NL Brewery News, August 2017

Let’s check in on the status of some brewery projects around the island. Here are a few news stories you should check out from the last few weeks.

If you’re interested in a great weekly update about all of Atlantic Canada, check out the Atlantic Canada Beer Blog which is updated every Friday with all of the news.

Western Newfoundland Brewing Company

The Atlantic Canada Beer Blog reports that WNBC will be releasing some new beers, one of which is a spruce beer inspired by James Cook, as per the CBC.

Split Rock Brewing Co.

Out in Twillingate, The Overcast reports that Split Rock will be operational soon  with seven, more English-inspired beers on tap. See page 11 of the July issue for more information.

Dildo Brewing Company

The Overcast also reports that the Dildo Brewing Company has won the  $12,500 Albedo Grant, which will help them get their interesting brewery and museum on the way to operating. See the cover story (pages 14-15) of the July issue of The Overcast for full details.

Port Rexton Brewing

Finally, Port Rexton was in Halifax pouring beer at the Seaport Beer Festival and got a chance to brew with the folks at 2 Crows Brewing Co  while they were out there. Looks like a fun time!


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A New Chapter

In the last year, more breweries have opened and been announced than any other time in Newfoundland’s history. From a small group of three or four breweries has grown a list of new names hoping to open up in this province.

New names, new stories, and new beers are coming to Newfoundland. To reflect that, we have begun the process of refocusing this project. Newfoundland Beer History (nlbeerhistory) is changing to

The goal of this change is to document both the past and the present of Newfoundland. To present some of the stories of brewing in Newfoundland and to keep track of new projects, beers, and events. For now a new page has been added to list the announced brewing projects, but more features and updates and in planning here too.

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Newfoundland Beer Tour Guide (Archived from 2015)

Newfoundland Beer History’s “Tour Guide to Newfoundland Craft Beer.”

Hello and welcome to Newfoundland! Or, if you’re only thinking of coming to Newfoundland and wondering what local beers you can find here, thanks for thinking of us. This page is part of the Newfoundland Beer History project, but it’s written for you, dear tourist. In short, this page is a quick reference guide to finding craft beer in Newfoundland and having a good time doing it. (We have lots of other posts over on the blog about Newfoundland Beer History, including stuff on why beer bottles are shorter in Newfoundland and other strange facts about Newfoundland beer, so check that out if you want to know more information. Want an Newfoundland Beer History 101? We’ve got you covered.)

While you might expect that Newfoundland’s British and Irish culture would dictate that our beers are stouts and red ales, these styles have only recently come back into Newfoundland and for much of the twentieth century (especially since the 1930s) ours was a German Brewing culture. While there are newer craft brewers taking on what might be thought to be more tradition faire (stouts, porters, and reds), expect Newfoundland tastes to side towards the lighter and more crisp side of the beer palate.

First, a couple of things have to be settled from the get go. Liquor sales in Newfoundland are done through a government agency, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation or NLC. Most of the beers and breweries featured on this page can be found in their locations throughout the province. Corner stores and gas stations in Newfoundland can sell beer, usually in closed, 6 or 12 packs. Most of the beers found in corner stores and gas stations are not craft beer, though, as we will note below, some craft brewers do stock their products there. Two corner stores worthy of note for carrying a larger selection of products by Storm Brewery are Needs Convenience – 69 Military Rd and Halliday’s Meat Market – 103 Gower St (who stock Storm and most Quidi Vidi products).

Second, a note about “non-craft” beer in Newfoundland. Most of the beers from Newfoundland you may have heard about, Black Horse, Blue Star, India Beer, Dominion Ale, or Jockey Club, are not craft beers. At least not according to any conventional definition. They are brewed either by Labatt (AB-Inbev) or Molson (Molson-Coors). You can find out a lot more about them by clicking here, to read our overview of these brands. If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, these are unlikely to appeal to you, however; they should not be totally dismissed. These brands have a long history in Newfoundland and, moreover, both Labatt and Molson still operate breweries in St. John’s and invest in the local economy. If normally drinking “BMC” or anything by a multinational brewery is an anathema to you, maybe lower your guard a little in Newfoundland.

