Category Archives: Contemporary Beer

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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Filed under Contemporary Beer, Microbreweries, news

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

Any Mummer’s ‘Lowed in?

Hark, what’s that noise, out by the porch door?
Dear Granny, there’s mummers, there’s twenty or more.
Her old weathered face lightens up with a grin.
“Any mummers, nice mummers ‘lowed in?”

It’s Christmas time in Newfoundland and I’m home for the holidays, which means drinking lots of Newfoundland Christmas beer.

Yellowbelly at Christmas - Photo Credit to Joyce Conway

Yellowbelly at Christmas – Photo Credit to Joyce Conway

Fortunately for craft beer drinkers, two of Newfoundland’s craft breweries have recently started producing seasonal ales for the holidays. Quidi Vidi began producing their Mummer’s Brew (an rich Amber Ale) several years ago.

Mummers

The Original Label for Quidi Vidi Mummer’s Brew

Originally featuring a Newfoundland Mummer’s party – a night of dressing up and touring around the community dancing, drinking, and playing music – the label has now been modernized to fit in with their new streamlined packing design. Its available on tap at a few places in the city (I’ve had it at Christian’s on George and the Duke of Duckworth so far) and it’s also in 6-packs at NLC locations and at the brewery (which is also beautifully decorated for Christmas)!

Mummers_Brew

The other seasonal beer brewed up for Christmas is Yellowbelly’s Mummer’s Brew. I know – I know – there are only three craft breweries in Newfoundland and two of those three have made a Christmas seasonal with the same name… Go figure!

Yellowbelly Mummer's Brew, 2012.

Yellowbelly Mummer’s Brew, 2012.

Yellowbelly’s Mummer’s Brew first appeared in 2011 when it was a quite tasty spiced Winter Ale. This year (2012) it has changed to a 7% Chocolate Porter. Its available down at the brewery on tap and in bottles, which you can also find at NLC locations.

The Washington Post; Dec 10, 1947.

The Washington Post; Dec 10, 1947.

I should mention that Storm’s Coffee Porter has long been a Christmas tradition for me. It’s their Winter seasonal! (See my post on Storm for more about them!)

Oh, I suppose you fine mummers would turn down a drop,
Of homebrew or alky, whatever you got.
Sure the one with his rubber boots on the wrong feet,
needs enough for to do him all week.

As the first year comes to a close for the Newfoundland Beer History Project, I’d like to say thank you for everyone that’s shown encouragement for this project and who has shared in my interest in learning about Newfoundland’s beer history! Over 10,000 people have checked out this blog in this first year and I’ve got a lot more planned for the future. I hope the holidays treat everyone well and that good beer can find you where ever you are!

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Filed under Advertisement, Black Horse, Contemporary Beer, Culture, Quidi Vidi Brewing, Yellowbelly

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

More on the Quidi Vidi Brewing British IPA

So a few posts back I mentioned that Quidi Vidi Brewing brought the IPA style back to the island after a far too long hiatus. IPA’s are one of the most popular craft beer styles in North America, so it’s really about time Newfoundland started to catch up.

There are several varieties of IPA, the more popular style is the American West Coast IPA which has big fruit and floral aromas from the hops, while the British is slightly more malt-centered with a rich, citrus-copper bitter finish.

I am very fortunate to have a friend who was willing to ship eight bottles up to Toronto so I could give it a try. I don’t want to discuss the taste to much on here, it’s not the function of this blog to review beer, but I strongly suggest that if you are in Newfoundland then you should to drop down to the brewery and pick up at least a 6 pack! It’s exciting to see beers coming from Newfoundland with a more pronounced hop character.

Quidi Vidi Brewing British IPA, circa 2012

The haul in Toronto.

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Filed under Contemporary Beer, Labels, Quidi Vidi Brewing

Quidi Vidi Brewing Release a Seasonal British IPA

This is more about current events than about brewing history, but I am happy to announce that Quidi Vidi Brewing are bringing the IPA style back to the island. No IPAs have been brewed commercially (as far as I know) in Newfoundland for home consumption (though Yellowbelly’s Hodge Podge seasonal was close) since the end of the “India Pale Ale” by Newfoundland Brewery (excepting homebrew, of course).

This is a British IPA, not a more America hop-heavy version, about which they state: “IPA’s are brewed strong and are highly hopped  originally to withstand the voyage from England to India.” While I’m not in Newfoundland right now I do have some pictures provided by my folks.

A picture of the Quidi Vidi British India Pale Ale seasonal, circa March 17, 2012.

A close up of the British IPA label, circa March 17, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If all goes well I might have a couple of bottles to sample in Toronto later this week. If that happens I’ll update with some thoughts on the taste and a high-quality label scan. Hopefully it’s hopped enough to survive the voyage up!

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Filed under Contemporary Beer, Labels, Quidi Vidi Brewing