Breweries in Hamilton

Peller Brewing Company Limited
Brading Breweries Limited
Henninger Brewery (Ontario) Limited
Amstel Brewery Canada Limited
Lakeport Brewing Corporation

The newly-built Peller Brewing Company building, 1947Peller Brewing Company Limited

The Peller Brewing Company was incorporated in Ontario on March 9, 1945. In November of that year, Mayor Sam Lawrence (of Hamilton, Ontario) announced that the company had chosen to set up on an empty site on Burlington Street and Ferguson Avenue in north Hamilton, just south of Hamilton Harbour. The newly-erected brewery was opened in May, 1947.

The company remained in Hamilton for the next seven years, until its assets were sold to Brading Breweries Limited (a subsidiary of Canadian Breweries Limited) in March, 1954. [Top]

The Brading building on the day of its grand opening, June 21, 1954Brading Breweries Limited

When Brading Breweries Limited bought the assets of Peller Brewing Company in March, 1954, it immediately announced that there would be a two-year, $10 million expansion project taking place, including a quadrupling of the workforce from about 100 to 400 employees. The formal opening occurred on June 21, 1954, but in October of the same year Brading was amalgamated with Carling Breweries of Toronto.

Carling Breweries ran the plant under the Brading name for four more years (although it didn't go through with the aforementioned expansion) before the operations were moved to Etobicoke in 1960. [Top]

A Henninger Brewery advertisement from 1973Henninger Brewery (Ontario) Limited

In 1972 a group of Canadian businessmen purchased the former Peller plant on Burlington Street and Ferguson Avenue in Hamilton. They represented Henninger Brewery (Ontario) Limited, a company licensed to brew the product of the Henninger Brewing Company of Germany. Henninger was the first brewery in Hamilton in 12 years, since the amalgamation and relocation of Brading Breweries. The Peller building had been used by the Hamilton Harbour Commission as a warehouse until it was bought by the Henninger company.

On July 6, 1973, the first Henninger brand beer was bottled at the new plant. In November of that same year, the company built a retail outlet next to the brewery. However, sales of the German product never really picked up, and in August, 1981, Henninger Brewery (Ontario) was sold to Amstel Brewery Holdings Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amstel International B.V., a member of the Netherlands' Heineken Group). [Top]A Hamilton Mountain Beer "stubbie", circa 1982

Amstel Brewery Canada Limited

Amstel Brewery Canada Limited acquired the Burlington Street and Ferguson Avenue brewery when it bought Henninger Brewery (Ontario) Limited in August, 1981. The first beer to be produced under the Amstel name was Hamilton Mountain Beer, sold exclusively in Hamilton at Brewers Retail stores ("beer stores") and the Amstel retail outlet adjacent to the plant. The brand, initially, was a hit.

In mid-1982, the company began brewing Amstel brand beer, called "the Canadian lager with the Dutch touch". A $2 million expansion of the Hamilton plant was undertaken the next year, to keep up with the high demand. In January, 1984, Amstel began exporting Grizzly beer to the United States, and in May marketed it in Hamilton. Unfortunately, May was also the month that Amstel discontinued the manufacture of Hamilton Mountain Beer. At first the brand was highly popular, but after a couple of years beer-drinkers returned to the "Big 3" companies (Molson, Labatt, and Carling O'Keefe). On the upside, Americans seemed to like Grizzly beer, and Amstel had to triple its work force to keep up with the demand.

Cars make their way to and from the Amstel Brewery outlet during a strike in March, 1985On February 26, 1985, employees at the Big 3 breweries represented by the Brewery Workers' Union were locked out. Because Amstel's workers were represented by the Teamsters' Union, they were not involved in the strike. As the only functioning brewery and beer retail outlet in Southern Ontario, it quickly became the busiest beer store in the entire country. Police officers were called in to maintain order, writing tickets to the dozens of car-owners who ignored "no stopping" and "no parking" signs. Even when the lockout ended on March 25, Amstel and Henninger beer (which was still being produced under license) were so popular that staff had to work around the clock.

That August, Amstel built a new, larger retail outlet and warehouse on Burlington Street, and opted for a "niche marketing" strategy to sell its products. Instead of trying to sell all of its products to the same class of person (i.e., middle- and working-class men in their 20s and 30s), each brand would be aimed at a certain "niche". Amstel brand, as a premium beer, was marketed to upper-income drinkers; Amstel Light at the calorie-conscious; Grizzly at men and women in their 20s; and Peroni at the substantial Italian population in Southern Ontario.