Finally, this post talks about two things. The three Newfoundland craft breweries and bars in St. John’s where you can find their beers. It is not a general guide to drinking in St. John’s. It is also, unfortunately, very St. John’s (“town”) centred. If you go to other parts of Newfoundland (“the bay” or “central”), then you are less likely to find craft beer in bars, though the NLC does carry some brands out there. Similarly, this post does not deal with drinking in Labrador, though in the future we do hope to include blurbs on some of the better places to grab a drink when there. Good so far? Good. Here’s a handy map of the places we’re going to be talking about.

Newfoundland Craft Breweries


Quidi Vidi Brewing

The Basics: Located at 35 Barrows Road, Quidi Vidi Brewing is the oldest of Newfoundland’s craft breweries. Check their website for the seasonal times of their tours and tastings. Their location in the historic fishing village of Quidi Vidi and their beautiful brewery make it a spot worth visiting. Their beer is some of the most widely distributed in Newfoundland and can be found in many corner stores, gas stations, and NLC locations throughout the eastern part of the province. If you’re going to be in St. John’s for a while, it’s better to buy the beer directly from the brewery where they give you a price break as part of their loyalty club (buy five dozen, your sixth dozen is free).

The Beer: Quidi Vidi brews mostly lagers and tends to play along side the larger breweries, rather than the North American craft niche. Their Premium and Light Lagers are fine examples of a craft Canadian Lager/Light Lager. They also brew Eric’s Cream Ale (a lager-ed light ale), Honey Brown (an light brown ale with a sweet honey finish), 1892 (an unusual American Amber Ale with spicy German hops), and a British IPA (a lighter bodied IPA with a sturdy bitterness). Their Iceberg beer (a very light Canadian Lager), brewed with Iceberg water and sold in long neck, blue beer bottles, is a tourist favourite. I notice a slight, pleasant salty note in many of their beers, which could be due to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Who said beer doesn’t have terroir? At Christmas time their seasonal Mummer’s Brew (a stronger version of their 1892) is worth seeking out.

Storm Brewing

Storm Brewing Newfoundland

The Basics: Storm brewing is another one of Newfoundland’s older craft breweries, debatably older than Quidi Vidi (they both began in 1995-6). They are located in Mount Pearl, a suburb of St. John’s, and do not do tours or events. They only brew ales and can often be found at the NLC and at the “Needs” convenience stores around St. John’s (the one on Military Road, opposite Bannerman Park, being a safe bet, so is Halliday’s Meat Market – for a few more possibilities see their webpage). They bottle in long neck bottles (sold in 6-packs) and larger, 650 mL “bomber” bottles. Often their products sell out quickly in bottled formats, but can be found in several bars around town quite regularly. They have discontinued the use of stubby beer bottles and they have also stopped brewing their once popular Hemp Ale.

The Beers: Storm’s line, as mentioned, are all ales. Their Irish Red (a roast-forward, sweet and light red ale) is generally the most available, with their Island Gold (a slightly hoppy, light American pale ale) being also fairly common. In the summer time their Raspberry Wheat (light, refreshing, with slightly sweet raspberries) is widely available, while in the winter their Coffee Porter (a dark ale, not quite rich or thick enough to be a craft porter, with local coffee) is around. They also brew a beer for the bar The Duke of Duckworth called “The Duke’s Own” (a more English styled ale, with light ESB qualities). More on the Duke of Duckworth follows below.

Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House

Photo credit, Melanie Cooke, 2012.

Photo credit, Melanie Cooke, 2012.

The Basics: Yellowbelly is St. John’s first brewpub and is located downtown at 288 Water Street. They are in a beautifully restored heritage building and are one of the nicest places to grab a pint in St. John’s. Their beer is also the most contemporary to the rest of North America, featuring some more hop forward ales and more pronounced roasted malts. Their beers are also distributed to the NLC in 750 mL bottles, with some seasonal offerings packaged in 1L “flip top” bottles. While easily found at their brewery (for both bottle and on site sale), Yellowbelly’s ales are also found in other bars around St. John’s.

