The history of beer in Canada is fascinating, and it’s a story that’s largely been shaped by immigration and international relations. In the early days of Canadian brewing, English and Scottish immigrants brought their beer-making traditions with them and set up shop in Montreal and Toronto.
As the country grew and developed, so too did the brewing industry. In the 20th century, Canadian breweries started to make their mark on the international stage. Today, Canadian beer is respected and enjoyed all over the world.
To learn more about the history of beer in Canada, check out some of this great information or see the list of Canadian brewery tours below!
Beer has been a part of Canadian life since the 1600s, when European settlers first arrived in the country. Most beer was brewed at home using techniques brought with families.
Canada's first recorded home-brewer was Jesuit Brother Ambroise, who began making beer in 1646. Jean Talon, founded Canada's first commercial brewery in Québec City, in 1688 and his beers were sold to West Indies, making him the first Canadian beer exporter.
In 1786, John Molson opened a small brewery in Montreal. This was one of the first commercial breweries in the country, and it laid the foundation for the modern Canadian brewing industry. It is also the oldest brewery in North America. Alexander Keith founded their brewery in Nova Scotia in 1829. Sleeman established his first brewery in Ontario in 1836. Carling opened his Brewing & Malting Company in 1840. Labatt opened in 1847 and both Oland and Moosehead breweries by the Oland family opened in 1867.
In the late 1800s, the Canadian brewing industry began to be shaped by immigration and international relations. From 1880 to 1930, more than two million immigrants came to Canada, and many of them brought their beer-making traditions with them. This, combined with the import of foreign beers, led to a truly diverse beer culture in the country. The expanding Canadian population also had an impact on the brewing industry. With more people buying beer, demand increased and larger breweries began to form. The Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman brewing companies all began to gain prominence, and they eventually became the three biggest beer companies in the country.
With the emergence of the big three Canadian breweries in the 20th century, craft beer was largely forgotten. In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence in the craft beer movement. As of 2023 there are over 1100 independent breweries open across the country and many are producing some of the best beers you can find. The craft beer revolution has breathed new life into the Canadian beer scene and has allowed Canadians to enjoy a wide variety of delicious beers.
The future of Canadian beer looks bright. With the craft beer revolution in full swing, the country has some of the best beers in the world as recognized by international competition. Breweries are experimenting with new styles and ingredients, and beer lovers are being exposed to some truly unique and delicious beers. As beer consumption in Canada continues to rise, so too will the craft beer industry. Canadian brewing is only going to get bigger and better in the years to come, so be sure to keep an eye out for the latest trends and delicious new beers to try.
One of the best ways to experience this history is by education and tasting on a brewery tour.
Collingwood - Hoppy Hour | The Beer Bus Co.
Edmonton - Edmonton Brewery Tours
Leduc and area residents don’t have to travel far now to get their fix of craft beer! Leduc Brewing Co is having their grand opening this weekend, Saturday, February 25!