Abstract: “The Guardians of True Temperance”: The Brewers’ Campaign to End Prohibition in Canada, 1916-1930

Matthew J. Bellamy


This article analyzes the outside lobbying of brewers in their campaign to end prohibition in Canada. It argues that the brewers helped bring an end to the dry regime first by building a broad-based coalition of “moderates” who petitioned governments for plebiscites on the liquor question, and then by shifting the culture around brewing, beer, and beer drinking. It analyzes the imagery and language of the brewers’ anti-prohibition campaign to determine how they attempted to get Canadians to (re)imagine beer and brewing in positive terms. This the brewers did in a number of ways: 1) by appropriating the language of the moral reformers; 2) by appealing to the anti-modernism and anti-urbanism of the period; 3) by re-branding themselves as nation builders; and 4) by making the cultural claim that beer was merely “mildly stimulating” (i.e., less intoxicating than distilled spirits). Thus only they could claim to be the “guardians of true temperance.”