The Beer: Yellowbelly Pale ale (a hop-forward pale ale with some English character) is arguably their flagship beer, with their Fighting Irish Red (a malt-forward red ale) and Wexford Wheat (a light bodied American Wheat) as sound alternatives. Their St. John’s Stout (an Irish Dry Stout with lots of roasted malt) is another classic and one of Newfoundland’s best beers. Keep an eye out for their seasonal offerings which, in the past, have included an IPA (a rarity in Newfoundland) and a pale ale brewed with Newfoundland grown hops. Yellowbelly also brews a beer called “Mummer’s Brew” at Christmas time, which varies from year to year (2011 Spiced Ale, 2012 Chocolate Porter).

The Bars

A general note about bars. The Liquor Control Act (liquor laws in Canada are a provincial matter) stipulates the drinking age is 19+ and:

For establishment licensees alcohol may only be sold during the prescribed hours. The hours of sale are from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. An Extended Hours License permits the sale of alcohol until 3:00 a.m. and permits consumption until 3:30 a.m. on the days immediately succeeding Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Photo Credit Melanie Cooke, 2012.

Photo Credit Melanie Cooke, 2012.

The Duke of Duckworth – 325 Duckworth St

The Place: The Duke of Duckworth is perhaps the best place to start and finish your exploration of Newfoundland craft beer. Made (more) famous for its appearance on CBC television’s “The Republic of Doyle,” the Duke is a quaint, English themed pub. They have a great fish and chips, though food is usually more common during the day.

The Taps: The Duke usually caries its own house beer, The Duke’s Own (brewed by Storm – more on the house beer here), as well as other Storm beers (Irish Red, Island Gold, Raspberry Wheat or Coffee Porter) and Quidi Vidi Beers (British IPA, 1892, Iceberg, Honey Brown) tap as well. Other beers include pub standards like Guinness but little else in the way of North American or European craft beer.

Photo credit Melanie Cooke, 2012.

Photo credit Melanie Cooke, 2012.

The Ship Inn – 265 Duckworth St

The Place: The Ship Inn is best known as a local venue for rock and folk shows, as well as the occasional philosophy lecture. They have a kitchen during the day which also features some pretty good grub. Standing room only during shows, in the afternoon The Ship is a great place to play some pool and enjoy a dark, quite pint.

The Taps: Usually Storm (Irish Red, Raspberry Wheat or Coffee Porter) and Quidi Vidi (British IPA, 1892, Eric’s Cream Ale, Honey Brown) taps are available along side evening drink specials (sometimes as extreme as 3 Jockey Clubs for $5) which make shows very enjoyable.


Bitters, The GSU Pub – Feild Hall at 216 Prince Philip Drive

The Place: Run by the Graduate Student Union (GSU) at Memorial University, the GSU pub has one of the best selections around town for both Newfoundland craft and imported craft beer (notably Picaroons from New Brunswick). Their food also features a wide selection of vegetarian options. If you’re in town for an academic conference, you really should drop by.

The Taps: Yellowbelly (Pale Ale, St. John’s Stout) and Quidi Vidi (Iceberg, Light, 1892, Honey Brown) are often available. And, since they are one of the only places to carry any other North American craft beer, they are a solid local favourite.

Photo Credit Melanie Cooke, 2012.

Photo Credit Melanie Cooke, 2012.

Christian’s Bar – 23 George Street

The Place: One of the best places on the infamous George Street to grab a pint, Christian’s is also one of the more interesting places you can be “screeched in.” It’s an Irish themed pub, so be wary of car bomb shots from the more excitable. Stay downstairs if you want to avoid all of that racket and just drink your pint.

The Taps: Quidi Vidi are usually here (British IPA, Iceberg, 1892), especially at Christmas when their Mummer’s brew appears. Sometimes, and more recently, Molson’s India Beer can be found on tap here too.

Other Bars

This guide is always a work in progress and several other bars which have been craft friendly, or that are at least places where craft beer is available in bottles, merit inclusion:

Nautical Nellies – 201 Water St

  • Quidi Vidi Taps and good pub food.

Erin’s Pub – 186 Water St

  • Another traditional music venue with Molson’s India Beer on Tap.

O’Reilly’s Pub – 13 George St

  • O’Reilly’s is partially owned by the same people as Yellowbelly, so their beers are on tap along side the normal pub range of Guinness and Kilkenny, Molson’s Rickard’s Products, and AB-Inbev’s Shock Top and Rolling Rock brands. They are also a popular folk music venue, so it’s one of the hotter nightlife spots on this list for those that find beer alone is not enough to hold their interest.

