect their beer drinkers with the long history of beer brewing.

In Newfoundland these nostalgia marcos are legendary. There are five remaining brands (two beloning to Labatt and three belonging to Molson) and almost every Newfoundlander you will ever meet will have one that they champion over the others. If your here visiting it might be worth trying some of these beers, but if your a visiting beer geek I doubt you’ll be impressed (these are brewed by the big brewers). On to the beers!

The Nostalgia Macros

There are five traditional Newfoundland brands still being brewed: Bennett Dominion Ale, India Beer, Black Horse, Blue Star, and Jockey Club. In terms of taste and apparence they are pretty close and they are all, pretty much, fizzy yellow lagers. They come in 6 and 12 packs of semi-longneck bottles (about in inch shorter than mainland longneck bottles) which are all twist off. Blue Star, Jockey, and Black Horse all have their own printed caps, with Jockey having two different logos on the cap (either the Horse or the beer name), while India and Dominion simply have Molson caps.

From my blind taste test.

Lets talk about Bennett Dominion Ale first.

Dominion Ale Box Art circa 2012

Bennett Dominion Ale is a Molson product, brewed out of their St. John’s brewery. While it is listed as an ale, there is little of the ale taste that an American or Brit might expect. Ales are usually fermented at a warmer temperature than lagers, giving them a bigger taste, but, and this is speculation on my part, as Molson only produces lagers at the Newfoundland brewery, I suspect that this brewed at only slightly warmer temperatures than any other beer they produce. Bennett, as discussed on the main page of this project, was bought by Carling-O’Keefe and when Molson took over Carling the Bennett brands came with them. It’s really nice to see that the name lives on in this beer “for Newfoundlanders only.”

India Beer Box Art circa 2012.

Molson also brews the beer that was all the rage in the downtown music scene a few years back, India Beer. This beer, which is NOT an India Pale Ale, was brewed by the Newfoundland Brewing Company alongside their India Pale Ale. Both existed, but, as I understand, this was the lighter version. Generally people I’ve talked to describe it as a sweeter lager.

Blue Star Box Art circa 2012.

Jockey Club Box Art circa 2012.

Labatt bought the Bavarian Brewing company and still brew two of their brands, Blue Star and Jockey Club. These are the two that I find the most distinct. As a lager, Blue Star is light and clean tasting, while Jockey Club (which is still a lager or, if it is an ale, a lagered or very light one) is slightly more flavour-full. Jockey Club was advertised as the “champagne of beers” back in the Bavarian days, and, if you look really hard, you might pick up notes of cheap sparkling wine. Blue Star has a big dedicated following, particularly vocal since it was rebranded with the Newfoundland Flag in the early 1990s, while Jockey Club is often considered a bit of a joke. In two rounds of blind taste tests between these five beers I ended up preferring Jockey over the others (I usually drink double IPAs and Imperial Stouts), so take that for what it’s worth!

Black Horse Lager Box Art circa 2012.

The best for last. Not that it’s the best beer, but the 2010 redesign of Black Horse is really interesting for a historical point of view (the horse, which is the iconic part and on many labels on this site, now has a Newfoundland and Labrador shaped shadow on its body right before the hind legs). I mean, Black Horse Ale, as a brand, was one of the biggest in North America. It’d put Molson Canadian to shame. The Newfoundland version (which came with Carling-O’Keefe in 1962) has changed from an ale to a “premium” lager (more on this here), but the iconic black horse is still proudly on the label. It’s one of the most interesting to me, especially as they proudly say “Brewed only in Newfoundland and Labrador” when really it’s a mainlander who came here in the 1960s. There is no way you know his grandfather.

The Nostalgia Macros, 2012.

Those are the five current Newfoundland Beer Brands made by Labatt and Molson. I should note that O-Keefe Extra Old Stock was discontinued here in 2009 (it’s another beer of mainland origin), so that’s not included. These beers are great reminders of the brewing heritage in Newfoundland that was deeply rooted in independent brewers. While they might not be exciting to beer-geek tastes they are something to try when your here. If you do see them anywhere else in Canada it’s likely because of a high concentration of Newfoundlanders (like in Alberta) who still swear by their favorite brands. Will they ever get wider distribution? It’s doubtful, but then again, Labatt’s nostalgia brand in Nova Scotia, Alexander Keiths, is now a North American faux-craft beer, so anythings possible. But if you are here and looking for beers to drink be sure not to forget our craft brewers! They are writing the future of beer in Newfoundland.

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Filed under Bavarian Brewing, Bennett Brewing, Black Horse, Blue Star, Contemporary Beer, Dominion Ale, India Beer, Jockey Club, Labels, Newfoundland Brewery, Overview

Jockey Club: An Honest Uncomplicated Brew

I love adding more historical Newfoundland beer bottle labels to my collection and this one is no exception. Today I finally got a copy (two actually) of this Jockey Club label.

Jockey Club

The site I picked this up from states that its from the 1960s and was old stock that was never used. The date seems to be fairly believable (at least for our purposes), as it would be after the 1962 buy-out of the Bavarian Brewing Company Limited by Labatt, however, because the label lists Stephenville as part of the Labatt’s brewing organization this is likely from the 1970s.

