Beer brewed on the Rock, dating back 196 years

Posted on July 28, 2023 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


Five well-known beer brands across N.L. (photo credit:


While there’s a growing number of craft breweries throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, five mainstream brands have a longstanding connection within the province: Blue Star, India Beer, Jockey Club, Bennett Dominion Ale and Black Horse.

Founding brewmasters

Most of these nostalgic brands were originally produced by one of three Newfoundland companies: Bennett Brewing Company, Newfoundland Brewery Limited and Bavarian Brewing Company. The exception is Black Horse, which was a Montreal brand, but has always had a strong connection to N.L.


A Bennett Brewing advertisement before it was renamed (photo credit:


Bennett Brewing Company was founded by Charles Bennett in 1827. Originally called Riverhead Brewery, operations were located on the west side of Water Street in downtown St. John’s. When Edward Bennett (no relation to the founder) took over operations in 1884, he renamed the business Bennett Brewing Company. The brewery produced a selection of products including Rainbow Beer, Haig Ale and Stout, Invalid Stout, and Dominion Ale (which still bears the Bennett name today). Bennett Brewing was also known for its Newfoundland songbook advertising campaign.


An India Beer ad from 1959 (photo credit:


Founded in 1893, Newfoundland Brewery was located near Elizabeth Avenue and Rennie’s River in St. John’s, N.L. Best known for its India brand, the brewery also produced Moose Pale Ale, Red Top Golden Amber and Irish Cream Porter. The company had many memorable advertisements over the years, including one that played on John Cabot’s arrival in Newfoundland.


A Blue Star label from 1956 (photo credit:


Bavarian Brewing Company opened in 1932 in St. John’s, N.L. on Leslie Street (the same location as Labatt’s brewery today). At that time, the local beer market was saturated with heavy, English-style ales and stouts. Bavarian Brewing made a name for itself by producing lighter, German-influenced lagers that Newfoundlanders have grown to love. In addition to Blue Star and Jockey Club, which are both still made today, Bavarian Brewing also made Three Star Lager, Bulldog and Bennett’s Beer.


A can and bottle of Black Horse beer (photo credit: Steven Shorlin)


Major acquisitions 

In 1962, these three Newfoundland beer producers were acquired by major Canadian corporations Molson (now Molson Coors), Canadian Breweries Limited (renamed Carling O’Keefe and now part of Molson Coors) and Labatt (now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev). While Blue Star, Dominion Ale, Jockey Club and India survived the transition, they have gone through some changes over time. However, they are still enjoyed across N.L. today.

As for Black Horse, while it was once a national product, it is now owned by Molson Coors and is exclusively produced in N.L., showcasing its connection to the province.


A map showcasing craft breweries across Newfoundland and Labrador (photo credit: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism)


Microbrew takeover

While these classic labels still remain popular today, through the late ‘90s a revival of craft breweries began with Quidi Vidi Brewery and Storm Brewing. Yellowbelly Brewery also joined the scene in 2008.

Today, there’s a growing number of microbreweries across N.L. However, after almost 200 years, many fridges are still stocked with Black Horse, India, Dominion, Jockey Club or Blue Star.

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