Some “Craft Beer Friendly” Restaurants

The following restaurants have been known to offer Newfoundland craft beer options, often in the form of Quidi Vidi taps and Storm Brewing bottles. Because availability varies, we have not listed their specific selections here. These listings are based on user submissions (if you think one’s missing, drop me a note) based on only their beer offerings, though many are quite good restaurants (this post is not a restaurant review for any of these establishments):

  • Raymond’s Restaurant – 95 Water St – Website
  • The Club – 223 Duckworth Street – Website
  • Mallard Cottage – Quidi Vidi Village, near Quidi Vidi Brewery (Open in late 2013)Website
  • Bacalao Nouvelle Newfoundland Cuisine – 65 Lemarchant Rd – Website
  • The Sprout Restaurant – 362 Duckworth St – Website
  • Pi Gourmet Eatery – 10 Kings Road – Website
  • Chinch’d Bistro – 7 Queen Street – Website
  • AQUA Kitchen and Bar – 310 Water St – Website

Other Places and Things You Should Know

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 9.19.32 PM

Raymond’s Restaurant, it’s worth noting, has also taken to importing beers through Beer Thief. Beer Thief is a local speciality import club and forum. It’s well worth checking out if you’re in town for awhile. If not, try finding a member and raiding their beer cellar. In town for a really long time? Check out Brewery Lane and Brew Craft for your homebrewing needs. There are a number of very good homebrewers throughout Newfoundland, so ask around and you might find some really great beer.

Special Thanks

Credits to photos are noted below, but special thanks to the following people for contributing information and helping keep the information about taps up to date: Allan J. (bar information), Melissa from Burbs and Beers (who has a great travel writeup), Melanie Cooke (photos), and Peggy E. (for convenience store stock tips).

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Bennett Brewing’s ‘Newfoundland Songs’

During the period that followed the Second World War, beer advertising became big business. Across North America, brewers jockeyed for the beer dollars of the rapidly growing cohort of baby boomers by illustrating how their beers were part of a healthy image of domesticity or a youthful and active product. In Newfoundland, however, one of the most successful kinds of advertising was the songbook. Newfoundland Songs, published in ten editions between 1950 and 1977, showcased the songs of Newfoundland to sell cases of Dominion Ale. Found within cases of Bennett Brewing and later (after 1962) Carling O’Keefe products, the songbook played with nostalgia write the Bennett brand deeper into Newfoundland’s history.

Cover of Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition).

Cover of Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition).

A match book from the Bennett Brewing Company (1960s)

A match book from the Bennett Brewing Company (1960s) showing their short-lived Rainbow Beer.

In their 1978 article in the journal Culture and Tradition, folklorists Paul Mercer and Mac Swackhammer provide a good cultural history of the songbook. They argue, not unlike today’s nostalgia macros, songbooks were the continuation of a long process of appealing to “the present ‘modern’ generation to participate with pride in these aspects of the good-old-days” (36). Songbooks have long been a useful way for marketers to make their advertisements last longer. Publish an advertisement in a paper and you’ll likely be seen for a day, make your advertisement a part of a culture of singing and ensure your book is valuable and circulated around rural outports, and you’ll be seen for generations. Ask around a well-kept outport home where music was a part of their tradition and you’ll likely find a well worn Dominion or Bennett Songbook.

Mercer and Swackhammer outline a long history of these songbooks, where advertisements were even included as songs, however, since they have well covered the evolution of this art in Newfoundland, I’ll leave that aspect for them. We’ll pick up the story with Gerald S. Doyle. Doyle was a travelling salesman who circulated almanacs and songbooks advertising for the A. W. Chase medicine company. But Doyle was also a collector of Newfoundland songs who published his collection in free books found at his drug outlets throughout the island.

An older (pre-1962) label for Bennett Haig Ale. At the time of the songbooks, it would have been switched to the iconic blue label.

An older (pre-1962) label for Bennett Haig Ale. At the time of the songbooks, it would have been switched to the iconic blue label.

