The Complete History of How Jockey Club Influenced Newfoundland Beer

Say what you will about Jockey Club, but it’s one of the longest-selling locally made  products in Newfoundland.

Jockey Club Was Created by a Local Brewery, Bavarian Brewing

Say what you will about Jockey Club, but it’s one of the longest-selling locally made  products in Newfoundland.

It was conceived by Bavarian Brewing (1932-62), a company that can be thanked for creating Blue Star as well.

Here’s a few of the beers they made that didn’t make it to this day:

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Germany’s Influence on Newfoundland’s Beer Palate

Bavarian may also take credit for creating the average Newfoundlander’s preference for light lagers that go down easy.

Our province is the nation’s biggest consumer of light lagers, as evidenced by how many people in our province have pledged allegiance to Coors Light and drink nothing but. History can trace that preference back to German Brewmasters’ influence on local beer in the 1900s.

When Bavarian Brewing opened for business in 1932, Newfoundland was still getting back into the swing of brewing beers again, after years of prohibition.

There were only two post-prohibition players left on the beer scene here, Bennett Brewing (creators of Dominion Ale!) and Newfoundland Brewery (creators of India!).  Both of them were exclusively making ales, and we were drinking local back then, so exports like Molson Canadian and Labatt Light did not dominate as they do today.

This means that the island’s beer scene was dominated by English-style pale ales and stouts, which makes sense for an English-settled colony. No one in Newfoundland was making much in the way of lagers.

Here are some of ales Newfoundland Brewery was making back then; Only India survived to today

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Needless to say, there was room for revolution in the local brewing scene, and Bavarian Brewing seized that opportunity. Bavarian found their niche in offering locals crisp and refreshing lagers, like the kinds that sell so well in Newfoundland today: Blue Star, Quidi Vidi Iceberg, Coors Light, etc.

Reportedly on a whim, Garrett Brownrigg went to Germany seeking the right German brewmaster for the job of introducing  authentic German-style lagers to the people of Newfoundland. He came back with a man named Brehm, Brehm’s wife, and blueprints for a true German lager brewery.

Albert Hickman of Hickman Motors Drove Brownrigg’s Vision Home

To their own demise, Brownrigg and Brehm were dead set on decking out the brewery in German-imported machinery, a costly endeavour at that time, which is why Brownrigg went broke constructing the plant, and Brehm spooked off into obscurity after 75% of the 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.  If the name Albert E. Hickman rings a bell, it’s because he’s the same man who launched Hickman Motors.

Albert brought one of the first cars to Newfoundland; he bought it in New York, shipped it home on a schooner, and others started wanted them, so he started selling them. He was also Prime minister for a month in 1924.

Hickman found himself a German brewmaster named Hans Schneider. Schneider was a meticulous man who truly put the master in brewmaster. Back then, you had to be a master of your craft, as brewers did not have the quality-control technology available today. Even refrigeration was shoddy back then.

Hans Schneider: Founding Father of Jockey Club

Schneider proved his brewing prowess pretty quickly. He won awards for his creations like Jockey Club and Black Munich, both created in his small apartment above the brewery on Leslie Street in St. John’s. He made Bavarian Brewing Newfoundland’s wealthiest, most popular brewery.

Blue Star was actually a creation of Bavarian Brewing as well, and won the Munich Gold Medal in Germany in 1954, so even the Germans loved Newfoundland’s German-influenced NL beer.

Here’s an old bottle of Blue Star with a Bavarian label, and a blown up label:

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Bavarian Brewery’s success with lagers was so well received that Newfoundland’s other brewers couldn’t ignore it, and scrambled to recruit some Germans of their own, to come and overhaul their beer lists. This created a frenzy among NL’s big three brewers – Bavarian, Newfoundland Brewery, and Bennett – to create the ultimate German-style beers.

Labatt Bought Rights to Jockey Club in 1962

Bavarian Brewery was located on Leslie Street in St. John’s, where the Labatt brewery currently operates, and that’s not a coincidence: Labatt bought these guys out in 1962, but kept on making Blue Star and Jockey Club because Newfoundlanders loved them so much.

Jockey Club is considered Hans Schneider’s best creation. Bavarian used to advertise this beer as “The Champagne of Beers.” Some say there’s hints of sparkling wine in the taste; maybe there was in the original recipe. One has to imagine a large-scale commercial macrobrewery like Labatt made some changes to the recipe.

Either way, Schneider would be happy to see it still alive today, and even the subject of its own sale down at the legendary Ship Pub, which has a classic “Jockey Special” well-known and availed of by regulars.

Ultimately, Jockey Club is what a slogan of its past calls it: “An Honest Uncomplicated Brew, the Original Bavarian Style.” Today’s labels say “True Newfoundland Character,” presumably a relic from the time in the 1990s when all of Newfoundland’s local beers fought through ad campaigns “Jockeying” to position their beer as the favourite of the people of Newfoundland.

An Homage to Schneider from Spindrift Brewing

As it turns out , had Jockey Club been retired with the 1962 buyout of Bavarian Brewing, Schneider’s prized Jockey would have at least lived on in ethos of a Nova Scotian craft brewery.

Spindrift’s co-founder Andrew Bell is the grandson of Charles R. Bell, a one-time director of Bavarian Brewing, and a great grandson of Albert E. Hickman, who founded Bavarian Brewing.

Spindrift pay homage to Bavarian’s and Schneider’s style of brewing with their signature beer, Spindrift Coastal Lager, which you can find at the NLC, and many restaurants.

If You Enjoyed This Read …
Keep an Eye Out for The Overcast’s First Foray into Books

We love beer here at The Overcast, as well as partnerships with like-minded local companies.

So when a local publishing house asked us to write The Overcast’s Guide to the Beers of NL, we raised a glass to the idea and dug right in.

The book recaps the history of beer on the island, and profiles every brewery open upon the publication date of this book, which hits stores March 14th. Hopefully, it’s the first of many Overcast books and guides.

Nod to Chris Conway of the Newfoundland Beer Blog for all the image in this article. He’ll be starting a brewery of his own in NL soon.

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3 Comments

  • I have been drinking Jockey Club Beer since 1955!!
    That is when I turned 21,,,,It’s the only Beer that has It’s own taste!!!!

  • Fun read! Perhaps some local craft breweries would like to recreate those beers that we can’t get here anymore.

    A locally made Irish Style Porter available right next to Blue Star and Jockey in the corner store is something I can only dream of.

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