Pub Talk

This Ain’t Your Father’s Beer

OK, so maybe it is your father’s beer. Brewing beer was originally done in-house. Each household/farm made their own beer especially in Europe, but these beer companies still remain family owned and operated. Celebrate Father’s Day by checking out some beers by these great family breweries.

This Ain’t Your Father’s Beer

In the Middle Ages, in Europe, most families made their own household beers. Saison was created by Wallonian farmers who brewed beer in their homes to pay their workers. Today many beers belong to big companies of the industry, but there are still many beers that have kept their brews in the family. Join us as we check out some of the family breweries that we love in honour of Father’s Day.


According to their website: “Moosehead Breweries Limited is the last major brewery in Canada still owned by Canadians”. After a pretty bumpy start, Susannah Oland, the family matriarch, and her sons finally started brewing beer in 1870. The original brewery was called The Army & Navy Brewery and was located in Halifax, Canada. Of course, it was a favourite of Soldiers and Sailors stationed there, hence the name. In 1886, Susannah passed away and her boys took over the company changing the name to Maritime Brewing & Malting Co. In 1918, a devastating explosion destroyed the city of Halifax, killed one of the brothers and injured another. The 3rd brother, George, decided to pick up the family and the brewery and move to St.John, New Brunswick where it has remained to this day. This family and brewery have overcome many obstacles: “devastating fires, Prohibition, the Great Depression, two world wars, obstructive trade barriers, and bruising competition from breweries 100 times its size”. Despite all that, Moosehead is still one of the longest lasting companies in Canada, thanks to the Oland family’s passion for and commitment to good beer.

The Oland Family of Moosehead Brewery
Image by: Dalhousie University



In 1829, this brewery was established by a young German immigrant to America, David G. Yuengling. The brewery was originally called the Eagle Brewery, but only two years later it was destroyed in a fire. A new brewery was built in another part of Pottsville, Pennsylvania where the brewery remains to this day. In 1873, it becomes D.G. Yuengling and Son and stays in the Yuengling family passed down from father to son and more recently to daughter. In order survive the Prohibition, Yuengling began making near-beer products and also built a dairy across from the brewery to produce dairy products (Check out the incredible original footage in the documentary below of the run-up to Prohibition, it’s quite amazing). They currently have 3 plants – two in Pennsylvania (Pottsville and Mill Creek) and one in Tampa, Florida, a ratskeller at the original Pottsville location and have been officially registered as America’s Oldest Brewery. The 6th generation of Yuenglings are currently learning the business and plan to keep this brewery in the family for generations to come. This fantastic documentary is a great testament to this great American family and company.


Charles Wells

Part of the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, the Charles Wells Brewery was established by Charles Wells in 1876 in Bedford, UK. Like many great things in this world it was started by love for a woman. Charles Wells fell in love with a local Bedford girl, ended his career in the Merchant Marines and began brewing. Since then the company has been handed down from generation to generation. It has maintained its success by embracing change to stay competitive and flow with the times, while still holding on to the fierce commitment to remain independent. They are currently the largest private brewing company in the UK. Not only does Charles Wells brew 30 excellent beers, but they also run a pub chain of 200+ pubs across the United Kingdom and a recent splash over into France. There are still 6 members of the Wells family who work with the company and plan to continue to lead it into the future.

Charles Wells Heritage Video from Blackbridge Communications on Vimeo.


Van Honsebrouck

The Kasteel beers are one of my all-time favourites, especially Kasteel Rouge. This Belgian Brouwerij is going into its 7th generation of Van Honsebroucks. It began when Amandus Van Honsebrouck, a farmer and also the Mayor of Werken (a small village in West Flanders) began brewing beer in 1850. In 1900, the brewery was moved to its current location in Ingelmunster under the name St.Josef Brewery. It was given its current name Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck in 1953. In 1986, the family bought Ingelmunster Castle and began producing their line of Kasteelbier in addition to their Lambic, St.Louis, Brigand and Old Flemish Brown Beers (Bacchus). Their beers have become so popular that under the management of Xavier Van Honsebrouck, the current family member at the helm, they have opened a newer and bigger brewery in Izegem, Belgium in January of 2016. This facility will be dedicated to helping them serve the growing export market while maintaining the quality and quantity of beers for their local market. They are part of the 22 member Belgian Family Brewers Association. If you haven’t tried their beers yet, they are definitely A MUST, especially the Kasteel Rouge. Don’t believe me? Check out this review by Real Ale Craft Beer.

Van Honsebrouck Brewery circa 1912
Image by: Castle Van Honsebrouck


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