Canadian Beer and Moose

 In Canada 150, Identity, News
Moosehead brewery is also 150 years old in 2017

Moosehead brewery is also 150 years old in 2017

Moose are associated with Canadian identity and wilderness. In a different way, so is beer. Moose are native to Canada’s boreal forest; the northern tundra and the prairies. Moose share Canadian’s love of lakes and are good swimmers – often seen by Canadians on wilderness camping trips, and by roadside wetlands. Neither do very well in the heat. Nor does beer.

Next year a beer company named after the massive beast, Moosehead, will share a 150th anniversary with Canada. Founded as  S. Oland, Sons and Co. in 1867, they claim the title of Canada’s oldest independent brewery.

Halifax Explosion Dec 6, 1917What you might not know, there is a woman behind the company’s early years. The “S” stands for Susannah. Referred to as “the godmother of beer, it began with her English family beer recipe, and survived because of her remarkable tenacity to recover from adversity. The untimely death of her husband. Then injury to son John, and the devastating loss of their Halifax brewery in the 1917 Halifax Explosion. One of the largest disasters in Canadian history, it destroyed the city and the Oland brewery. Son George restarted as the New Brunswick Brewery in Saint John. Success allowed them to buy a second, larger brewery. It is still the site of the present-day operation.

He launched Moosehead Pale Ale in 1933. Moose are common in the Maritimes, so a fitting name for a brew made to slake the thirst of the locals. Moosehead Pale Ale is described as a beer for the tradition bound drinker seeking a full bodied and heavier taste than domestic lagers.

Nearly 150 years later, Andrew Oland, president and the sixth generation to lead Moosehead Breweries, shows the same family resilience. He just announced plans to build a new small batch brewery in the uptown area in Saint John. He says its in response to the changing tastes of Canadians and summertime cruise ship passengers looking for micro-brew experiences.

We knew we had to come to the market with more innovation. In order to do that, we were going to have to do it one way or another with smaller batch sizes.” –Andrew Oland

Alas according to a Mar 24, 2017 Globe & Mail feature article “A Beer as old as Canada Itself” plans for the micro brewery were shelved. Instead Oland is giving more attention to developing new brews and uplifting the brand image.


Today, moose populations are healthy in Newfoundland and New Brunswick, but declining in Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. The Nature Conservancy has a initiated a project in New Brunswick to help the population recover in Nova Scotia. The Chignecto Isthmus is a narrow stretch of land that is the only route for moose to migrate in and out of Nova Scotia.

Moose, Moosehead beer and Canadians could all be described as resilient, tenacious, independent. All common characteristics of the Canadian identity. Seems appropriate to celebrate Canada 150 history and and with a glass of unique Canadian flavour. Cheers to that.