The Bennett Brewing Company aimed to emulate Doyle’s success and “began to publish its own books, modelled on and copied from Doyle’s” (39). Bennett Brewing extended upon Doyle’s advertising rhetoric by making their beer more deeply implicated within the traditional material they were transmitting. They also played upon their history within the province as “The oldest manufacturing industry in Newfoundland” by putting their own history as the frontispiece or centrepiece of the songbook. Adorned with lines like “A Newfoundland Tradition, HAIG ALE” and “A rainbow at night… A sailor’s Delight, Not only at night, Rainbow Beer is always a delight,” Mercer and Swackhammer argue that Bennett carefully aligned the good times and singing offered by the songs in the book with the product they were selling.

Interestingly, they note that when Bennett Brewing was purchased by Carling O’Keefe in 1962 there was a change in the style of the songbooks. After the purchase, they argue, the songbooks “no longer reflected a Newfoundland self-consciousness, but a mainland conception of Newfie-ism designed to sell beer.” The songbooks I have from 1974 and 1977 (an partially aimed at tourists visiting Newfoundland for the 1977 Canadian Summer Games), show some of the characters and distinctions Mercer and Swackhammer point out, but I think they are perhaps a little too strong in their “mainland conception” argument, as we will now see.

Cover of the Eighth Edition of Newfoundland Songs

Cover of the Eighth Edition of Newfoundland Songs

The Eighth Edition from the early 1970s sticks more to the “wrapper ads” style, with advertisements for Domion Ale, “A great Newfoundland tradition,” O’Keefe’s Extra Old Stock (an O’Keefe brand that lasted in Newfoundland until the 2000s), Old Vienna (another O’Keefe brand no longer found in Newfoundland), and Black Horse (yet another O’Keefe brand which made no allusions to being from Newfoundland). The Domion Ale ad is particularly interesting:

Dominion Ad from Newfoundland Songs (8th Edition)

Dominion Ad from Newfoundland Songs (8th Edition)

The copy reads:

There’s something really different about the first time you sit down to enjoy a Dominion. One look at it tells you to get ready for a satisfying, ‘all male’ taste.

Dominion’s brewed high on the hops to give you a true, distinctive, ‘for men only’ flavour. It’s the proud product of over 140 years brewing skill. A great Newfoundland tradition.

That’s why the men who know beer best consider Dominion an old friend. It you haven’t uncapped a Dominion in a while, why not make a new friend out of an old friend?

Enjoy a Dominion Ale. You’ll know you’re having one.

Besides being overtly masculine, “You’ll know you’re having one” has to be the worst tag line in any beer advertisement ever. Though perhaps it’s better than some modern beers where you almost don’t know if you’re having one. The foreword and acknowledgement outline a little more of what was outlined above. It reads:

The colourful history and tradition of Newfoundland are perpetuated in the songs of her people. In this collection of favourites we glimpse the daily lives of the hardy, happy folk who tackled heavy seas and rocky soil with a rich sense of humour.
Today their songs are sung with pride by Newfoundlanders who delight in fond recollection of the days gone by and by others simply for fun and amusement.
The Bennett Brewing Company takes great pleasure in presenting this eighth edition of our little songbook. Like our products, it is purely for your pleasure.

We gratefully thank Gerald S. Doyle Limited for the use of their publication “The Gerald S. Doyle Song Book” from which we obtained the words to the songs in this book.
In doing so, we salute the memory of that great Newfoundlander, Gerald S. Doyle, who devoted so much of his time to collecting and perpetuating the songs of his beloved island home.

The songs featured included:

Table of Contents, Newfoundland Songbook (8th Edition)

Table of Contents, Newfoundland Songbook (8th Edition)

The illustrations in the eighth edition are minimal. Directly in the middle of the book there is an account of the history of the Bennett Brewing Company which I plan to transcribe elsewhere. The following edition, the ninth edition from 1974, was printed on heavy stock paper and remembered with nostalgia Newfoundland’s entry into confederation 25 years earlier.

Cover of Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition).

