London Attractions: Labatt Breweries
London Community News
The Labatt Brewing Company, located at 150 Simcoe Street in London, produces about 40 per cent of all the beer brewed in Canada, and is the largest brewer in Canada.
Following a $50 million expansion in 2000 and a $40 million expansion in 2006, the London facility produces the equivalent of one billion bottles of beer per year.
In 1855, John Kinder --10 years after he emigrated from Ireland --purchased London’s Simcoe Street Brewery with partner Samuel Eccles. In the 1850s, the completion of the Great Western Railway gave Kinder the opportunity to expand his business to Toronto, Montreal and the Maritimes. The brewery was later re-named John Labatt’s Brewery.
At the time, the brewery was producing about 1,000 bottles of beer per year. Brewing had always been a Labatt family tradition. John Labatt Jr. became involved in the business at an early age and took over the family business when his father died in 1866.
John Jr.’s recipe for India Pale Ale won a silver medal at the Dominion of Canada Exposition in 1876, and many other awards worldwide. In 1916, prohibition was instituted in Ontario. Labatt survived by producing beer for export to the United States and by introducing two “temperance ales” at less than two per cent alcohol. Labatt became a publicly traded company in 1945.
Labatt has sponsored the construction of many London landmarks, including Labatt Park, the John Labatt Centre and the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre at the University of Western Ontario. Arthur Labatt was the 19th Chancellor of UWO from 2004-2008.
In June 2011, Labatt Breweries donated its archive collection, valued at $8.3 million, to Museum London and the University. The material, including original art, brewery artifacts and collectibles dating back to 1850, represent the first historical collection of the brewing industry in Canada.
Brewery tours run Monday to Friday at a cost of $10 per person. The two-hour tour includes a walkthrough of the brewhouse, as well as the fermenting, ageing, and packaging areas. The tour also includes a tasting session, and beer trivia and question period.