Labatt Brewing Company

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Labatt Brewing Company Limited
IndustryAlcoholic drink
FounderJohn Kinder Labatt
Number of locations
Six (London, St. John’s, Montreal, Halifax, Creston, Edmonton)
ParentAnheuser-Busch InBev
SubsidiariesThe Beer Store (49%), Brewers' Distributors Limited (50%)

Labatt Brewing Company Limited (French: La Brasserie Labatt Limitée) is a Belgian-owned brewery headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Founded in 1847, Labatt is the largest brewer in Canada.[citation needed]

In 1995, it was purchased by Belgian brewer Interbrew. In 2004, Interbrew merged with Brazilian brewer AmBev to form InBev. In 2008, InBev merged with American brewer Anheuser-Busch to form Anheuser-Busch InBev (abbreviated as AB InBev), making Labatt part of Anheuser-Busch InBev. On October 10, 2016, an over $100 billion merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller closed. Labatt is now part of the new company, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, which is trading as BUD on the New York Stock Exchange (ABI:BB in Brussels).[1]

In the United States, Labatt brand beers are sold under license by Labatt USA, which since 2009 has been fully independent of the Canadian firm and a subsidiary of the privately held FIFCO USA of Rochester, New York.


Early advertisement

Labatt Breweries was founded by John Kinder Labatt in 1847 in London, Canada West (now Ontario). Kinder had immigrated to Canada from Ireland in the 1830s and initially established himself as a farmer near London. In 1847, he invested in a brewery with a partner, Samuel Eccles, launching "Labatt and Eccles". When Eccles retired in 1854, Labatt acquired his interest and renamed the firm the "London Brewery". He was assisted by his sons Ephraim, Robert and John.[citation needed]

When John Kinder Labatt died in 1866, his son John assumed control of the company. Under his supervision, it grew to be the largest brewery in Canada. Following his death in 1915, the company was controlled by a trust operated by his nine children, although his sons John Sackville Labatt and Hugh Francis Labatt assumed managerial control.[2]

In 1901, Prohibition in Canada began through provincial legislation in Prince Edward Island. In 1916, prohibition was instituted in Ontario as well, affecting all 64 breweries in the province. Although some provinces totally banned alcohol manufacture, some permitted production for export to the United States. Labatt survived by producing full strength beer for export south of the border and by introducing two "temperance ales" with less than two per cent alcohol for sale in Ontario. However, the Canadian beer industry suffered a second blow when Prohibition in the United States began in 1919. When Prohibition was repealed in Ontario in 1926, just 15 breweries remained, and only Labatt retained its original management. This resulted in a strengthened industry position. In 1945, Labatt became a publicly traded company with the issuance of 900,000 shares.

John and Hugh Labatt, grandsons of founder John K. Labatt, launched Labatt 50 in 1950 to commemorate 50 years of partnership. The first light ale introduced in Canada, Labatt 50 was Canada's best-selling beer until 1979.

In 1951, Labatt launched its Pilsener Lager; when it was introduced in Manitoba, the beer was 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 brew-master at the time was Robert Frank Lewarne (b. 1921 Toronto; R.F. Lewarne also headed the team that produced the famous Labatt 50, mainly for the Quebec market).[3] The nickname "Blue" stuck and in 1979, Labatt Blue claimed the top spot in the Canadian beer market. It lost this status in the late eighties to Molson Canadian, but over the next decade, it periodically regained the top spot as consumer preferences fluctuated. In 2004, Budweiser took the top spot, pushing Blue to third for the first time in twenty-five years.[4][5] However, since Labatt has brewed Budweiser (and other Anheuser-Busch products) in Canada under licence since the 1980s,[6] Labatt likely did not suffer from this shift. Moreover, Labatt Blue remains the best selling Canadian beer in the world, based upon worldwide sales.[7]

Labatt was also the majority owner of the Toronto Blue Jays from their inception in 1976 until 1995, when Interbrew purchased Labatt.[8] In 2000, Rogers Communications purchased an 80% stake in the team and Interbrew retained the other 20%; Rogers later acquired full ownership of the team.[9]

Labatt's innovations include the introduction of the first twist-off cap on a refillable bottle in 1984. In 1989, Labatt's had the opportunity to hire Canadian model Pamela Anderson as a Labatt's Blue Zone Girl after she was picked out of the crowd by a TV camera man at a BC Lions football game wearing a Blue Zone crop-top. Photographer and boyfriend Dann Ilicic produced the Blue Zone Girl poster on his own after Labatt's refused to have anything to do with it. Later, Labatt's did buy 1000 posters to deal with consumer demand.

