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A Brief History of Beer in Ontario, Canada

History of Beer in Ontario, Canada

During the 18th century, beer in Ontario was brewed for British soldiers in Canada who were entitled to six pints of beer per day as part of their salary. The beer was often strong, averaging at about 12% ABV. By the 19th century, every city in Ontario had a brewery or tavern. Brewers provided some of the first jobs for Ontario’s early settlers and a large portion of Ontario’s economy was built on supplying beer to the British soldiers. Before WWI, there were approximately 300 breweries in Ontario. Then the prohibition hit, which sparked the closure of many Ontario breweries.

The prohibition was in effect across Canada at different times during WWI, which made the selling (and consumption) of beer illegal. During the Prohibition, Ontario brewers and beer drinkers tried to find loopholes by supplying beer by mail order or writing to merchants to order beer from places where beer was still legal, like the USA and Quebec.

By the 1920s, only 70 breweries were left standing in Ontario and many of them were not making very much money. E.P. Taylor, an entrepreneur, saw an opportunity to consolidate the small breweries into one big brewery. Between 1930 and 1953, he acquired over 23 breweries and 150 brands and owned 60% of Ontario’s beer industry. He called his company the Canadian Brewing Corporation, which later changed to Carling O’Keefe in 1970s. By the 1960s, the majority of Ontario’s breweries were owned by the big three: Molson, Labatt, and Taylor’s Canadian Breweries (a.k.a. Carling O’Keefe).

Read more about Ontario’s beer history here.

Quick Facts about Ontario Beer Today
  • As of 2018, Ontario is currently the province with the most breweries in Canada.
  • According to Beer Canada, 80.2% of total beer sales in Ontario in 2018 were domestic. (Ontarians love to #DrinkLocal!)
What is #DrinkLocal?

#DrinkLocal is more than just a beer hashtag, it’s a craft beer movement.

The #DrinkLocal tag is a social movement that creates awareness and support for local breweries, pubs, taprooms and liquor stores. Click here to learn more about the #drinklocal movement or check out your city in our Ontario Beer Guide tap into the world of Ontario Craft Beer.

A Brief History of Beer in Ontario, Canada

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