150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels Cover

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday with a beer label book

2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday and Laurence C Sherk put together a fitting commemoration in his book 150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels.

Sherk’s book brings us into our country’s brewing and graphic design past.  By looking back at the breweries, beers, and labels we can see what helped kindle our country’s passion for beer.

For a history buff and digital creator like myself, this book is a perfect encapsulation of my interests.  Shelk traces the history of beer in our country through the labels and artwork, telling the tales of different breweries, and a past steeped in brewing.

150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels Davies Porter

The book takes us on a graphic design journey through time, using the labels to illustrate changes in design styles and production techniques of the eras they represent.  While there is stark contrast between early Canadian beer labels with their crests, coats of arms, and big block lettering, and newer labels with more intricacy and attention to details, we can still see a shared history when placing these historical artifacts side-by-side.

150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels Davies Porter Text

150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels gives us a glimpse into many of Canada’s early breweries: where they began, the trials and troubles they faced, and what eventually happened to them.  Some breweries are sold, some go out of business, others fold because of prohibition, while still others are bought out by larger breweries.  Each label is given its small piece of historical context that places it within a larger narrative of Canadian history.

150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels Hat's Porter

Not just a book about Eastern Canadian brews

But don’t think that 150 Years is a book only about Eastern Canadian breweries. In fact there are many Western Canadian Breweries represented in label form.  At at time in our country’s growth where each town likely had its own brewery, there labels from breweries from coast to coast.

Looking back over these last 150 years, Sherk’s book gives us an historical perspective on the origins of our current fascination with beer.  From our early colonial past through our growth as a nation we’ve always had a passion for beer.  To see this illustrated before our eyes in 150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels is very cool indeed.


150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels Mission Springs BlondeYet another intriguing aspect of the book is the snapshot it gives us into our country’s brief stint with prohibition. Surprisingly, the beer styles that were available prior to prohibition included plenty of darker and fuller-bodied styles such as porters mixed.  The lagers that came to dominate the market rose to prominence at the end of prohibition and into the 1970s and 1980s.

A relatively quick read, 150 Years of Canadian Beer Labels gives us a small glimpse into our past through packaging of one of our most treasured beverages.  Grab yourself a beer and a copy of this book and enjoy a stroll down our country’s brewing history.

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