History of Beer in Edmonton

Early History of Beer in Edmonton

Late 1800s

Beer production in Edmonton began in the late 19th century, coinciding with the city’s early development. The Edmonton Brewery, established in 1913, was one of the first in the region. These early breweries were small operations serving the local population, which included settlers, workers, and immigrants bringing European brewing traditions. Local ingredients and traditional brewing methods defined this era, making each batch unique and tailored to the community’s tastes.

  1. Edmonton Water Works and Electric Light and Power Station
  2. John Walter’s Mill (North Side)
  3. Diamond Park
  4. Edmonton Cement Products, Ltd.
  5. Huff Grading Company
  6. Edmonton Brewing and Malting Co.
  7. Twin City Ice Company
  8. City Flour Mills
  9. Arctic Ice Company
  10. Alberta Motor Boat Co

Prohibition Era (1916-1924)

Alberta implemented Prohibition in 1916, leading to the closure of many breweries. During this period, some breweries managed to survive by pivoting to the production of non-alcoholic beverages, such as soda and “near beer,” which contained minimal alcohol. The end of Prohibition in 1924 allowed breweries to resume normal operations, but the industry had been significantly impacted. Many breweries that had closed during Prohibition never reopened, and those that did faced a transformed market landscape.



The post-Prohibition era saw a resurgence in beer production. Breweries like the Molson Brewery, opening in 1913, and the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company expanded their operations. Beer became a staple of social life, with many local bars and pubs serving as gathering places for the community. The industry saw consolidation and growth, with brewing techniques improving and production scales increasing. Beer was no longer just a local commodity; it began to be distributed more widely, reaching a larger audience.


The mid-20th century was dominated by large-scale breweries. The beer market was characterized by a few major players who produced mainstream lagers. These beers were widely consumed, and advertising campaigns of the era helped to cement their popularity. Local brewing traditions were overshadowed by these national brands, leading to a more homogenized beer culture. The focus was on consistency and mass production, often at the expense of variety and local flavor.

Craft Beer Movement


The craft beer movement began gaining momentum in the 1990s as consumers started seeking alternatives to the mainstream lagers. This period saw the emergence of smaller, independent breweries focusing on quality and variety. Alley Kat Brewing Company, founded in 1995, was among the first craft breweries in Edmonton. It introduced locals to a range of beer styles, including pale ales, IPAs, and seasonal brews. The movement was driven by a desire to return to more traditional brewing methods, emphasizing creativity and uniqueness.


The craft beer scene in Edmonton has seen significant growth over the past two decades. New breweries continue to open, each bringing unique flavors and styles to the market. Notable breweries include:

  • Yellowhead Brewery: Known for its classic styles and commitment to quality.
  • Blind Enthusiasm: A brewery and restaurant that emphasizes innovation and local ingredients.
  • Sea Change Brewing Co.: Popular for its approachable and flavour
    rful beers.

These breweries often collaborate, fostering a sense of community within the industry. Events and collaborations are common, helping to build a robust and interconnected brewing scene.

Regulatory Changes in 2013

In 2013, significant regulatory changes in Alberta reshaped the beer industry. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) relaxed restrictions on brewery operations, making it easier for new breweries to enter the market. These changes included reducing the minimum production requirements and simplifying the licensing process. This regulatory shift spurred a wave of new brewery openings, contributing to the rapid growth of the craft beer industry in Edmonton. The new regulations allowed more flexibility and encouraged innovation, leading to an explosion of creativity and diversity in beer offerings.

Beer Festivals

Edmonton BeerFest

Established 20 years ago, Edmonton BeerFest has grown into a major event on the city’s social calendar. The festival features hundreds of beers from local, national, and international breweries. It provides a platform for brewers to showcase their products and for attendees to explore new tastes. Educational sessions, live music, and food pairings are also key components of the festival, enhancing the overall experience. The festival has become a cornerstone of Edmonton’s beer culture, drawing enthusiasts from across the region.

Cultural Impact

Beer has become an integral part of Edmonton’s cultural identity. Local breweries often serve as community hubs, hosting events, fundraisers, and social gatherings. The emphasis on local ingredients and sustainability has also resonated with consumers, reflecting broader trends in food and beverage preferences. The craft beer movement has helped to revitalize neighborhoods and create a sense of community, with breweries often partnering with local businesses and organizations.

Recent Developments

Pandemic Effects

The COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges for the brewing industry, with many breweries having to adapt by offering delivery services and outdoor seating. Despite these challenges, the craft beer scene has shown resilience, with several new breweries opening in the past few years. The pandemic accelerated trends such as online sales and home delivery, which have continued to shape the industry.