Category Archives: Other Brewers

German Brewmasters and “British Traditions” in Newfoundland Brewing

If you’ve been to Newfoundland you’ve likely taken note of a fairly strong connection to British and Irish traditions within the province’s music, culture, and perhaps even in its beer. Popular places to grab a pint are regularly decked out in Irish garb – places like Bridie Molloys, The Republic, or Christians to name a few – or, like the famous Duke of Duckworth, more grounded in the British pub experience. But what about Newfoundland beer? In this post, a reappraisal of Webb and Beaumont’s classification of Newfoundland as having weak “British Traditions” in the light of the history of German-Newfoundland brewmasters.

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Filed under Bavarian Brewing, Bennett Brewing, Blue Star, Culture, History, Newfoundland Brewery, Other Brewers

The Atlantic Brewery

Throughout this site I’ve covered a great number of Newfoundland’s former breweries. One that I’ve really neglected  has been the Atlantic Brewery in Stephenville. On the overview I link to this page which gives a good overview of the brewery’s history, so here I want to write a few interesting points from that article and include a few pictures from my collection.

The Atlantic Brewery, a high-budget ($2.5 million, that’s almost $4 million using a rough inflation calculation – that’s a lot for any brewery) project, opened in 1968 with a staff of 50 people. Within a year the brewery reduced its workforce and then shutdown. Why it failed doesn’t seem to be obvious. It might be a case of “too big, too quick,” but until I hit the archives for some old newspapers I can only speculate.

The Brewery produced, to my knowledge, two primary beers. Their flagship was Atlantic Lager.

Atlantic Lager, my collection, 2012.

It came in a pretty simply stubby with the Atlantic Brewery’s logo, which looks a bit like Poseidon to me. The bottles I have, I have two (the better condition one is pictured), both still have beer in them. According to the person at Livyers Antiques, who I purchased the bottles from, many of the bottles were left over as unsold surplus after the brewery closed and ended up not being drank. So, if you find a bottle it’ll likely be full! This might also account for why the brewery closed. How bad does a beer have to be that most of the old bottles you find aren’t opened?

Atlantic Cap (Red), my collection, 2012.

Atlantic Cap (Blue), my collection, 2012.

The brewery also made another, apparently less popular product called “Atlantic Draft.”

Atlantic Draft, my collection, 2012.

According to the person I bought this one from Draft bottles are considerably more rare. Considering the short lifespan of the brewery, it’s remarkable that any survive at all!

Once the brewery closed in 1969 it was purchased by the Bison Petroleum and Minerals Ltd. from the government. The brewery appears to have gone bankrupt and into receivership, so most of the $1.1 million purchase price was paid to creditors and the rest paid in bonds to the government of Newfoundland. Bison rebranded the brewery and increased production (from 200,000 cases to 400,000 cases) and invested new money to enter the export market.

Bison Brew Beer (Bison Brewing) see this post for more on this label.

The rest is pretty well put by the article linked above, so here is what they say:

By 1973, the Bison Brewing Company was on the way out of Stephenville. The brewery started laying off workers in the winter of the same year due to a slow period in the brewing industry. By the end of 1973 Bison Petroleum had left Stephenville. This was also due to a major flood that caused more than $1 million in damages to the facilities. However, at this time Stephenville Brewery started up and became a successful operation. Even though Bison Petroleum was only in Stephenville for three years, that three years was enough to get the area’s economy back up and running again. The brewery gave life back to the town after the base closed down. In 1974 Labatt Breweries began operations at the site. This establishment operated until the fall of 1981. At that time personnel were laid off and the Stephenville brewerie’s responsibilities were transferred to St. John’s.

So that’s the brief history of the rise and fall of the Atlantic Brewery. It’s useful to note for dating bottles that if a Labatt brand (like Blue Star or Jockey) says “St. John’s and Stephenville” then it’s likely from between 1974-1981. It’s too bad about the Atlantic Brewery, it’d be nice to have breweries outside of the Avalon today, even a small one making local craft beer (though the scope of the Atlantic Brewery certainly wasn’t to be a craft brewery like we’d recognize today). I also wonder how many more unopened bottles of Atlantic Lager are out there. Anyone want to drink 50 year old beer with me?

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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

Overview: Bison Brewing

This is more of  a note than an overview, however, there was also a brewery in Stephenville under the names of both the Bison Brewing Co. (or Canadian Javelin Limited, 1972) and the Atlantic Brewing Co. (1967) which Labatt’s purchased in 1974. A little more about brewing in Stephenville can be found here.

I have a more detailed post on the Atlantic Brewery here.

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Overview: Kavanaugh and Company

Kavanaugh and Company (1890-1936?)

Location: Military Road and 18 Water Street West.

Brands: Mostly “aerated water” but listed as a brewery.

Likely cause of death: Unknown.

References:

Joseph R. Smallwood and Robert D.W. Pitt (editors) Encyclopaedia of Newfoundland, Volume 1 (Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1981, under the Breweries entry)

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Overview: Lindberg Brewing Company

Lindberg Brewing Company Limited (1877-1912?)

Location: Signal Hill Road.

Brands: Bavarian Beers and imported Guinness and Bass.

Likely cause of death: Liquor restriction laws (bars to close at 9 p.m.) (1911) and Newfoundland Prohibition (1917-1924).

Bavarian Beers, Lindberg and Franklin

Bavarian Brewing advert from McAlpine's Newfoundland directory, 1894 to 1897

References:

Joseph R. Smallwood and Robert D.W. Pitt (editors) Encyclopaedia of Newfoundland, Volume 1 (Newfoundland Book Publishers, 1981, under the Breweries entry)

McAlpine’s Newfoundland directory, 1894 to 1897.

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