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Brew North: How Canadians Made Beer and Beer Made Canada [Paperback]

Ian Coutts
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 4 2010

An intoxicating illustrated history of Canadians' love affair with beer.

Brew North tells the delightful story of our national beverage, from New France and the British conquest, through Prohibition and the beer parlour era, and right up to the rise of the microbreweries. Lively and informative, Brew North puts beer lovers front and centre. Whether they are cowboys quaffing India pale ale in a western saloon, flannel-shirted working stiffs swilling Cinquante from brown "stubbies" in Montreal taverns, or modern-day beer snobs sipping pints of caskbrewed bitter and commenting on its "chocolate and cigar box bass notes," this is the story of the men-and women-who brewed, served, and drank our national beverage. Brew North doesn't just tell this story, it shows it. Early illustrations of rustic taverns and Victorian photographs of opulent saloons are combined with fantastic advertisements, giveaways, and gewgaws brewers have long used to market their product. It's all here, from fussy Victoriana to fifties kitsch to today's sophisticated ad campaigns. Now the classic era of Canadian beer is ending; brewery giants Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman are in foreign hands. At the same time, more small brewers are producing more interesting beers. A new golden age? Brew North arrives at a key moment to chronicle where beer has been and point to where it is going.

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An insightful history of Canadian brewing, which in many ways is a history of the country itself. —Stephen Beaumont


Brew North is a compelling, detailed look at just how Canada's beer industry became the way it is. Ian Coutts has done a lot of hard digging, and it shows. —Josh Rubin


As a piece of entertaining history, [Brew North] is top-notch, but the real gold is in the wealth of archival images, covering all manner of Canadian life. —Toro Magazine


Brew North is an industry thing, with stories of brewers and businessmen, starting from New France days through to modern microbreweries. It is lavishly illustrated with ads and labels from the past, with a great deal of colour . . . While the illustrations make it a fun book, there is a serious bibliography for further reading and a useful index. —Wine & Food Book Review


Coutts' book traces the evolution of our national beverage, starting in New France. Dozens of lively images depict vintage advertisements, black-and-white photographs and numerous samples of breweriana, making it a breezy account of Canadian history that also happens to chronicle the rise of capitalism. —Ottawa Citizen


Coutts has a conversational, casual writing style that makes this a breeze of a read, something you could probably whip through in the space of a couple of six-packs. He's included lots of great historical images and has special sub-sections . . . [and he] does a great job of showing us just why our beer and brewing culture is different than that of our neighbours to the south . . . Brew North is a fascinating, fact-filled look at beer through a Cancon lens. From stubbies to spruce beer, this book is packed with impress-your-friends kinds of facts. —Monday Magazine


As Ian Coutts reminds us, Canada's love affair with the foamy nectar is as old as the country, and any self-respecting history needs to take account of that intimacy. In this delightful but serious-minded work . . . Coutts takes us from the days of smelly, stale, men-only beer parlours to the yuppie-sanctioned brew pubs and micro-breweries of today . . . Wonderfully illustrated with period photographs, ads and beer labels. —Globe & Mail


Coax him through the craft brew portal by appealing to that sense of nostalgia for the days when good beer was common. Prime the pump with a colourful romp through Canada's brewing history. Ian Coutts' Brew North, is recommendable solely for its impressive photos of vintage beer logos. —National Post


About the Author

Ian Coutts is the author of several books, including Brew North: How Canadians Made Beer and Beer Made Canada. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, and Merida, Mexico.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Rosina
A beer book read by a woman! Who would have thought. I bought it for my husband but once I started to flip through it I was hooked (and I am more of a wine lover but do like the odd brew). Brew North is a well-written yet fun book - great balance between all the elements that make a book like this enjoyable. The photos are wonderful and a bit quirky - the history is actually very interesting but the author doesn't fall into the trap of way too much information. He obviously spent a great deal of time and effort pulling everything together. Kind of makes you proud to be a Canadian! Well done, Mr. Coutts!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Approved by A Good Beer Blog Sept. 10 2010
After reading "In Mixed Company" by Julia Roberts last weekend, it easy to point out that this is a pop history but a good one. The thing that caught my eye immediately was the quality of the images. The high production quality of this paperback results in very crisp and detailed photos, including a number in my favorite section, the one on the little discussed dreary phenomena know as the "beer parlour." The Canadian standard drinking establishment from the end of prohibition to the 1970s regulated to be the opposite of a saloon, these were dark, male, dull places without a bar, music, women, windows, air or until a certain point the right to stand up with your beer and walk across the room. I recall around 1982 being offered a raw steak in one of the last of these places, Halifax's Ladies Beverage Room or LBR. It was still in its Dominion Store wrapper, flashed from under the coat of its shoplifter.

Logically divided in to eras based on the regulation and restrictions on beer, on homeliness and later homogeneity of brewing in Canada, this is a book worth giving to the newbie and intermediate good beer fan with an interest in history - including up to the present day with a photo of Bar Volo with Ralph himself looking out from amongst the crowd from under his hat. It is a great addition to the still all too small selection of writing of the history of beer in Canada. I have suggested to Ian that he could put another ten of these books out - one on each province. I couldn't tell from his expression if he thought I was mad or if there was a proposal to his publisher being made mentally right in front of me.

Mark your Google calendar mobile apps. Book launch at the Kingston brew pub, Sunday September 19th from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.

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