Labatt took control of the old Bison Brewing Company brewery in 1974 and operated there until 1981, so it’s probable that this label comes from the late 1970s when Labatt had two operations in the province.

Dating the label aside, from my understanding this slogan “An Honest Uncomplicated Brew, the Original Bavarian Style” (which is great, isn’t it?) was used from the 1960s until the early 1990s when it was changed to “True Newfoundland Character” (this would be around the time Labatt rebranded Blue Star to be adorned with the Newfoundland Flag and ran the “Shining Star of the Granite Planet” series of advertisements”). I like to think that the “Bavarian Style” they are referring to has more to do with the Bavarian Brewery, who they inherited the beer from, rather than the area of Germany where the Bavarian Brewery got its name. Either way, it’s a great label which I’m quite happy to have a copy of!

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Filed under Bavarian Brewing, Jockey Club, Labatt, Labels

Black Horse Beer. The Thoroughbred?

A strange thing happened to Black Horse over the years.  Most people in the United States and Canada who remember the brand (from anytime before the mid-1970s) will remember the beer as an ale. The picture I use on the main page, a Canadian Dow’s label from 1972, plainly states “Black Horse Ale.”

Black Horse Ale - 1972

Black Horse circa 1972

But there is somethings fishy with the Newfoundland product: it was rebranded to “Black Horse Beer” and made into a lager. This is pretty much the trend in North American beer at the time, everyone was mimicking the lighter tastes of American Beer and the big three Canadian brands wanted to follow suit. (See Ian Coutts, Brew North: How Canadians Made Beer and Beer Made Canada, Greystone, 2010, for a well researched and beautifully illustrated overview.)

When did Black Horse Ale and Black Horse Beer (the lager) part ways? Well, for sometime both must have existed. Check out this full page advertisement for Black Horse from a 1971 issue of the MUSE (the student newspaper for Memorial University of Newfoundland):

It’s a great advertisement, not only because it’s full of great copy about Black Horse, but also because it gives us a close up of the label. It still says it’s brewed by Bennett Brewing, which at the time was under the ownership of Canadian Breweries Limited (who gained control over the prestigious Black Horse brand after their 1952 purchase of National Breweries – which they renamed Dow Breweries). In all other ways the label is identical to the Canadian Black Horse Ale label.

Present-day Black Horse logo, from my well-worn baseball cap.

I wonder if the flavour of the two beers were similar and if the brewing of ales and lagers was starting to converge (ales becoming more watery and lagers becoming more bland) so that all beer just tasted like “beer.” Either way, the Newfoundland Black Horse, since at least the early 1970’s, has been a lager. While now it’s marketed as a “premium lager,” its interesting to think how far it’s come from it’s ale heritage. Thoroughbred? I think not.

 

 

 

Oh well!

1942 french newspaper advert for Black Horse Ale, framed as art in the Beer Bistro mens washroom in downtown Toronto.

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Filed under Bennett Brewing, Black Horse, History, Labels

Some Quirky Old Brands

I was re-watching a youtube compilation of old Newfoundland beer labels this morning and I realized that searching for them online didn’t bring up any results. Anyone looking for a history of Bavarian Brewing’s Bulldog beer would be totally out of luck. Here, I’m going to list a few of the brands highlighted in the video.

The original video can be watched here on YouTube. It’s not my content and I did not make the video, so don’t blame me if you don’t like the song they use!

From Bavarian Brewing Company we have Bulldog Newfoundland Style Beer, the Silver Doctor Summer Special, an Irish Style Porter, and their Three Star Lager. I’m guessing the Bulldog would be an ale, but I have no idea about the Silver Doctor. Sounds good!

Bull Dog Newfoundland Style (Bavarian Brewing)

Bulldog (Bavarian Brewing)

Silver Doctor Summer Special (Bavarian Brewing)

Three Star Lager (Bavarian Brewing)

Irish Style Porter (Bavarian Brewing)

From Newfoundland Brewing we have Moose Pale Ale, their Old Stock India Pale Ale, “India’s Holiday Bock Beer,” and a Red Top Golden Amber. These all sound amazing. Moose Pale Ale! How Newfoundland is that? Plus another India Pale Ale, an amazing 8% bock (a dark German spring beer), and an amber ale! What a line up!

Moose Pale Ale (Newfoundland Brewing)

India Pale Ale (Newfoundland Brewery)

India’s Holiday Bock Beer (Newfoundland Brewing) – 8%!

Red Top Golden Amber Beer (Newfoundland Brewery)

From Bennett Brewing we’re just missing Bennett’s beer. I love that green-and-black colour combination.

Bennett’s Beer (Bennett Brewery)

From the short lived Bison Brewing (in Stephenville) we have their flagship beer, Bison Beer.

Bison Brew Beer (Bison Brewing)

While they are harder to find, it’s important to remember that these old breweries didn’t just produce the scattered few brands that the big Canadian Breweries kept after 1962. They had a full line of beers for all sorts of different preferences. Plus, they are really beautiful labels!

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Filed under Atlantic Brewery, Bavarian Brewing, Bennett Brewing, Labels, Newfoundland Brewery, Other Brewers