Beer was first introduced to Canada by European settlers in the seventeenth century, as Canada had an ideal climate for making beer before refrigeration was introduced. The first commercial brewery was built by Louis Prud’homme in Montreal (then Fort Ville-Marie) in 1650, followed by a larger brewery built by Jean Talon in Quebec City, in the year 1668.
The numerous British soldiers in Canada in the seventeenth and eighteenth century was a benefit to breweries since the troops were each entitled to six pints of beer per day. Most preferred ales and other heavy beers, not lager.
During those centuries and into the nineteenth, a number of commercial brewers thrived, including some that became the staple of the Canadian industry: John Molson founded a brewery in Montreal in 1786, Alexander Keith in Halifax in 1820, Thomas Carling in London in 1840, John Kinder Labatt in 1847, also in London, Susannah Oland in Halifax in 1867, and Eugene O’Keefe in Toronto in 1891. The very first patent to be issued by the Canadian government on July 6, 1842, was to one G. Riley for “an improved method of brewing ale, beer, porter, and other maltliquors.”
Prohibition in Canada did not last as long as in the U.S. and was largely over by the mid-1920s apart from Prince Edward Island, where it ran from 1901 to 1948. By comparison the temperance act in Ontario ran from 1916 to 1927. Surprisingly, the relatively large and powerful beer manufacturing sector – and the huge working class that purchased their products – failed to convince any of the provincial governments to reverse their stance on prohibition.
Even after that era, the sale of beverage alcohol products remained heavily controlled by liquor boards and publicly owned stores in each of the provinces. Those restrictions had a similar effect: leaving very few brewers. It was only in the late twentieth century that there has been a revival in craft brewers and microbreweries.