Alexander Keith’s: brewing it right since 1820

Posted on November 05, 2021 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

Canadians across the Atlantic are surely familiar with the taste of Alexander Keith’s. The original 200-year-old pale ale has stood the taste of time and is a point of pride for Nova Scotians. As one of the oldest beers in North America still brewed, it comes with a rich history; from a landmark building, a respected founder and a product sold nationwide.


Historic view of Alexander Keith’s Brewery (Photo credit: John Corbett)


A Historic Landmark

Born in Scotland in 1795, Alexander Keith first began his brewmaster career at the age of 17 when his father sent him to England to learn the trade. After moving to Halifax five years later, Keith began working as manager and brewmaster of a local business, which he purchased in 1820 to establish his namesake beer and brewery.

Looking for a larger space, Keith acquired the Alexander Keith’s Brewery building located on Lower Water Street in 1822. He also eventually built a home close by on Hollis Street in 1863, now known as Keith Hall. Both properties are still standing and were recognized as historic buildings in 1985.


Photo of Alexander Keith, founder of his namesake brewery and beer (Photo credit: strategy)


Well-Respected Founder

Brewmaster Alexander Keith was a father of nine and a respected member of the local community. In 1837, he was named a director of the Bank of Nova Scotia and over the years was heavily involved in the insurance and utility industries. Keith was also a politician, having served as mayor of Halifax three times (in 1843, 1853 and 1854) and as president of the Legislative Council from 1867 until his death in 1873.

It’s been said that Keith’s funeral was one of the largest in the city. Peter McCreath noted in his book The Life and Times of Alexander Keith, Nova Scotia’s Brewmaster that “every dignitary of note” was in attendance.



Growing the Brand

In 1928, Alexander Keith’s was sold to Oland Breweries and was eventually acquired by Labatt in 1971. By the 1990s, the beer had become one of the most popular in the province and the Maritimes. The ‘90s was also when the brand hit its stride in terms of marketing and promotion. Campaigns played on the brand’s historic roots and were hugely successful. Other creative tactics included a celebration for founder Alexander Keith’s 200th birthday in 1995, which has become an annual tradition.

To expand internationally, the brand aimed to first launch in Ontario. Using a unique approach, tactics focused on taste, product education and subtle brand story promotion. Soon after, Alexander Keith’s was the fastest-growing beer in Canada and a leading specialty beer.


Modern day view of Alexander Keith’s brewery (Photo credit: Nova Scotia Canada)


Celebrating 200+ Years

Alexander Keith’s is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev and sold nationwide. The original brewery location began producing beer onsite again in 2016 and is one of the oldest operating breweries in North America. Today, visitors can tour the brewery and learn about its history. After success in expanding the brand nationwide, Keith’s launched a “Celebrating Two Centuries” campaign in 2020 to reconnect the brand to its N.S. roots.

Still brewing things right, after 200+ years.

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