Steins up! Cheers to 156 years of Moosehead Breweries

Posted on January 20, 2023 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


The Oland family’s early brewery, S. Oland, Sons & Co., in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (photo credit: Moosehead Breweries, Ltd.)


Known worldwide, Moosehead beer is brewed and bottled in Saint John, New Brunswick. What started as a one-woman operation over 150 years ago has been owned and operated by the Oland family through six generations. Now a major independent Canadian brewery, Moosehead is the oldest and largest of its kind in the country.


Family recipe

After moving to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with her husband and nine children, Susannah Oland began brewing her family’s recipe for October brown ale from the shed in her backyard in 1867. The beer was an instant hit with locals in the community and a family friend suggested that the Olands scale the operation. That same year, the family opened a commercial brewery with the help of some investors and incorporated as Turtle Grove Brewery (named after a Mi’kmaq town in the area).

Susannah managed all aspects of daily operations at the brewery and involved her sons early on. In 1877, she used money inherited from a relative to repurchase any shares owned by investors and renamed the brewery S. Oland, Sons & Co.


Susannah Oland, the woman who began Moosehead Breweries’ 156-year-long history (Moosehead Breweries, Ltd.)


A big move

Susannah’s youngest son, George W.C., took over operations of the family business in 1885 and kept things afloat during trying times. The devastation of the Halifax Explosion in 1917 illustrated the importance of diversifying the business. So while George W.C. rebuilt in Halifax, he also purchased Red Ball Brewery in Saint John, New Brunswick and sent his oldest son to manage its operation.

In 1928, the Oland family purchased a second brewery in Saint John, James Ready Brewery, (which is home to Moosehead Breweries today). While reviewing documentation from the old brewery, George’s son noticed the name “Moosehead” and put it to use in 1933 when naming the beer that created the foundation of their brand: Moosehead Pale Ale.

The Olands eventually sold their interests in Nova Scotia over time and moved all operations to New Brunswick. In 1947, the family business was officially renamed Moosehead Breweries Limited, which helped with the brand’s expansion outside the province.


Moosehead Lager in its unique green bottle (photo credit: Moosehead Breweries, Ltd.)


International growth

After growing throughout the Maritimes and Ontario with draught beer, the Oland family decided their next move would be to enter the competitive U.S. market. Moosehead Lager was created in a unique green bottle with their classic moose logo, allowing it to be positioned as a premium Canadian imported beer. After entering the U.S. in 1978, sales were double what was expected. This success allowed Moosehead to expand further across Canada and eventually the world.


Moosehead Breweries’ building in Saint John, New Brunswick in the 1930s or 1940s (photo credit: Moosehead Breweries, Ltd.)


Brewing strong

Today, Moosehead Breweries continues to operate from Saint John, New Brunswick and sells its products throughout Canada, the U.S. and 15 other countries. With the current President and CEO, Andrew Oland, representing the sixth-generation and seventh-generation Olands in training, it appears the business plans to remain family-owned for the foreseeable future.

Still brewing strong, 156 years later.

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