|For most of the twentieth century, Molson was |
Canada's largest brewery. Though it remains so, it
has been foreign owned since 2008.
|A sample lineup from Granville Island Brewery|
in Vancouver, one of Canada's first brewpubs.
Coutts’ book is a far better effort than I could have hoped for, and proved to be immensely enjoyable and informative read. Coutts’ writing is full of humour, and demonstrates a genuine love for beer, as well as a disdain for “mean-spirited” Prohibitionists and bland, flavourless corporate lagers. His chapter on Prohibition in particular was very humorous, though hardly unbiased (but really, with temperance movements, it’s hard not to take cheap shots). I also was very happy with Coutts’ take on the microbrewing movement and its efforts to reinvigorate the Canadian beer scene to something more akin to the pre-Prohibition days. Although the book is quite brief, clocking in at just under 200 pages, Brew North is jam-packed with interesting tidbits about this grand history of brewing. I’ve always wondered why photographs and paintings are so poorly integrated into history books and theses; if there happen to be photographs, they always seem to be clumped together in one section the middle of the book, far away from where they are mentioned in the text, which forces the reader to constantly flip back and forth. Coutts’ volume, by contrast, is splendidly integrated with wonderful images of brewing history, including photographs, paintings, beer labels, promotional material and advertisements (my personal favourite: a turn of the century beer label for “Carling’s Stout For Invalids”, which features the image of a man in a wheelchair happily reaching for a pint that has been brought to him by a pretty nurse – today’s health industry could learn a thing or two from this beer label!). Beer is, after all, an immensely visual product, both the beer itself and the culture that surrounds it.
A glance through the bibliography and photo credits reveals that Coutts certainly did his research in developing this book. Now, the historian in me would have preferred more easily identifiable on-page references, not because I question Coutts’ research and methodology, though, but rather for my own desire to read more about these fascinating topics (I find bibliographies a challenge because it can be so difficult to find what I’m looking for; footnotes are much better in this regard). I know I’m asking too much here. I recognize that this is a popular history, but at least it’s a damned good one. Indeed, Coutts has done an admirable job in fostering my interest in the history of brewing in Canada, as I hope it will for you.
Don’t let the cover fool you – this is a great little book.