In 1995, Labatt was acquired by the large Belgian multinational brewer Interbrew (now InBev), the world market leader. Labatt is part-owner of Brewers Retail Inc., operator of The Beer Store retail chain, which—protected by legislation—has over 90% market share of Ontario off-premises beer sales. In early 2007, Labatt also acquired Lakeport Brewing Company of Hamilton, Ontario.

In 2009, the company sold Labatt USA, including the American rights to its core Labatt products (such as Blue, Blue Light, and Labatt 50) to FIFCO USA, and agreed to brew those brands on Labatt USA's behalf until 2012. This sale was mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice for competitive reasons following InBev's merger with Anheuser-Busch, since Budweiser and Labatt Blue were both among the top brands in upstate New York, despite the latter having less than 1% market share in the U.S. overall.[10]

The sale did not include U.S. rights to Labatt products not carrying the "Labatt" label, such as Kokanee or Alexander Keith's, which are now distributed in the U.S. by Anheuser-Busch.[11] Moreover, the underlying intellectual property (such as the Labatt trademarks) remains the property of the Canadian firm. Finally, the sale did not affect Labatt's Canadian operations in any way, however Anheuser-Busch InBev retains full control of the Labatt brand portfolio within Canada.

In 2020, Labatt acquired Canadian distiller Goodridge & Williams, a company known for creating Nütrl Vodka Soda and other ready-to-drink (RTD) canned cocktails.[12]



United States (previous to sale)

Labatt's US headquarters were originally located in Buffalo for some years. Labatt then decided to relocate their headquarters to Norwalk, Connecticut, for a time. In 2007 Labatt decided to relocate their US operations back to Buffalo due to strong sales in the city and closer proximity to their Ontario operations. Labatt USA is now owned by FIFCO USA of Rochester, New York.

Labatt's Toronto (Rexdale) brewery was built in 1970. It ceased operations in 2005[13] and was demolished by 2007, thus ending the brewery's ties to the city.


A case of Labatt Blue

Labatt 50 is a 5% abv ale launched in 1950 to commemorate 50 years of partnership between the grandsons of the brewer's founder. The first light-tasting ale introduced in Canada, Labatt 50 was Canada's best-selling beer until 1979, when, with the increasing popularity of lagers, it was surpassed by Labatt Blue. Labatt 50 is fermented using a special ale yeast, in use at Labatt since 1933.

Labatt Blue is a 5% abv pale lager.[14] There are 11.53 US fluid ounces (341 mL) of beer in a bottle of Labatt Blue. There are 355 mL of beer in a standard can of Labatt Blue/Bleue in Canada with other volumes available in specific regions of the country.

In Quebec, Labatt also produces a stronger lager, Labatt Bleue Dry, at 6.1%.[15]

Blue, the company's flagship brand, has entered a number of international beer ratings competitions and has always performed notably well.[citation needed] In 2003, Labatt Blue received a Gold Quality Award at the World Quality Selections, organized yearly by Monde Selection.[16]

Labatt had patented a specific method for making ice beer in 1997, 1998 and 2000: "A process for chill-treating, which is exemplified by a process for preparing a fermented malt beverage wherein brewing materials are mashed with water and the resulting mash is heated and wort separated therefrom. The wort is boiled cooled and fermented and the beer is subjected to a finishing stage, which includes aging, to produce the final beverage. The improvement comprises subjecting the beer to a cold stage comprising rapidly cooling the beer to a temperature of about its freezing point in such a manner that ice crystals are formed therein in only minimal amounts. The resulting cooled beer is then mixed for a short period of time with a beer slurry containing ice crystals, without any appreciable collateral increase in the amount of ice crystals in the resulting mixture. Finally, the so-treated beer is extracted from the mixture."[17] The company provides the following explanation about Labatt Ice and Maximum Ice for the layman: "During this unique process, the temperature is reduced until fine ice crystals form in the beer. Then using an exclusive process, the crystals are removed. The result is a full flavoured balanced beer."[18]

Corporate activities[edit]

Labatt Blue Pond Hockey tournament at Buffalo RiverWorks, 2014

Labatt has sponsored the construction of many buildings in London, including Labatt Park, the John Labatt Centre, and the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). Bessie Labatt's son Arthur Labatt was the 19th chancellor of UWO (2004–2008).[19] In 1998 Labatt announced a 20-year sponsorship agreement with the now defunct Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), which included naming rights for a downtown Montreal ballpark that was never built.

They sponsored the English football team Nottingham Forest F.C. from 1992 (interchanging with Shipstones Brewery until 1994) to 1997.[20]

They also are the official beer and corporate sponsor of the OHL hockey franchise Plymouth Whalers. In the 1950s, the company sponsored a PGA Tour golf tournament, the Labatt Open.

Labatt sponsored Gilles Villeneuve as well as being the main sponsor of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix from 1972 to 1986, as well as Williams F1 racing team from 1991 to 1994.

