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The History of Labatt

In Canada, the Labatt brewery is as legendary as the beer it makes. Founded in 1847 by John Kinder Labatt, it has survived prohibition, a kidnapping, and over 165 years' worth of incredible events.

  • 1847

    John Labatt opens his first brewery in London, Ontario. That same year, a little more than a decade after arriving in Canada, John Kinder Labatt reveals his life-long calling in a letter to his wife: "I have been considering this brewing affair for some time and think it would suit me better than anything else..."
  • 1866

    After an apprenticeship at a Wheeling, West Virginia brewery, John Labatt Jr. returns to Canada and takes over the family business.
  • 1878

    Labatt's India Pale Ale wins a gold medal at the International Exposition in Paris, France. It's the first of many Labatt beers to gain international recognition.
  • 1899

    Demand for Labatt products increases to such an extent that another sales office and warehouse has to be opened in Toronto.
  • 1915-1927

    Labatt survives prohibition by producing full-strength beer for export south of the border, and by introducing two "temperance ales" (brews with less than two per cent alcohol) for sale in Ontario. When prohibition is repealed in 1927, Labatt enjoys a strengthened industry position.
  • 1934

    John S. Labatt is kidnapped by gangsters in Lambton County. Three days later, he is released unharmed at Toronto's Royal York Hotel.
  • 1950

    Labatt introduces its 50th Anniversary Ale, commemorating a half-century of business under the leadership of John S. and Hugh Labatt. This first "light" ale, affectionately called "Annie" and later "50," quickly gains a dedicated following and eventually becomes Canada's best-selling brand.
  • 1951

    Labatt launches its Pilsner Lager, setting the trend for lager beers in Canada. When it's introduced in Manitoba, the beer is nicknamed "Blue" for the colour of its label and the company's support of Winnipeg's Canadian Football League (CFL) franchise, the Blue Bombers. The nickname sticks and in 1979, Blue claims top spot in the Canadian beer market – a position it holds to this day.
  • 1958

    Labatt Blue places first at the World Beer Competition.
  • 1979

    Labatt Blue becomes the best selling Canadian beer in the world.
  • 1984

    Labatt introduces the first twist-off cap on a refillable bottle.
  • 1997

    Labatt celebrates its 150th birthday.
  • 2012

    Labatt turns 165 this year.

What is Labatt Hockey?

It's hockey the way it was meant to be played: no rinks, no refs and no replays. Just good friends, great beer and a fresh sheet of ice.

Each year, Labatt Blue celebrates Real Hockey with pond hockey tournaments across the US. Want to play in one? All you need to do is grab some friends, and some Blue, and sign up today.

Learn More