This Week in History
Labatt's Lager Legacy
This story was initially published in 2007
On October 26, 1866, John Kinder Labatt died at age 63. Labatt was, according to his obituary, “remarkable for his energetic, shrewd business qualities.” His business was to become John Labatt Limited, one of the best-known breweries in Canada.
John Labatt Jr. changed the name of the brewery to Labatt and Company, and developed India pale ale – a product that won the 1876 silver medal at the Dominion of Canada Exposition, among other awards. John died just before the company faced its biggest challenge – prohibition.
The 20th century was marked by several firsts. John Labatt Limited became a publicly traded company in 1945. The following year, Labatt purchased Copland Brewery in Toronto – the first Labatt brewery outside London. In 1951, Labatt introduced Pilsener Lager. When it first appeared in Manitoba, the beer acquired the nickname “blue” for its colourful packaging and the company’s support for the Blue Bombers (Winnipeg’s Canadian Football League franchise). The name stuck. Since then, Labatt has introduced Canada’s first light beer and Canada’s first non-alcohol beer.
Since 1995, Labatt is owned by the world’s largest brewer, the Belgium-based firm of InBev S.A. Today, Labatt has a portfolio of 60 quality beers and breweries from coast to coast – a far cry from its humble start under John Kinder Labatt. A pioneer Canadian brewer, John Kinder Labatt is a National Historic Person.
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