In 1983–1986, Labatt sponsored Ken Westerfield, Canadian Frisbee champion and world record holder, to perform Frisbee shows throughout Ontario, as well as sponsor the World Guts (Frisbee) Championships on Toronto Islands in 1986.[21]

Labatt is a beer partner of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, as well as the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Philadelphia Flyers.

Labatt sponsors the annual Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament at Buffalo RiverWorks.[22] The outdoor amateur hockey tournament features more than 800 players.[23]

In May 2009, Labatt gave their support to a seventh NHL team in Canada, which was pursued by Jim Balsillie.

In November 2018, Labatt USA opened Labatt Brew House, a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) innovation brewery and tasting room in Buffalo, New York. Visitors may sample experimental beers or choose from a variety of established brews.


Labatt Blue is sold in all provinces of Canada; however, in Quebec it is sold under the French name Labatt Bleue, with a fleur-de-lis logo. Aside from the name, and containing 4.9% alcohol/volume instead of 5.0%, the red maple leaf on the logo has also been changed to a stylized red sheaf of wheat, which Labatt calls its symbol of "brewing quality."[24]

Labatt Blue is sold in most of the United States, with sales particularly strong in the Midwest and Northeast along the Canada–United States border.[citation needed]


Coat of Arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Labatt Brewing Company
Labatt Brewing Company Limited
A Labatt Streamliner truck affronty proper;
Or and Gules
Or an arrowhead Gules double-fimbriated Argent and Sable between three hops proper;
Two Budweiser Clydesdale horses each resting its interior hind leg on a beer barrel fesswise proper;
On a mount of barley Or issuant from barry wavy Argent and Azure;
The spearhead, which was Labatt’s main emblem between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, represents the company’s strength and its leadership role in the Canadian brewing industry. The hop, an important flavouring and stability agent in beer, recalls Labatt’s commitment to the values of authenticity, quality and sustainability. The gold colour commemorates the many medals won by Labatt products over the course of its history.

In 2017, the Canadian Heraldic Authority granted arms, banner and badge to Labatt.[25]

In media[edit]

  • Under the Influence: Beer is to Canada as wine is to France. How Labatt and its allies brewed up a nation of beer drinkers. Smithsonian Channel. June 30, 2013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nurin, Tara (October 10, 2016). "It's Final: AB InBev Closes On Deal To Buy SABMiller". Forbes. Archived from the original on February 3, 2017. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  2. ^ "Labatt Brewing Company". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2016.
  3. ^ Interview Robert Frank Lewarne, 2018
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2006-08-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "This Bud's for you, Canada" Archived 2005-11-04 at the Wayback Machine, Macleans
  6. ^ "Budweiser Canada". Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Labatt - Good Things Brewing. ™". Archived from the original on 1 May 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  8. ^ Farnsworth, Clyde H. (1995-06-07). "INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS; Labatt Accepts $2.9 Billion Bid From Large Brewer in Belgium". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  9. ^ "Rogers buys the Blue Jays for $165M". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  10. ^ Lara Jakes Jordan and Emily Fredrix (November 14, 2008). "US: InBev must sell Labatt USA to close Bud deal". USA Today. Archived from the original on February 25, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  11. ^ "Anheuser-Busch Adds Kokanee and Alexander Keith's to Import Portfolio" (Press release). Anheuser-Busch. July 21, 2009. Archived from the original on July 2, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2010 – via
  12. ^ Aleksandra Sagan (2020). "Labatt acquires B.C. distillery known for its ready-to-drink mixed alcoholic beverages". Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Display Location: Labatt Brewery - Urban Exploration Resource". Archived from the original on 6 April 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  14. ^ "Labatt Blue from Labatt Breweries (InBev) - Ratebeer". Archived from the original on 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2010-05-10.
  15. ^ " - LDA".
  16. ^ "Welcome - Labatt US". Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  17. ^ "Of Malt Wort Patents (Class 426/16)". Pantents, Justia. Justia. 2017. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Labatt Ice". The Beer Store. The Beer Store. 2017. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2008-11-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Moor, Dave. "Nottingham Forest". Archived from the original on 3 November 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  21. ^ "TUC Hall of Fame Ken Westerfield". Toronto Ultimate Club. Archived from the original on 26 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  22. ^ "Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament". Labatt. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  23. ^ "Labatt pond-hockey tourney gets underway at RiverWorks". Buffalo Business First. 21 February 2014. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  24. ^ "Oh? Canada? Ads beg to differ". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2017-03-21. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  25. ^ General, Office of the Secretary to the Governor. "Labatt Brewing Company Limited". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2022-05-01.

External links[edit]


  • CBC Archives CBC Radio reports on Interbrew's takeover of Labatt (From 1995).