Cover of Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

George Tilley, the provincial general manager of Bennett Brewing (then a subsidiary of Carling-O’Keefe) welcomed readers:

Introduction to Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

Introduction to Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

The song-list had indeed been updated to reflect the new songs by Dick Nolan. The contents now included:

Contents of Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

Contents of Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

The “Dominion Coaster Offer” discusses the set of coasters I talk about elsewhere. Surprisingly, the book itself has little to do with selling beer and there is little brand-tie-in, even in Dick Nolan’s “Liquor Book” where only screech is mentioned by name. I find that Mercer’s and Swackhammer’s accusations of these being overtly mainland interpretations of Newfoundland in this edition to be a little strong. The only proper beer advertisement in the book is the below one for Black Horse (perhaps because it was a national brand, so the book could be sold on the mainland), but there is little about the ad which references Newfoundland. Even the cartoon, one of the many done by Ted Michener for Carling-O’Keefe at this time, is more Canadian than Newfoundland-focused.

Black Horse Ad in Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

Black Horse Ad in Newfoundland Songs (9th Edition)

The 1977 tenth edition of Newfoundland Songs was the last and is also one of the more common examples to still find around Newfoundland today. They, like the ninth edition, can sometimes still be found at used book stores for somewhere under $15.

Cover of Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Cover of Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

While in a slightly slimmer format than the previous editions, it was still found in cases of beer and featured some of the most detailed illustrations of any version of the songbook.

Illustrations from Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Illustrations from Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)


Back cover of Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Back cover of Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

It’s hard to choose just a few of these pages to reproduce here, since they all have at least some kind of illustration. (If you are interested in higher quality images, I have copies of the original songbooks.) There is very little to do with beer advertising in this final version. Except for the “A bit of our past to put under your glass” coaster advertisement, there was almost nothing else to show the products of Carling O’Keefe as responsible for the songbook. The final page included a simple ad for “Dominion Ale: A Newfoundland Tradition” and the final pages included, as always, a little historical snippet of the history of the Bennett Brewery.

Coaster offer in Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Coaster offer in Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition). These coasters now cost much more!


Last pages and Bennett History in Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Last pages and Bennett History in Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Of the songbooks, I think this final tenth edition is the one with the most character. It contains most of the songs found in previous editions (including the Dick Nolan ones introduced in the ninth edition), but because of its pocket size and really wonderful illustrations, it’s really something special. Some of the songs even include music notion, which was not found in many of the older editions.

Some songs featured musical notion in the 10th Edition of Newfoundland Songs.

Some songs featured musical notion in the 10th Edition of Newfoundland Songs. Nice bell-bottoms!

Mercer’s and Swackhammer’s article was published in 1978 which is almost as far away from us today (almost 40 years) as Doyle’s first songbooks were from them. Their work, as folklorists, aimed to unmask the “simplistic view of the past” as presented in these songbooks, to uncover how “a living tradition has been made iconic, reduced to jargon, and put to work for commercial purposes” (45). 1977 was the last year the Bennett Songbook was published and it is worth reflecting now on what has been lost in the absence of even this “potentially harmful symbolization of folklore.” The songbooks, while their content and presentation may have been invented, are an important part of the folklore of beer in Newfoundland. The traditions they carry as material culture being passed around and as items representing breweries now gone (both Bennett, Carling O’Keefe, and the physical Sudbury Street brewery), has real meaning beyond their “symbol and jargon.” These songbooks, beyond their value as trinkets or artifacts of a commercial culture, are important documents in Newfoundland’s Beer History.

Image from Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

Image from Newfoundland Songs (10th Edition)

References: Paul Mercer and Mac Swackhammer, “’The singing of old Newfoundland Ballads and a cool glass of good beer go hand in hand’: Folklore and ‘tradition’ in Newfoundland Advertising,” Culture & Tradition 3 (1978) 36-45.

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The Rooms Showcases Newfoundland Beer

I was flicking through the latest issues of Occasions Magazine from the NLC and noticed that The Rooms, a Newfoundland cultural centre which combines art and museum displays, was featuring a collection of Newfoundland consumer and popular items. The collection, “Here, We Made a Home,” is currently running in the Elinor Gill Rarcliffe Gallery on the fourth level and features a small collection of Newfoundland Breweriana.

Here is quick photo of the main exhibit’s feature of Newfoundland beer bottles, “An Honest Uncomplicated Brew.”

Taken at The Rooms, 2013.

Taken at The Rooms, 2013.

Readers of this blog will likely get the reference made by the title of the collection, which refers to a Jockey Club label from the 1970s/80s. It’s a subtle reference, but a nice one.

