Brewing in Formosa, 1870-1995: 125 Years of Brewing Tradition


162 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-896182-22-4
DDC 338.7'6633'0971317




Reviewed by J.H. Galloway

J.H. Galloway is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto.


The Formosa brewery was one of many small breweries founded by German
settlers in rural Ontario. Most of these breweries succumbed to fires,
bankruptcies, the temperance movement, and competition, but Formosa kept
on producing its selection of brews and pleasing the palates of its
largely local clientele until, in 1971, it fell victim to its own
success. An increase in sales, in part stimulated by the popularity of a
new line, Oktoberfest, led to the building of a large brewery south of
Barrie, near the centre of the Ontario market, and shortly afterward to
the closing of the small brewery in Formosa. Soon, the new brewery
belonged to Molson’s, which discontinued the Formosa name—and so,
after 100 years, Formosa seemed finally to have shared the fate of other
local breweries. But for Formosa there was resurrection. Some Toronto
businessmen bought the old brewery from Molson’s, re-equipped it,
renamed it The Northern Algonquin Brewing Company Ltd., and have been
brewing beer in Formosa since 1989.

The history presented here is largely of the anecdotal kind, and deals
with personalities and changes in ownership. There are numerous
portraits of company staff and their families, but perhaps more
interesting to the reader are the photos of various aspects of work in a
small 19th-century brewery. The photos at the end of book deal with the
present ownership. The author has not seen fit to examine in any detail
the importance of a brewery, with its demand for barley, to the rural
economy of old Ontario, or to discuss the impact of changes in social
values on the fortunes of brewing, but he has not written for an
academic readership. This book is a celebration of 125 years of brewing
in Formosa.


Bowering, Ian., “Brewing in Formosa, 1870-1995: 125 Years of Brewing Tradition,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,