HIST 4305A: The History of Beer, Brewing and Drinking in Canada, 1670-2023
Winter 2024

Instructor: Professor Matthew J. Bellamy 


The mere mention of the history of beer drinking and brewing, to paraphrase Richard W. Unger, a distinguished historian of the art, usually brings a chuckle or, worse, a snicker. Why would one study the history of a commodity which is so closely associated today with leisure, student life and drunkenness? For some people the history of beer and brewing is not a serious subject of study. This perception, however, is a case of historical myopia, an inability of people in the twenty-first century to picture a world different from their own, one in which beer was a daily necessity of life and brewing an essential enterprise. In this course we will study the history of brewing and beer drinking from the 1600s to the craft brewing revolution of the twenty-first century.

Class Format

Each week we will meet to discuss a clearly defined theme in the history of the Canadian brewing and beer drinking. Such themes will include: the birth of the Canadian brewing industry; brewing and the spirit of Canadian capitalism; the rise of teetotalism and the working-class saloon; the effect of war on brewing and beer drinking; prohibition, bootlegging, and the role of the brewers in creating a beer-drinking nation; beer advertising and brand management; the relationship between beer and sport; globalization and the craft-beer revolution.


Students will be expected to do the assigned readings and to contribute to the discussion. During the course we will be reading a series of historical works. Students will be asked to discuss the reading material and write their own papers (15-20 pages) on some aspect of the history of Canadian brewing, beer and drinking. The papers should reflect a solid grasp of the existing historiography on that topic and should involve some amount of primary research.

Learning Outcomes

  1. To understand and explain the evolution of the Canadian brewing industry from its beginning until the craft brewing revolution.
  2. To analyze and assess historical documents, artifacts, and other primary sources.
  3. To evaluate historical arguments and historical scholarship.
  4. To conduct independent research using primary and secondary sources.
  5. To express in writing the results of historical thinking and research.

I look forward to exploring this exciting topic with you. If any further information is requested, please do not hesitate to contact me at Matthew_Bellamy@Carleton.ca.