When I started this website six years ago, the kind of excitement for craft beer in this province we now have would have seemed impossible. I started this website because I love beer and I love Newfoundland. I love the beer we brew here because we brew it for Newfoundlanders and those that visit this great province. From India Beer to Chasing Sun, it’s ours.
When I started this website, I was really just curious about where India Beer or Jockey Club – our local beers that are some of the last “local brands” maintained by the multinational beer conglomerates – came from. Why did we still have these weird local nostalgic brands being brewed here? Why, instead of PBR like the rest of North America, everyone was into India Beer at the rock shows downtown?
When I Googled, back in 2012, for images of old Newfoundland beer bottles I found nothing. The history was spotty and there were no clear timelines of what breweries existed here (like Lindberg Brewing Company) and when they died. So, I started collecting everything I could and making a digital archive. Populating the Google Image search for “newfoundland beer” as fully as I could. But, back when we had three breweries in this province this project seemed more like a memorial with a faint glimpse of hope than a living resource.
Over the years I collected a lot of interesting old “brewrania” (as the old-time beer bottle collectors call it) and tried to digitize and archive it so that somewhere, on some server, this material culture that is essentially trash in the historical moment when it is consumed, was preserved. I tried to collect all the interesting specks of Newfoundland’s Beer History I could and propagate them out into the world. While sometimes that ended up with some annoyances about uncredited work, the point was the general preservation of the history of beer in this province.
The love of the history and culture of beer in this province drove me to ship bottles to my Toronto apartment and find old labels and consult endless old newspapers in the University of Toronto library and the Center for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial. I scanned and wrote as much as I could muster to try to generate something that could make it easier to understand where the brewing industry in this province came from and how it defined our culture.
Now, documenting what is happening in the industry as it happens, also feels like a kind of archiving. Watching the industry grow from Quidi Vidi, Storm, and Yellowbelly into Port Rexton and Western Newfoundland and Split Rock and Bootleg and onward to eleven operating breweries at the time of writing has been surreal. It’s what I’ve dreamt about every time I dusted off an old issue of the Atlantic Advocate in the E. J. Pratt Library at Victoria Collage to look for Rainbow Beer advertisements: a celebration of beer in Newfoundland.
I say eleven at the time of writing because I’m part of making it twelve. With some amazing partners we are making a part of Newfoundland Beer History. I’m not just documenting and archiving the story, I’m part of it.
And now that I’m not just commenting on it on the radio or writing about it in The Overcast, from afar or being a visiting brewer in the brewhouses of this province – now that I have found a way to participate in the history I’ve tried so hard to preserve and propagate – I am so honoured and humbled by the opportunity.
Brewing has always been a hobby for me. I started homebrewing in 2010 to play with making some hoppy beers that I had tried in Montreal. It was a sometimes-all-consuming hobby as I dialed in equipment, read books, and listened to hours and hours of homebrewing podcasts while brewing more and more beer to figure out how to make it better. It was an all-consuming hobby, but it was a hobby. My passion was really the Newfoundland Beer Project. The documenting the intersections of beer and Newfoundland culture.
Now I have a chance to live in that intersection. To both try to expand the beer culture in Newfoundland with more excitement and more diverse, interesting beers and drinkers as well as to document that for future Newfoundland beer historians and lovers of Newfoundland culture everywhere. I feel privileged and honoured to have found myself here and I promise to do my best to bring the love of Newfoundland beer that I’ve brought in six years of this blog to everything we do at Landwash Brewery.
But now, enough sentimentality! Let’s keep writing, brewing, and documenting this fascinating chapter of Newfoundland’s Beer History.