Jockey Club, circa late 1960s

Jockey Club, circa late 1960s

The collection features both a recent bottle of Quidi Vidi Light and Yellowbelly Pale Ale (I joke that both could have come from the NLC location visible from The Rooms upper floors) and two old India Beer Bottles, as well as a Dominion Ale bottle. They date both the larger bottles to early-1900s and the stubby to mid-1900s.

Advertisement for The Rooms, Occasions Magazine, Fall 2013.

Advertisement for The Rooms, Occasions Magazine, Fall 2013.

Not to be outdone, when I got home I decided to stage up a few bottles of my own in the same ordering. Can you spot the differences?

NLBeerHistory Colleciton

NLBeerHistory Collection

A few differences are obvious, the big one being I don’t have a India Beer stubby though I think the Blue Star is a nice substitute. The India Beer bottle featured here in our photo is a new one from the collection of Capt. Don Winsor which was donated by Matthew Beverley. I’ll have a longer post on a few others he donated soon!

The is clearly much more Newfoundland history on display in the “Here, We Made a Home,” collection which is very much worth discussing and viewing. If you’re in town, it’s very much worth checking out!

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Filed under Advertisement, Blue Star, Dominion Ale, India Beer, Labels, Material Culture

Notes on Some Beermats

Beermats are an under appreciated art form. So under appreciated, in fact, that I had almost forgotten I had been working on collecting together a few Newfoundland Beermats. Sitting down last night with Nicholas Pashley’s Notes on a Beermat finally jogged my memory and, well, here we are. Apologies to Mr. Pashley for the title.

In this post I have two sets of Beermats to share. One is a great set of Black Horse mats produced for the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s “discovery” of Newfoundland in 1997 shared with me by Steve Shorlin and the other is an older set from Bennett Brewing which I purchased last summer. Both sets partake in something that is quite common in beer advertising, but worth noting again here. They both try to build themselves into Newfoundland’s history and sense of place.

The historians E. J. Hobsbawm and T. O. Ranger have called this kind of marketing (for the lack of a better work) move as an “invented tradition.” A tradition is invented, they argue, when something seeks to come off as very old – something that tries to write itself into the past – without actually being very old at all. They cite the kilt as a primary example, which, they argue, was built into Scottish culture in the 1800s by English fabric merchants. That’s their argument, not mine! For a less controversial point, let’s look at some Black Horse Coasters.

Photo from Steve Shorlin, newfoundlandsteve on Flickr, 2013.

“The Unofficial Brew of Cabot’s Crew” series of coasters snuck the iconic Black Horse into various Newfoundland scenes like (above) in Bonavista and (below) on top of Cabot Tower on Signal Hill.

Steve Shorlin, 2013.

The Black Horse, it seems, has been everywhere in Newfoundland! From an iceberg in Twillingate to playing coxswain in the St. John’s Regatta.

Steve Shorlin, 2013.

Steve Shorlin, 2013









This series was accompanied with a slogan “500 Years of Horsin’ Around” where Black Horse did its part to provide Newfoundland pub trivia and language lessons.

Steve Shorlin, 2013

Steve Shorlin, 2013.

Steve has more of these over on his Flickr, so if you like them you can find a few more there. Now, back to what I was saying about “invented traditions.” As readers of this blog know, Black Horse was a major mainland brand for many years, so having a brand so associated with Newfoundland’s past strikes me as inventing the tradition of Newfoundland Black Horse. Black Horse was, as these beermats attempt to prove, not just another brand: it was a Newfoundland brand, through and through. (The Thoroughbred!)

These pictures were also on Black Horse bottles. Steve Shorlin, 2013.

The idea of an “invented tradition” works better when we get to the Bennett Brewing coasters. I’m just going to post all 6 coasters now and we’ll get back to talking about them after.


This is the image on the back of each beermat. Chris Conway, 2013.


For more, see here.


For more see here.


I maintain he was out there geocaching.

