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Tapped In: Check out these photos of Vancouver's early beer scene

Get ready to see a lot of mustaches.

Welcome to Tapped In, a thing Brendan Kergin writes. It's about local beers and the culture (as in social behaviours, not yeast) for the people who like Vancouver's ale and lager scene, but aren't in like with it.

With dozens and dozens of breweries, brewpubs, homebrewers, and brew-tiful places to drink brewed ales and lagers, Vancouver has a bit of a rep-brew-tation for its craft beer scene.

It's fairly well documented, for those who care, how that movement grew from the efforts of Frank Appleton and John Mitchell in Horseshoe Bay to the gastro-tourism juggernaut it is today.

But what did the beer world look like before that? I scoured the Vancouver Archives public domain pics for some examples.

Here are some observations.


Every photo from pre-WW1 I found featured some serious push broom 'staches. While not a complete sweep, it's close. On the flip side of that, while beardy guys are the cliche craft beer drinker in 2022, 120 years ago beards were much less common.


It's worth mentioning that part of the reason for all the mustaches is the lack of women, across the board. That's an issue still being dealt with by the industry nowadays, but the sexist attitudes around beer are hard to miss in old photos. 

That's partly to do with laws of the time; in the province's early days women weren't even allowed in beer parlours. As laws relaxed in the first half of the 20th century, that changed - but separate entrances and escorts were needed for a time.

In all the photos I pulled for this gallery it appears there's only a single woman (maybe two judging by the back of a head in the background) in all the shots; and thanks to the laws at the time she probably wasn't single.


America's prohibition is more famous than Canada's, but B.C. did have a short period between 1917 and 1921 where social alcohol was banned (there was medical alcohol, though). While it was repealed in 1921, the saloons and beer parlours that existed after weren't quite as vibrant as the taverns from before.

Check out the photos of the hotel saloons (liquor licenses were commonly given to hotels) in the 1930s, notice what's missing? Windows.

While the paintings in the Abbotsford Hotel are big and feature animal heads, that's hardly a replacement for sunlight, especially with less advanced light bulbs.


Back in the early days of beer in B.C., brewing was a hard job. While today's craft brewers don't work on an industrialized scale, they do still have all the tools of a modernized industry.

The early photos of brewers show an industry pretty reliant on human muscle. And maybe dogs and guns, if that photo of the brewers at the Doering and Marstrand Brewery in Mount Pleasant indicate anything.

Have an idea for what in the Vancouver beer world Brendan should aim his laser-focused brai  SQUIRREL  n on next? Email him via email. Here's his email address: Also he's on Twitter for the 12 people still using it: @bkergin