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?
Ah yes, Queen Beer, a most colonial name choice for a beer! Given the brand comes from Vancouver Breweries Ltd. (plural), we can date this to be some time around 1900 or thereafter, and I would guess within the first 10 years. I can ask the local bottle club for more details - they are a combined wealth of knowledge! And indeed, early bottles can be very collectible, especially with their labels!
Feel free to send me photos or more information about such things; I’m always interested to learn more, and I believe things like this ought to be more carefully cataloged. Thanks also to the recent follower who contacted me with a UDL bottle; I always appreciate such gifts! I should also note I’m working on a chapter for an upcoming book featuring some of Vancouver’s lost prohibition era beer history; there are a number of super discoveries, and I’m very excited about the project! Stay tuned for more in the months to follow!
MAP 547 - Panoramic view of the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, 1898, via the Vancouver Archives. Here you can see a detail of Brewery Creek, and that smoke stack in the centre of the image? That’s the site of Charles Gottfried Doering’s Vancouver Brewery, later known as the Doering & Marstrand Brewery. Actually, after a merger with the Red Cross Brewery, it became known as Vancouver Breweries Limited. There are so many subtle name changes in Vancouver’s beer history, it’s hard to keep track! More about that some other time.
The City of Vancouver Archives recently announced on their blog that thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program, they have completed a project to digitize 512 maps and plans.
Maps are great archival records, filled with meticulous details of the city, typically accompanied by exquisite penmanship. However, they are like many early illustrated works—difficult to attribute. The map above, one of the most popular birds eye views of the city, states in very fine print at the bottom right hand corner: “Entered according to act of Parliament of Canada in the year 1898 by J.C. McLagan at the Department of Agriculture.” In a larger embellished font, the map also states “Published by the Vancouver World Printing and Publishing Company, Limited.”
Both of these details are interesting because J.C. (John James Campbell) McLagan was the editor and owner of The World newspaper which operated from 1888-1924. Bessy Lamb gives an excellent early history of The World among other early Vancouver newspapers in this 1942 research paper at UBC, and when you’re finished reading that, you can followup with this paper on women in the early BC newspaper trade, as McLagan’s wife Sara Anne took over the paper after his death. But back to the fine print on the map; it’s still not clear to me what all of this means. Was J.C. McLagan also employed by the Department of Agriculture?
I dug deeper and discovered this Vancouver Board of Trade annual report from 1892, indicating that he was indeed on the standing committee of Agriculture, along with S. Oppenheimer and E.E. Penzer. Actually, J.C. was also on the Immigration committee, so he must have been a busy man! What I really want to know is who was the cartographer?! Did J.C. McLagan actually have time to draw maps in his spare time, along with chairing meetings and running a newspaper?
I believe the answer lies here, in this document on Archive.org (original document in the National Library of Canada). Manitoba and the Great North-West was published in 1882, and it features a full page birds eye view map of the city of Winnipeg, very much in the same style as this map above. J.C. McLagan’s name is clearly stated on the title page, responsible for the “Sketch of the Rise and Progress of Winnipeg”. If the history books have not yet noted John James Campbell McLagan as an excellent cartographer, I believe they now stand corrected.
I hope you this has demonstrated just a few of the things you can learn from an old map! Take that, Google Maps!

MAP 547 - Panoramic view of the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, 1898, via the Vancouver Archives. Here you can see a detail of Brewery Creek, and that smoke stack in the centre of the image? That’s the site of Charles Gottfried Doering’s Vancouver Brewery, later known as the Doering & Marstrand Brewery. Actually, after a merger with the Red Cross Brewery, it became known as Vancouver Breweries Limited. There are so many subtle name changes in Vancouver’s beer history, it’s hard to keep track! More about that some other time.

The City of Vancouver Archives recently announced on their blog that thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program, they have completed a project to digitize 512 maps and plans.

Maps are great archival records, filled with meticulous details of the city, typically accompanied by exquisite penmanship. However, they are like many early illustrated works—difficult to attribute. The map above, one of the most popular birds eye views of the city, states in very fine print at the bottom right hand corner: “Entered according to act of Parliament of Canada in the year 1898 by J.C. McLagan at the Department of Agriculture.” In a larger embellished font, the map also states “Published by the Vancouver World Printing and Publishing Company, Limited.”

Both of these details are interesting because J.C. (John James Campbell) McLagan was the editor and owner of The World newspaper which operated from 1888-1924. Bessy Lamb gives an excellent early history of The World among other early Vancouver newspapers in this 1942 research paper at UBC, and when you’re finished reading that, you can followup with this paper on women in the early BC newspaper trade, as McLagan’s wife Sara Anne took over the paper after his death. But back to the fine print on the map; it’s still not clear to me what all of this means. Was J.C. McLagan also employed by the Department of Agriculture?

I dug deeper and discovered this Vancouver Board of Trade annual report from 1892, indicating that he was indeed on the standing committee of Agriculture, along with S. Oppenheimer and E.E. Penzer. Actually, J.C. was also on the Immigration committee, so he must have been a busy man! What I really want to know is who was the cartographer?! Did J.C. McLagan actually have time to draw maps in his spare time, along with chairing meetings and running a newspaper?

I believe the answer lies here, in this document on Archive.org (original document in the National Library of Canada). Manitoba and the Great North-West was published in 1882, and it features a full page birds eye view map of the city of Winnipeg, very much in the same style as this map above. J.C. McLagan’s name is clearly stated on the title page, responsible for the “Sketch of the Rise and Progress of Winnipeg”. If the history books have not yet noted John James Campbell McLagan as an excellent cartographer, I believe they now stand corrected.

