Older and weiser, Oland Brewery still operating after 156 years

Posted on June 23, 2023 | By Alexander Chafe | 2 Comments


An image showing the early days of the Oland family business, initially called Turtle Grove Brewery (photo credit: Saltwire)


The Oland family knows beer. Over 150 years ago, the Olands’ opened their first brewery in Nova Scotia and later built operations in New Brunswick (which became Moosehead Breweries). After a family tiff split business operations in two, the Olands’ namesake brewery and beer is now under new ownership but continues to serve customers across the Maritimes.


Early beginnings

Oland Brewery was founded in 1867 when John Oland and his wife Susannah partnered with Sir Francis de Winton and other investors to establish a brewery for producing an old family ale recipe. Initially called Army Navy Brewery, the Oland family repurchased full ownership in 1877 and renamed the business S. Oland, Sons and Company.

In 1905, members of the Oland family acquired Hayward’s Highland Springs Brewery in Halifax and renamed it Oland and Son Ltd. This location on Agricola Street is where Oland Brewery remains today.


An Oland and Son ad in a 1963 edition of the Chronicle-Herald (photo credit: Dalhousie University Archives)


Growth and (re)building

The Oland family persevered through many hardships, including rebuilding after fires and the Halifax explosion. Their business acumen allowed them to more than double sales during the prohibition by creating ‘near beer’ with low alcohol content for locals while still brewing and exporting regular beer overseas. The family also acquired a number of breweries in N.S. and N.B. over the years, including Alexander Keith’s Brewery and James Ready Brewery (now Moosehead).

In the 1930s, George Oland was at the helm of the family business and upon his death in 1933, the enterprise was split between two of his sons. Sidney Oland took over operations in Nova Scotia, while George B. Oland was given operations in New Brunswick. This led to a rivalry between the two divisions of the business.


A modern view inside the production facilities of Oland Brewery (photo credit: Oland Brewery)


The big sail

Oland and Son initiated a unique marketing tactic in 1963 by building a replica of Bluenose, the historic fishing and racing ship. Named Bluenose II, the ship was used to market Oland products and celebrate the original schooner’s history.

In 1971, Oland and Son sold its brewing assets to Labatt Brewing Company and upon the sale, Bluenose II was donated to the Government of Nova Scotia. While Moosehead Breweries in New Brunswick remains owned and operated by the Oland family to this day, Labatt acquired the family’s interests in N.S. and renamed the business Oland Brewery.

The Oland family remained active in the business for a time and Sidney Oland served as president of Labatt Brewing Company in 1979. However, no Oland family is currently involved in the brewery that bears their name.


A modern exterior view of Oland Brewery in Halifax, N.S. (photo credit: Oland Brewery)


Still brewing

Today, Oland Brewery makes Alexander Keith’s, Budweiser and other Labat products, as well as its own Oland Export Ale and Schooner lager for customers across the Maritimes. As Nova Scotia’s largest brewery, Oland produces about 17-18 million dozen beers each year.

Speaking of Oland’s relationship with Labatt, Wade Keller, Labatt’s director of corporate affairs in Atlantic Canada, comments: “It comes with many advantages like increased access to capital, expertise and materials. But, Oland stays true to its roots and continues to contribute to its local community.”

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2 responses to “Older and weiser, Oland Brewery still operating after 156 years”

  1. To whom it may concern. I’m sending this email, in the hope that you may be able to help me. I have done podcasts called Addiction: Road to Recovery, on YouTube. I’m trying to get help financially, through sponsorships. To continue to get information out to people and their families. That are suffering from addiction and mental health issues. We just want to be a bridge of information, that there is help available, and where to find it. I took clips from my Eastlink shows of the same name. We are going into SMU and Dal and NSCC, to do our presentations, to show their students. They, like myself, are worried that the online Gambling and Sport Betting. Will hurt some of their students. We think this information will help some people to look at their play, and hopefully play more responsibly, or less. If they are concerned, we show where to ask questions and where to get answers. Like the new Peer Support Line. Minister Comer and Doctor Hickcox were on my last podcast. Any help or suggestion, would be greatly appreciated.

    Carey Murphy

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