The items in this set come from a collection of more than 3000 Canadian beer labels donated to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in 2011. The collection covers a period of about 100 years starting in the late 1800s, and documents changes in tastes, design sensibilities and culture during this time.
The collection was donated to the library by Lawrence C. Sherk. Mr. Sherk also kindly donated his time and lent us numerous artifacts for display in an exhibit that was created to celebrate the opening of our historic brewery a few years back. Whether researching a specific brewery or looking at advertising and graphic design in Canada over time, this collection is unparallelled! Thanks to Mr. Sherk for donating his collection, and thanks to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library for making the collection accessible to the general public!
Parks Canada has a neat website called HistoricPlaces.ca. It’s an online portal to the Canadian Register of Historic Place (CRHP) and features information, images and designations for historic places across the country. Two of the included properties are the Don Brewery and part of Alexander Keith’s brewery complex. While there are only a few breweries listed, there are several buildings associated with the business including the home of the Kuntz family in Waterloo (who ran the Kuntz Brewery, the second largest brewery in Ontario at one point) and numerous taverns and inns. It can also find local historic buildings by allowing the website to access your current location. Some of the buildings have their current uses listed (Keith’s brewery complex is now home to the Halifax Farmers Market, restaurants and offices). The registry doesn’t mention the Malthouse Loft Townhouses that currently occupy the Don Brewery premises, but that may simply be an oversight, or the registry was completed prior to the conversion. Either way, it’s always great to see historic sites repurposed for contemporary uses rather than being torn down!
Andrew Morrison, an Archivist at the Archives of Ontario, sent along this incredible recipe he found in a notebook that belonged to Thomas Benson. Andrew notes that Thomas was a prominent Upper Canada businessman and also the first mayor of Peterborough. The notebook was used between 1827 and 1837 but the exact date he entered the recipe is unknown.
To Brew Five Gallons Strong Beer
Take Three ounces Hops, and rub them well into a close vessel sprinkling on them, when rubbed, about a teaspoon-full of salt – then pour on boiling water sufficient to saturate them and cover close.
Boil two and a half gallons water, dash the boil with cold water and suffer it to cool down to 180° Faht. Pour it into your Mash-tub. Mash it well till the malt is thoroughly wetted, and allow it to stand close covered about two hours, then run the liquor off into a vessel prepared to receive it – having first of all placed a whisk of clean hay or straw over the hole in your mash-tub to preven the malt running off with the liquor. If at first the liquor should run off thick or discoloured pour back until it runs clear. Mash the second time with the same quantity of water at 190°, and let it stand covered two hours. Get up your first wort into the boiler and add the Hops, a quarter of a pound of liquorice root (previously bruised) 1/4 [illegible] 1/4 ounce Capsicum, a bit of Cinnamon, and three ounces Treacle. Boil smartly for an hour, then run off into a cooler, carefully straining out the hops to be boiled in the second wort, which must also be boiled an hour. Observe that your malt must not stand dry between the mashings but must be Kept constantly moist by ladling the liquor over it. Run off the second liquor into the Cooler, and cool down as quickly as possible to 65°. then run it into the tun as quick as you can so that it shall suffer no diminuation of heat, and add sufficient yeast to cause fermentation. Let it work till it comes to a good deep head and has attenuated about 8°, then cleanse it by adding about a quarter ounce of ginger and rousing it well. The liquor is now fit for putting into the Keg, which must be done carefully. The Keg must be quite full to let the yeast work over, adding fresh liquor too Keep it full till it has done working. then bung it up close but take care to watch it well lest it should begin to work again and burst the Keg, which may be prevented by easing the keg. The only thing that now remains is to fine the beer. Finings are made by dissolving Isingladd in Stale Beer till it acquire a thin gluey consistence like size. the beer in which the ising-glass is dissolved must be quite stale and very clear. Add a sufficient quantity of this to clear your beer a gill will sometimes be sufficient but it may require more.
Benson was born on the 11th of January,1804 in Fintona, Ireland and immigrated to Lansingburgh, New York with his parents in 1816. In 1819 he moved his family to Kingston, Upper Canada and started business as a general merchant. He moved to Port Hope in 1832 and served with the militia during the Rebellion of 1837. In 1845 he packed up and moved to Peterborough, leased a flour mill and became the town’s first Mayor in 1850. Tragically he died in the Desjardins Canal railway disaster in 1857, leaving a host of children who also played prominent roles in early Ontario as lawyers, judges, professors and soldiers. If you’d like to read more about Thomas Benson, check out A Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography or head over to the Archives of Ontario to read his papers in person.
The Great Ontario Hopped Craft Beer Competition was started to celebrate the formation of the Ontario Hop Grower’s Association in 2012. As stated on their website the OHGA is “a not-for-profit association of hop growers, families and enthusiasts who are interested in supporting the growth of the hop industry in Ontario,” and we’re thrilled to support them in their mandate.