An extinct local brewery named Bavarian Brewing (1932-1962), and its founding brewmaster Hans Schneider, can be thanked for creating Jockey Club, which still exists to this day in Newfoundland and Newfoundland only, because Labatt bought out Bavarian Brewing in 1962, and kept making this beer, as well as Bavarian’s claim to fame, Blue Star, on account of their popularity on the island. Why stop brewing a beer people are buying? And who wants to piss of a brand-loyal Newfoundlander? We don’t like change ’round here.
When Bavarian Brewing opened in 1932, the NL beer scene was dominated by bold English-style ales like pale ales and stouts, which makes sense given we’re an English-settled colony. Also, 1932 wasn’t that long after prohibition; Newfoundland breweries were getting back into the swing of brewing proper full-strength beers again. How good these were, who knows.
Needless to say, there was room for revolution in the local brewing scene: enter Bavarian Brewing. In the years after prohibition, Bennett Brewing and Newfoundland Brewery were the only major players left on the beer scene, and they were exclusively making the aforementioned assertive and complex ales.
Meanwhile, fizzy and simple, crisp and refreshing lagers were all the rage in North America at the time. To fill a niche and cash in on the crisp lager craze, Garett Brownrigg, a man described by his son as someone who was always “going for something,” decided to expand his soft drink business into a brewery, and brew, specifically, German “Bavarian-style” beers.
Reportedly on a whim, Brownrigg went to Germany himself, seeking the right German brewmaster for the job of introducing German-style, authentic, easy-drinking beers to the people of Newfoundland. He came back with a man named Brehm, Brehm’s wife, and blueprints for a true German lager brewery.
Trouble was, Brownrigg and Brehm were dead set on decking out the brewing in German imported machinery: a costly endeavour. Sadly, Brownrigg went broke constructing the plant, and Brehm spooked off into obscurity after 75% of his amazing plant was constructed.
A merchant named Albert E. Hickman liked the vision though, and he came to own Brownrigg Brewery, which he renamed Bavarian Brewing. Albert E. Hickman has many accomplishments to his name, among them, he was the first merchant to start selling Labrador fish into Brazil, and was the guy who launched Hickman Motors. Oh, and he was the political leader of the Newfoundland for a bit.
Hickman found himself a German brewmaster named Hans Schneider, and this man was a legend, the kind of fellow who puts the MASTER in brewmaster. He was militant and meticulous in his craftsmanship of beer, because back then you had to be: there was no refrigeration, let alone the quality-control technology of today.
Schneider went on to win awards for his creations like Jockey Club, and Black Munich, both created in his apartment above the brewery on Leslie Street. He made Bavarian Brewing Newfoundland’s wealthiest, most popular brewery within a matter of years.
Here’s Why Halifax’s Spindrift Brewing Pays Homage to Bavarian Brewing:
Nova Scotia’s popular brewery, Spindrift, was co-founded by Andrew Bell – grandson of a one-time director of Bavarian Brewing, Charles R. Bell, and great-grandson of Albert E. Hickman himself. You can buy a few of Spindrift’s beers in the craft beer section of an NLC near you this month, though it’s a limited supply.
Spindrift pays homage to Bavarian’s style of lager with their signature beer, Spindrift Coastal Lager. They call it their “German-style Festbier” that’s “putting the craft back into lagers” with European and Canadian malts, Mandarina Bavaria hops, and German brewing techniques (such as “a longer 35-day cold brewing period”).
It’s a nice lager, that is, as mentioned, in the craft beer section of NLC outlets this month, or on the menu of a few spots around town (undoubtedly it’s at the Bier Markt). I had one with supper last night at Bernard Stanley’s Gastropub on Duckworth Street. It’s a bright amber beer with a frothy head, that boasts unique, toasted, and earthy qualities, with a very clean finish.