Was This The Earliest Brewing In English Canada?


Sneath, Pashley and Rubin all mention the 1600s brewers of New France – Hebert (1617), Ambroise (1646) and Talon (1670). But I just came across this reference in a footnote in the Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1671-1674, published by Toronto’s Champlain Society in 1942, describing payments being made on 16 February 1674 for goods supplied to the ships of the Hudson Bay company:

John Raymond, “By Severall quantities of Ship Beere at 40s p. Tonn Strong beere at 12s, 9d a barrell & Harbor Beere at 6s 6d p. barrell with Malt & Hopps dd. Capt. Gillam, Morris and Cole”, £ 79.

A few months later, a committee of the Hudson Bay Company on 6 July 1674 directed payment to the same John Raymond £ 30 on account of “”Beer and Malt. dd. on board the Prince Rupert.” These items appear among a long list of payments for other necessary goods for taking aboard the ships Prince Rupert, Messenger and Employ. You will see in footnote 2 to this post on a blog by Norma Hall subtitled “Northern Arc: the Significance of Seafaring to Western Canadian History” that these three ships were sailing between England and Hudson Bay in the first half of the 1670s. The Prince Rupert and Messenger, at least, over wintered.

There are loads of interesting questions and observations from these passages from the Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1671-1674 including why are they shipping malt and hops separate from barrels of beer. If these ships overwintered and carried malt and hops it is pretty obvious that they must have been brewing. We know the British brewed on ships in the Arctic in 1852 so why not in 1674? But also – what is “harbor beer”? It costs about half of “strong beer” and we know from Gate’s work on Kingston that in 1825 “small or ship beer” was being sold in Kingston. But most of all the question is this – was this the first brewing of beer in English Canada? Or did other earlier over wintering ships brew, too?

One thought on “Was This The Earliest Brewing In English Canada?”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Alan – November 3, 2011 5:19 PM
    Were they brewing in Newfoundland before they were in New France?

    Frank McDonald – November 3, 2011 7:17 PM
    Have a look at this website. It shows the remains of a bakery/brewery from the Colony of Avalon dated 1622. I am told that there was brewing happening at the Cupids colony in 1610.

    Alan – November 3, 2011 7:35 PM
    I think I am going to show that as soon as the next book comes from Amazon.

    But were they brewing in the 1500s fishing stations? If all it took was a barrel of malt coming with them in the spring – why wouldn’t they have?

    Craig – November 3, 2011 7:37 PM
    And its beer


    , to boot!

    [Editor: that should be “And its beer e to boot!]

    Craig – November 3, 2011 7:39 PM
    That was intended to have an italic e. I don’t follow directions very well. I’m sick

    Alan – November 3, 2011 7:42 PM
    You’re sick? I am home with pneumonia and I still can italicize!

    Frank: earliest reference to beer in Canada? 1613 at Cupids.

    Frank McDonald – November 3, 2011 7:45 PM
    They built a brew-house at Cupids Newfoundland in 1612 according to the town’s website. There is a variety of old English hops growing wild on the site of the archaeological dig. I have always wondered if it is possibly descended from the 1610 colony?

    Alan – November 3, 2011 7:46 PM
    Rhizomes don’t lie.

    Craig – November 3, 2011 8:24 PM
    Really pneumonia? You hadn’t mentioned that…. he says sarcastically.

    Alan – November 3, 2011 8:31 PM
    Really. Doctor’s note at work really. Got some meds on Tuesday that may be doing the trick.

    Gary Gillman – November 3, 2011 11:22 PM
    Alan, harbour beer might be a synonym of ship’s or small beer, i.e., beer men could drink in quantity yet still perform shipboard duties or longshoring work. I incline to that, however I recall reading that beer sent to India which wasn’t “sound” ended up in the harbour on arrival if it wouldn’t fetch any price, so maybe it meant sub-standard (spoiled) beer.


    Alan – November 4, 2011 12:22 AM
    No, that does not work for two reasons. It is a bill presented at shipping and not receipt. Also, both are present on the same bill.

    Gary Gillman – November 4, 2011 9:46 AM
    But the beere that was ready-made, where did it come from…?


    Alan – November 4, 2011 11:41 AM
    I see the meetings are happening in London but not sure that is where the ships’ outfitting is happening. Raymond is referenced as “brewer” so he seems to be supplying both his finished beer and the raw materials.

    Alan – November 4, 2011 11:53 AM
    This could be notice of Raymond’s probate. He could have supplied in his 30s and died in his 80s.

    Alan – November 4, 2011 11:59 AM
    There is a Jonathon Raymond knighted in 1679. Married a brewers daughter!

    Alan – November 4, 2011 12:07 PM
    “…a very weak silly man…” !!!

    Steve Gates – February 22, 2013 5:34 PM
    I was reading an interesting book I found detailing the trials and tribulations of the the 1830’s Irish immigrant to Upper Canada, the journey, commencing in Montreal, includes an overland trip to Cornwall. The letter includes a scathing assessment of the conditions of the hotel they used. Continuing on to Prescott, where the critique continues. The trip now becomes Steamer borne, past Kingston and Bellville (sic ) because of the raging cholera epidemic and arriving finally at York. Once at York, the new Canadians imbibe at a tavern where the following review is offered of the beers available;

    We arrived at York on Monday, the 23rd July; were well accomodated at the British coffee- house; good cookery,very middling ale and a vile table beer. They are obliged to use such a quantity of hops, to prevent it from souring, that it is extremely disagreeable.

    Is this the oldest Canadian beer review you’ve seen? is the complaint of this fine lady, yes, lady, the wife of a prospective landowner, justified, have you heard of this critical observation before in this era or is she just someone who is used to the taste of the Irish ale or beer available at the time? The date of this letter is 1832, I believe brewing in York was, at this point, well on it’s way to being comparable to Kingston and Prescott, unlike the situation only 20 years prior.

    Alan – February 22, 2013 9:03 PM
    Well, it is certainly the oldest bad beer review I have seen from Canada! I like the reference to high hopping. Clearly a complaint of a different sort of experience than the drinker was used to.

    Steve Gates – February 22, 2013 10:49 PM
    What is your opinion of table beer? Is this a type of small beer? Have you any knowledge as to what this beer was? Is it an ale as well?

    Alan – February 23, 2013 10:51 AM
    Yes, “table beer” is a term used for a lighter ale. I had a sense that it was stronger by a notch than small but this post over at Ron’s uses them as equivalents. I suppose ship’s beer fits in there, too.

    Steve Gates – February 23, 2013 12:30 PM
    I assume that a tavern would sell table beer to accompany meals, at a lower price and taxation rate. Let me know if you come onto any beer reviews of Upper Canada, Canada West or early Ontario. I have been investigating the three main UC taverns between Kingston and York, namely; Finkle, Simpson and Spaulding….all of these taverns featured in- house brewing endeavours, Does Julia Robert’s book have anything about these places or other places not mentioned by me that existed between K and Y?

    Alan – February 23, 2013 2:53 PM
    Let me check on that…

    Steve Gates – April 14, 2013 4:50 PM
    Further to our discussion Feb 23, did you locate any info concerning taverns circa 1820-30 between York and Kingston in Ms Roberts’ book? Any info would be appreciated. Thx.

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