Abstract: Rich By Nature, Poor By Policy: State Intervention and the Stillborn Birth of the Canadian Brewing Industry, 1668-1675

Matthew Bellamy


The paper examines the factors that led to the birth and quick death of the first child of commercial brewing in Canada. During the period 1668-1675, Jean Talon, the energetic Intendant of New France and the man in control of the colony's entire civil administration, induced the birth of commercial brewing. His reasons for doing so will be examined, as will the scale and scope of his state-owned and -controlled brewery. The paper takes as its theoretical starting point the position of Alfred Chandler that firms and markets evolve together to shape industrial outcomes. As a result, supply-side and demand-side influences will be analyzed. Ultimately the paper argues that when it came to the birth of commercial brewing in Canada, the state forced the development of the industry ahead of market dictates. Despite the fact that the colony possessed all the natural ingredients to manufacture beer, Jean Talon's rigid adherence to the monopolistic dictates of mercantilism produced a stillborn child, one insensitive to local tastes and lacking any intuition of the working of a diversified, sui generis economy.