Letterhead from The Vancouver Breweries Ltd; comprised of the Red Cross Brewery at left, and the Doering and Marstrand Brewery at right, from a letter dated 1906. Thanks, Robert!
This line of Vancouver Breweries can be traced back to some of the earliest names in brewing in our city. The City Brewery appeared in Vancouver around 1887, according to Beer Barons of BC by Bill Wilson and Brewed in Canada by Allan Winn Sneath. House of Suds mentions the year 1882, but I believe that to be an error. Actually, the City Brewery’s origins could be traced back as early as 1879, if there is any connection between the City Brewery on Cunningham Street in New Westminster (I’m not certain if there is).
A somewhat mysterious J.A. Rekab or Rekabe is the first man noted operating Vancouver’s City Brewery on Seaton Street near the CPR wharf. He’s mysterious in that he’s only listed for that first year (John Williams takes over the following year) and I have no idea where he’s from. Personally I wonder if his name is an abbreviation or Anglicized version of the surname Al-Rekabe.
I doubt we can call him the first brewer in town though (on second thought, maybe we can); by 1888 he’s listed in the same phone book alongside at least two other brewers, Robert Reisterer and Charles Doering. Reisterer’s first brewery was called Mainland Brewery, located near Brewery Creek, and Doering’s first choice of names was the Vancouver Brewery (which changed to Doering & Marstrand’s Brewing in 1892).
City Brewery would become Red Cross Brewery around 1890, and after changing hands a few times, and Williams, Doering, and Marstrand would ultimately merge to form the first company named Vancouver Breweries Limited in the year 1900. Most of this info comes from Beer Barons of BC by Bill Wilson, for those who want further plot twists and turns.
Someone wrote to me today asking:
I have two beer bottles from Vancouver Breweries each with a paper label for ‘Queen Beer’. The bottles themselves still have the original corks pushed down inside. one is a very pale green, almost clear, the other is ‘beer bottle brown’. Their shape is similar to a modern wine bottle. The paper labels are identical. Can you offer any insight into their age? Are there folks who collect these?