5 types of beer that shaped Canadian history

Canadian author Ian Coutts describes the five types of beer (not brands) that have helped shape this country's history.

Brown ale, porter, pale ale, lager and craft beer help define Canada

Canada can learn a lot about its history by looking at five types of beer, says author and beer connoisseur Ian Coutts.

Coutts will deliver a free lecture in Ottawa Wednesday night called "Five beers over Canada," which explains how beer reflected Canadian history and what was going on at that time in history when the beer was being consumed.

The Canadian author said Canada became a beer country due to environmental factors because wine has only been made in small areas throughout the nation.

Here are the five types of beer that have shaped Canada, as defined by Coutts:

Brown ale. (CBC)

Brown ale

A pioneer beer made by "guys in the tub" in rural areas in the late 18th Century.

The beer was simple to make but unpredictable because you could not control much about the taste or colour.

Porter. (CBC)


The first industrial beer, which we started importing from overseas.

Canadians began drinking it regularly during the establishment of proper breweries and taverns.

Pale ale. (CBC)

Pale ale

The drink of saloons, found in "handsome establishments" in towns and patronized by young guys.

It looked good in a glass (ceramic and pewter mugs were now gone) and it coincided with the rise of the idea of brands — marking the growing urbanization.

Lager. (CBC)


The "star" of every beer commercial from 1955 to 1975, it came in during Prohibition and became the focus of lifestyle-based advertising. It's an industrial beer and you need a refrigerator for storage.

It is good for people raised on soft drinks. Only Quebec has really resisted. It is very connected to postwar affluence and the assembly line.

Craft beer. (CBC)

Craft beer

It is what's current, so history is still being made, but craft beer is not exactly a beer, but a "state of mind." It's like music or fashion or anything else.

"It began as a rediscovery of lost beers, but now it is moving into exciting new territory, taking an increasingly sophisticated audience with it," Coutts said.

As for the future of Canadian beer, Coutts said it's looking bright.

"This is the golden era of Canadian beer. We've never had more varieties of beer. We've probably got more breweries going now than we had in any time in the last 100 years," he told Robyn Bresnahan, host of CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"You can walk into any bar and get absolutely amazing drinks — pale ales, porters — and it's just going to get better and better."

Coutts also said anywhere you go in Canada, there is a plaque showcasing the founder of a certain brewery. He cited Molson in Kingston, Ont., and Labatt in London, Ont., as two of the more popular examples.

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Ian Coutts. (Photo courtesy of Ian Coutts)

Five Beers over Canada (lecture)

When | June 12, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where | Heart and Crown Pub, corner of Clarence and Parent streets in the ByWard Market in Ottawa

What | Ian Coutts details his book, Brew North, which is described as an intoxicating illustrated history of Canadians’ love affair with beer.