History Byte – The William Street Brewery

Following my last post on Copeland’s Brewery, here is the Globe’s description of the William Street Brewery as part of their annual review of the state of trade in Toronto.  This one comes from January 1867.


The Globe - Thursday, January 31st, 1867

This establishment has largely increased its facilities for brewing and malting purposes during the year 1866.  The main building having been raised tow and one-half stories, with an elevator about ninety feet in height for raising the grain.  No expense has been spared in procuring the newest machinery.  The cooling apparatus, manufactured by Booth & Son, of this city, cools the worts at the rate of fifty barrels per hour.  The cellars are seventeen feet under ground, are very extensive, and are, with the kilns and offices, lighted with gas.  The whole premises cover over an acre.  There are one hundred and eighteen breweries in Canada West in operation, and estimating the whole returns to Government, this establishment pays one-tenth of the duties according to present returns.  The shipments of malts are large during the season.  We understand that a large quantity of bricks has been purchased, with a view to future additions, which, if carried out, will make it one of the largest brewing and malting concerns in Canada.

For those of you who remember the name “Victoria Brewery” from an earlier post on O’Keefe’s Brewery, this John A. Aldwell of the William Street Brewery, was the original owner and founder of the Victoria Brewery.  There is a period of overlap where both O’Keefe and Aldwell are associated with the Victoria Brewery until Aldwell leaves to open the William Street Brewery in 1866.  Despite the grandiose designs for additions mentioned in the article, the William Street Brewery closed its doors in 1874.

History Byte – Copland’s Brewery

While doing some research in the Globe and Mail archives, I stumbled upon an article describing a few of the larger breweries in Toronto in 1867.  For this post, I’ve transcribed the portion on Copland’s Brewery.  The next post will be the transcription of the article on the William Street Brewery.


This brewery which is built of brick and is of the most substantial description, is situated at the foot of Parliament street.  The machinery is worked by steam and the building is fitted up with all the modern improvements in brewing.  If worked to its full extent it is capable of brewing about 7,000 gallons of ale per week, and its malting capacity is 20,000 bushels of grain during the season.

This tidbit was published as part of the Globe newspaper’s annual review of the Trade of Toronto.  You can check out the full paper here.  Copelands brewery is a bit of a mystery for me at the moment as I haven’t found another reference to it.  There are references to Copland’s brewery, but that brewery wasn’t founded until 1883.  The proprietor of Copland’s brewery, William Copland first appears in the records in 1851 but he is listed as the proprietor of the East Toronto Brewery -which was located on King Street East, East of Jarvis.  This location is not too far from what was the foot of Parliament street.  It seems likely that the Copeland Brewery noted in the Globe is actually the East Toronto Brewery which was being run by William Copland in 1866.  If anyone out there has come across another early reference to Copeland’s brewery or has more information on the East Toronto Brewery, leave me a reply!

History Byte – Brewing in Victorian Ontario

Just thought I’d share a few interesting facts and figures about the business of brewing beer in Ontario in 1866 and 1867!

Despard Brewery, Picton – Late 19th Century

Did you know….

  • In 1866 there were 118 commercial breweries in operation in Canada West.
  • William Street Brewery introduced a locally designed and built mechanical refrigeration unit into their brewery in 1866!
  • Copeland’s Steam Brewery was producing 7000 gallons of ale a week and malting 20 000 bushels of barley a season in 1866.
  • O’Keefe’s Brewery introduced a locally designed and built steam engine and boiler into their brewery in 1866.  By 1867 their 25 horsepower engine was capable of turning out a staggering 2000 gallons of beer a day.  This is equivalent to running a brewery off a large ride-on lawn mower!
  • O’Keefe’s Brewery was importing Bavarian, Belgian, Mid Keat, Worcester and Wisconsin hops for various brews.
  • There were four ale bottling plants in Toronto by 1867.  Independent of the breweries, these include Malcolm Morrison’s Beer Bottling Establishment, and businesses operated by James Leask, Thomas Rutlege, and R.D. Congden.

Some neat facts to share at your next pub trivia night, courtesy of Black Creek Historic Brewery!

History Byte – O’Keefe & Co.’s Brewery

O'Keefe's Brewery Late 19th Century

In 1862, Eugene O’Keefe purchased the old Victoria Brewery on Gould Street in Toronto and immediately set out updating the brewery.  Prior to the renovations, the brewery could turn out no more than 2 000 gallons a week.  By 1867, the new Victoria brewery was churning out 7 000 gallons per week and was capable of storing up to 60 000 gallons in their vast underground vaults.  Additionally, the two onsite malt houses could produce some 35 000 bushels of malt a season.  To ensure a quality product, O’Keefe imported coal for his malt kilns from Wales, as it was claimed that it burnt much cleaner than other coals.  Though locally grown hops were also used, it was a point of pride for O’Keefe that he purchased and imported hops from England to flavour his ale.

Check out Eugene O’Keefe’s bibliography here