I hope you this has demonstrated just a few of the things you can learn from an old map! Take that, Google Maps!

Beer ads from the Vancouver Daily Province, December 20, 1940. First, an ad for Coast Breweries of New Westminster, followed by an ad for Vancouver Breweries Ltd.

Note how similar the branding appear in these competing ads; Lucky Lager is the one beer that looks unlike all the rest with it’s distinctive cross label, and ironically, it’s the one brand that appears to have fared the best. Burton Ale and Old Country Ale could go head to head, while Britannia Beer and Pilsener Lager Beer would also be fairly matched. The brand UBC Bohemian seems an odd curiosity today, and 4x Cream Stout was over 10% alcohol!

Rainier Beer is a personal favourite of mine, and typographically, it competes well with Cascade. I’ve included a full colour Rainier Beer label here, brewed at the Westminster Brewery Ltd. in New Westminster, BC. It’s true Rainier was originally an American brand, but it was purchased by the Sick’s beer empire in 1935 after American prohibition, as described on the Rainier wikipedia page. It has changed hands a number of times since then, and brewing finally came to an end in 2003. The Rainier brand has since been revived and is now brewed under license, albeit south of the border.

I was contemplating why nearly all these brands have disappeared; I’m sure the consolidation of breweries and post-war advertising were factors, but I guess tastes also change. And it’s probably easier to introduce a new brand than it is to update an older one. The fact that Lucky Lager continues to be produced here in Canada is a small miracle, although I think it wouldn’t be out of the question for more of these lost brands to make a resurgence.

If you’d like to OD on some more vintage beer labels, check out this acquisition of 3,000 beer labels at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. Oh, and be sure to sing along to this Labatt beer-drinking songbook from the 1930s!

Happy Christmas everyone, and once again, please drink responsibly!

Cascade Beer - The Beer Without a Peer, from the back of Fruit Magazine (January 1912), seen on archive.org. The name “STAHR” appears in the bottom right hand corner of the image.
Cascade Beer was an early brand of the Vancouver Breweries Ltd, the Reifel family's brewing empire. If you don't already know the Reifels, take a look at a few of their contributions to our city: they built the Commodore Block, the Vogue Theatre and the Studio Theatre (the Studio was across the street from the Vogue, which later became the Eve Theatre (1972-78), the Lyric, the Towne Theatre, Tonic, and now Joe’s Apartment); they donated property for the original Vancouver Art Gallery on Georgia Street; they built the “Casa Mia" (recently under contention as the owners want to convert it to a seniors’ hospice) and the “Rio Vista”, two mansions on Southwest Marine Drive; they farmed sugar beets during WWII on Reifel Farms; and as I’ve mentioned before, they donated the land for the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta. Oh, and yes, they may have participated in sending alcohol into the US during prohibition. But more about that some other time.

Cascade Beer - The Beer Without a Peer, from the back of Fruit Magazine (January 1912), seen on archive.org. The name “STAHR” appears in the bottom right hand corner of the image.

Cascade Beer was an early brand of the Vancouver Breweries Ltd, the Reifel family's brewing empire. If you don't already know the Reifels, take a look at a few of their contributions to our city: they built the Commodore Block, the Vogue Theatre and the Studio Theatre (the Studio was across the street from the Vogue, which later became the Eve Theatre (1972-78), the Lyric, the Towne Theatre, Tonic, and now Joe’s Apartment); they donated property for the original Vancouver Art Gallery on Georgia Street; they built the “Casa Mia" (recently under contention as the owners want to convert it to a seniors’ hospice) and the “Rio Vista”, two mansions on Southwest Marine Drive; they farmed sugar beets during WWII on Reifel Farms; and as I’ve mentioned before, they donated the land for the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta. Oh, and yes, they may have participated in sending alcohol into the US during prohibition. But more about that some other time.

Vintage Vancouver beer labels, from Capilano Brewing Company and Vancouver Breweries Limited, seen this week at auction on ebay, from a seller in Warsaw, Poland of all places. The Capilano Brewing Company dates back to 1934 (note the label is stamped 621+35, my guess indicating 1935) and the second label is a special Jubilee beer for the city’s 50th birthday in 1936 (note the label is stamped 4+8+36, most likely indicating 1936). Vancouver Breweries Limited dates back even further to 1901, and became part of the holding company British Columbia Breweries in 1911, and continued to operate under the name Vancouver Breweries for a good while. Cursory brewery details obtained from the book Brewed in Canada: the untold story of Canada’s 350-year-old brewing industry by Allen Winn Sneath.

Vintage Vancouver beer labels, from Capilano Brewing Company and Vancouver Breweries Limited, seen this week at auction on ebay, from a seller in Warsaw, Poland of all places. The Capilano Brewing Company dates back to 1934 (note the label is stamped 621+35, my guess indicating 1935) and the second label is a special Jubilee beer for the city’s 50th birthday in 1936 (note the label is stamped 4+8+36, most likely indicating 1936). Vancouver Breweries Limited dates back even further to 1901, and became part of the holding company British Columbia Breweries in 1911, and continued to operate under the name Vancouver Breweries for a good while. Cursory brewery details obtained from the book Brewed in Canada: the untold story of Canada’s 350-year-old brewing industry by Allen Winn Sneath.