Coaster_6 Coaster_2 Coaster_1

With all the talk of “Newfoundland tradition” in the coasters, and the line “Bennett relives Newfoundland’s past,” it’s a little easier to see what I’m trying to get at with the “invented tradition” thing. I doubt many of the stories actually ended with a Bennett Beer or that Bennet Beer was that widely available at the time. Most of the stories seem to be based off the ones found in the The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories, which itself was produced by Maple Leaf Mills Limited (now just Maple Leaf). The coasters were sold in a pack of 6, as we can see from the advertisement below from the Dominion Ale Songbook (of which I have more to say on in another post).

Coasters (10)

If I ever make an NL Beer History beermat, it will steal that line: “A bit of our past to put under your glass.”

“A real collector’s item” indeed! I picked my set up, still in their plastic wrap, in St. John’s last summer. I sadly had to open the pack to scan them, which I guess is for the greater good. It seems, since we don’t have the stories listed in the advertisement, that there is another set, or at least another few, coasters out there which I’d love to track down. Either way, the stories and the images (by cartoonist Ted Michener) are pretty fantastic.

Beer seems to be one of those things that always wants to make itself more familiar to its drinker. Breweries strive to make their beer one that has a sense of place even if it’s owned by Carling O’Keefe (as Dominion was in the 1970s) or Molson (as Black Horse was in the late 1990s). Where Dominion’s advertisements seemed aimed at regaining local confidence and their Newfoundland identity after their takeover by a multi-national, Black Horse’s seem to represent a beer trying to become the icon of Newfoundland. Both worked to etch themselves into the culture of Newfoundland through carefully purveying history alongside with their beer. Of course, the result of tradition-inventing are brands which did take on real meaning – and which already had real meaning – to many drinkers. For me, a big part of the fun of history is finding out how these meanings came into being.


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Filed under Advertisement, Bennett Brewing, Black Horse, Dominion Ale, Labels, Material Culture

Stealing Fire(Water): The BeerThief and Newfoundland Beer

Admittedly a historical view on beer in Newfoundland is not the place to talk about beer news or contemporary beer events. For something like that, well, see the excellent Atlantic Canada Beer Blog. This one development, however, merits a little note. The creation of a specialty order beer club in Newfoundland, called Beer Thief, is something pretty special. While most readers of this blog have likely read the number of news reports about the club, here I’d like to point to the beer community which the club has fostered.

Black Horse Can, Steve Shorlin 2013.

In short, the Beer Thief club was founded by Mike Buhler, a Newfoundland-based level-2 Cicerone, and Tom Beckett, an important figure in the better drinking world in Newfoundland. They work to connect breweries to Newfoundlanders who normally cannot access things outside the NLC’s limited selection. Thus far they have facilitated private orders from breweries like Dupont, Dieu Di Ciel, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and Propeller, bringing styles like IPAs, Saisons, Imperial Stouts, Kellerbier, and Triples into the province for the first time – maybe ever – without a suitcase. As a fan of Newfoundland beer, this is pretty amazing stuff.

Blue Star Can, Steve Shorlin 2013.

One of the key developments has also been the community which has developed around the club on their forum, where Newfoundlanders meet to discuss better beer, homebrewing, and ways to improve the province’s beer scene. All I want to do here is point you, dear reader, towards them. If you are reading this, you likely care something for beer in Newfoundland or are planning a trip to Newfoundland. The BeerThief forums are perhaps your best resource to ask questions about where to drink or what to do related to beer. Plus, now that Muskoka Brewing has started distributing to NL, it’s a great time to be a beer enthusiast in Newfoundland. So get involved!

Dominion Ale Can, Steve Shorlin 2013.

As you’ve been reading you’ve likely noticed some of these really wonderful images of classic Newfoundland cans, which have never been featured on this blog before. In fact, I have rarely ever seen a picture of a beer can from Newfoundland on the Internet before I was introduced to these ones. They are a set of photos and artifacts owned by Steve Shorlin, who you can check out here on Flickr (they’ve been used here with his permission). He’s one of the many great people over on the BeerThief forums. In some upcoming posts you’ll likely see a few more images from his amazing collection that he’s been nice enough to share with me. He’s recently sent along a few pictures of some great Newfoundland beer coasters, so maybe it’s time for a little post on Newfoundland beer mats…

Newfoundland Beer Cans, Steve Shorlin 2013.

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Filed under Black Horse, Blue Star, Contemporary Beer, Dominion Ale, Material Culture