The Cranbrook Brewing Company

It took the town of Cranbrook six years before the first brewery was constructed: the Cranbrook Brewing and Malting Company

The Cranbrook Brewery Co. on Joseph Prairie. To the right are the Imperial Oil Co. tanks and ware house

The Cranbrook Brewery Co. on Joseph Prairie. To the right are the Imperial Oil Co. tanks and ware house

Jim Cameron

It took the town of Cranbrook six years before the first brewery was constructed: the Cranbrook Brewing and Malting Company. Sadly, for fans of home-brew it was a short-lived affair. In business from 1904–1906, it closed due to financial difficulties, leaving Cranbrook beer drinkers to depend on numerous out of town suppliers for their suds.

In April, 1912, excavation began on a two-acre site outside city limits in Slaterville for the construction of a new brewery under the management of Messrs. Andrew Mueller and Harry Hesse, both of the former Moyie Brewery.  Local contractors Christian and Jones signed on for construction beginning in early May although it was to be almost a year before it was complete.

Originally standing three storeys high — one of the tallest buildings in the area — it consisted of a 35-barrel-a-day-capacity brewery measuring 38 feet by 50 feet, with water supplied by a deep well on the site, an additional 30-foot by 50-foot cold storage plant, an ice house to provide cooling in hot weather and an adjoining office. The beer was flowing by the autumn of 1913.

“Have you tried Cranbrook Brewery’s beer or porter yet?” asked an advertisement of the day. “It is fine. Phone 177 and we will deliver at your house.”  It was business more-or-less as usual for the next 12 years.

There was the odd burp now and again: A fire quickly snuffed out by alert Slaterville residents when the boiler house threw sparks into the surrounding bush and a court case in 1917 — during the four years of prohibition in British Columbia — when the alcohol content of beer was limited to 2.5 percent and the brewery was found to be producing a product of over 6 percent. The case was eventually dismissed due to insufficient evidence with a sincere promise from the brewers to never ever ever do that again, a moot point when prohibition was repealed in 1921.

The brewery halted production abruptly in the early morning hours of Sunday, August 2, 1925, when Charles MacDonald of the CPR rail yards, the Catholic sister supervisor at the St. Eugene Hospital and the night watchman at the Sash & Door Lumber Co. in Slaterville, all phoned the telephone night operator to report that the structure was on fire.

The height of the building and its position in Slaterville gave first-rate sightlines throughout the city to view the ensuing blaze, one of the most spectacular in many years.

With only two fire hydrants available, one of which was malfunctioning, there was not enough pressure to successfully fight the blaze. A water pipe in the building also burst which further lessened the pressure.

The fire was joined by numerous explosions from the bursting of both the vats and the compressed air tanks within the building. The grass to the rear of the brewery ignited and it was generally considered a wonder that both the adjoining office and nearby houses were saved.

As it was, the majority of the plant and machinery were completely destroyed. Principal owner Joseph Brault of the Canadian (now the York) Hotel, J.E. Kennedy and others faced a loss of over $35,000 dollars, with the insurance covering only a portion of that.

There was much speculation that the fire was an act of arson and that a hydrant had been tampered with but nothing came of it.

For the fifteen men, suddenly unemployed, the only bright light once the blaze was extinguished was the possibility that the brewery might be rebuilt. In fact, a new brewery was soon under construction although this time on Joseph Prairie, immediately east of the railroad tracks and north of the city. There appears to be little on record of the construction undertaken by local contractor V. Liddicoat, save for a mention or two in council minutes as the brewery owners bargained with the city to have a water line extended to the site. The installation of the plant’s machinery began in January, 1926, with the hope that brewing might begin very shortly under the guidance of W. Schwartz, a brew master formerly of Philadelphia and recently of the Saskatchewan Brewing Company of Saskatoon.

In February, 1926, Cranbrook’s city council agreed to float a loan to the Cranbrook Brewing Company in the amount of $1,200 at 6.5 percent interest in order to assist in the excavation for the new pipeline with the city “reserving the right to tap into the brewery line at any time,” by which it is understood to mean the water rather than the beer lines.

The Cranbrook brewery was noticeably north of the city and alone on the prairie when completed but within a short time it was joined by the Imperial Oil Company who erected their storage tanks and warehouse immediately adjacent to the brewery and joined by North Star Oil to the north in 1932, thus helping to define the Cranbrook Street “Strip” of the future.

The Cranbrook Brewing Company continued unabated through the Depression, the Second World War and into the 1950s. In 1957, the Fernie, Nelson, Trail and Cranbrook breweries amalgamated to form the Interior Brewing Company, consolidated into a single plant at Creston, the present day Columbia Brewery.

The old Cranbrook Brewing Company building still stands on 6th Street, North, near the 7-11 store, its third and fourth floors, save a single south wall, torn off in the 1960s in order to facilitate removal of the tanks. It has seen use off and on over the years, generally for bottling works and recycling. Nowadays it evokes thoughts of ruin and decay, a shattered testament to the more self-sufficient communities of yore.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read