In May, 1986, Amstel once again attempted to create a beer that Hamiltonians could call their own. Steeler beer was said to be "more Canadian-tasting" than the defunct European-style Hamilton Mountain Beer. Two years later Amstel introduced Laker beer, which was called more "sophisticated and urban" than Steeler. The next year the company became the number 3 brewer in Canada, The Amstel brewery on Burlington and Ferguson Streetsnot because of any extraordinary rise in sales, but because of the merger of numbers 1 and 3, Molson and Carling O'Keefe. In April, 1990, Amstel stopped making Steeler beer because of "lacklustre performance", and soon after discontinued Laker. The company blamed its poor sales on changing lifestyles; baby boomers were aging and simply drinking less. In February, 1991, Amstel stopped making Grizzly beer, and in September closed the Hamilton plant. Molson of Toronto, Ontario, purchased the right to brew Amstel and Grizzly beers in its Etobicoke, Ontario, plant, and the Henninger license was bought by Brick Brewing of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

The plant itself, and its assets, were sold to a numbered Ontario company in March, 1992, along with the rights to the names Laker, Steeler, and Hamilton Mountain Beer. [Top]

The original Lakeport Brewing Corporation logo
Lakeport Brewing Corporation

The numbered Ontario company that purchased the assets and plant of the former Amstel Brewery in Hamilton became Lakeport Brewing Corporation in April, 1992. Its first order of business was to introduce a limited edition brew callBob Thayer is the first customer to purchase beer on Sunday in Hamilton (June, 1992)ed Around Ontario, to be sold in LCBO outlets (which sell liquor and premium beers) rather than Brewers Retail stores. In October, Cott Beverages Corporation (based in Laval, Quebec) acquired a 70% interest in Lakeport, with 30% remaining with Lakeport's president, Bill Sharpe. That same month, the Lakeport's retail outlet next to the brewery was the first (and for a while, the only) beer store to be open on Sundays.

Over the next several years, the brewery introduced various brands of beer aimed at various potential customers: President's Choice Premium Draft Beer (which was the first supermarket house brand beer, though it was not sold in the grocery stores), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Master Choice (also a supermarket house brand), and Private Selection (a supermarket house brand sold only in Southern California). In 1994, Lakeport lost the President's Choice license to Labatt Breweries. However, Dave Nichol, the former "President" in President's Choice, teamed up with Lakeport to create a line of low-priced products known as Dave Nichol's Personal Selection Draft Beer.

By July, 1995, Cott Beverages had acquired a 90% interest in Lakeport Breweries, but in November tried to find a buyer for its shares. Bill Sharpe, Lakeport's president, bought Cott's interest and became principal shareholder along with his vice president. In 1996, Lakeport introduced a brand of beer (Steel City) solely for Hamiltonians, something that Amstel had attempted unsuccessfully twice before. Other products that Lakeport brewed (either by an original recipe or by license) were Hooper's Hooch (a lemonade-flavoured beer), Bartender's Choice, McGinty's Dark Irish, and Brava Beer (Mexican-style "cerveza").

Lakeport's monopoly on Sunday beer sales ended in December, 1997, when the provincial government allowed all beer and liquor stores to open for limited hours on Sundays. The next year, Lakeport Brewing Corporation experienced a financial overhaul. Eighty percent of the company was bought by AlphaCorp Holdings, and Teresa Cascioli replaced Bill Sharpe as president (who became Chief Executive Officer). The brewery was renamed Lakeport Beverage Corporation to reflect its new owners and the fact that some of its products are non-beer alcoholic beverages that aren't produced by brewing techniques. In May of this year (2000), Lakeport went online with its own webpage ( [Top]

Other breweries existed in Hamilton before the time of Peller Brewing Company, around the turn of the century. These include: Showden and Middlewood / Grant Spring Brewery (the first brewery in Hamilton, established 1842); Gompf Brewery; Henry Kuntz Brewing Company; Ekhardt Brewery; Taylor and Bate; and Regal Brewery. If you prefer to brew your own beer, you can visit the I Brewed It Factory on Kenora Avenue.





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