Sleeman Breweries – Better beer for all.

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Our Story

1700

The Slyman family, pirates
who redirected their
ill-gotten gains into
something they loved
- beer - change their
name to Sleeman.

1834

John H. Sleeman arrives in Ontario
from Cornwall, England.

1834

John H. Sleeman establishes
the Stamford Springs Brewery
in St.David’s, Ontario.

1851

John H. Sleeman opens the Silver
Creek Brewery in Guelph, Ontario.

1867

John H. Sleeman relinquishes
control to his son, George Sleeman.

1876

Sapporo Brewery
is founded in
Sapporo city, Japan.

1877

George Sleeman faced the law
that would stop the beer from
flowing. He fought the
prohibitionists, and won.

1880

George Sleeman is elected
mayor, and again in 1881.

1887

The Japan Beer Brewery
Company in Tokyo is formed
and begins producing
Yebisu Beer.

1898

George’s son, George A. Sleeman
apprentices and writes the
Sleeman Recipe Book.

1903

George Sleeman, operating
under the name of
“Sleeman and Sons” opens
Spring Bank Brewery.

1905

George A. Sleeman takes
control of Sleeman Brewering
and Malting compagny.

1906

Dai-Nippon Beer Company Ltd.
was formed as a result of the
merger of Sapporo, Japan, and
Osaka Breweries and dominated
the Japanese beer market until
after World War II.

1921-1933

Al Capone enjoys importing his favourite
Canadian beer... Sleeman.

1933

The Canadian government
shuts down the Sleeman family
brewery for not paying taxes
on the beer they bootlegged to
the U.S.; they also forbid them
from brewing for 50 years.

1971

Yebisu Beer
is re-launched.

AUNT FLORIAN’S VISIT

Four years before, John Sleeman’s Aunt Florian came to visit. Like all good guests, she didn’t arrive empty-handed: she came with an old recipe book, a beer bottle and the untold tale of his brewing heritage. He learned that in 1933, the government forced Sleeman out of the brewing business for not paying export taxes on beer smuggled to the U.S. during prohibition. He also learned that the 50-year ban was over. While John had owned a pub and was running a beer importing company, he had no clue how to brew it. Destiny and determination would change that.

1988

Sleeman Brewing and Malting
Company is re-established by
John W. Sleeman, the great-great
grandson of John H. Sleeman.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL

John Sleeman believes in creating his own luck. Occasionally, he simply didn’t have to. A few years back he was sizing up the B.C. beer market. Good things were said about Okanagan Spring Brewery and he started reading up on it. Suddenly, a name leapt off the page: Chairman of the Board, Bill Sleeman. It couldn’t be. Could it? A phone call was quickly arranged. Sure enough, Bill Sleeman picked up and said, “I’ve been waiting for this call. You don’t know it but we’re cousins. Let’s talk about a merger.” In one phone call, John Sleeman expanded his business and his family.

1996

Purchase of Okanagan Spring
Brewery in British Columbia.

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

In the mid-90s, competition between Sleeman and Upper Canada Brewing company was so fierce that a Sleeman sales manager put a $25 bounty on every Upper Canada Tap Handle that his sales reps could knock off. There were nearly 100 in a box in his office when he heard the news: Sleeman was buying Upper Canada. His team would work twice as hard to get the taps put back on.

1998

Purchase of Upper Canada
Brewing Company in Ontario.

THE SLEEMAN AND STROH CONNECTION

In 1986, John Sleeman was itching to open a brewery and needed an investor. Turned away by many, he called on large U.S. brewer Stroh. Now, John Sleeman often talks of being in the right place at the right time. As luck would have it, a key player at Stroh was a transplanted Canadian, and he helped convince the Stroh bigwigs to believe in John Sleeman. Good thing, too. Stroh made their investment back in a short time, times ten. Later, when Stroh was looking to sell Canadian rights to Old Milwaukee and Pabst Blue Ribbon, it was Sleeman, not the big guys, who won the day. Sometimes, loyalty speaks louder than money.

1999

Purchase of the distribution
rights on Stroh brands in canada.

2002

Sleeman Breweries begin to
brew Sapporo beer, on contract,
for the majority of Japan’s
export markets.

TURNING OAK CHIPS INTO GOLD

In 2007, Unibroue created its seventeenth anniversary ale: Unibroue 17. The new brewmaster was determined to impress. To create a truly unique taste profile, his recipe required large quantities of oak chips to mingle with the liquid in the fermenter. It had never been done before. And for good reason: large quantities of oak chips clog fermenter filters. Finishing the brew was a nightmare with giant messes to clean up, hours of repairs, overtime and ruined equipment. Despite all of that, the signature brew was finished in time for Christmas. It won two gold and three platinum medals and was declared the best dark ale in the world. There’s no limit to how much we’ll suffer to make better beer.

2004

Purchase of Unibroue
Brewery in Quebec.

SLEEMAN AND SAPPORO

Today as part of Sapporo Breweries, itself Japan’s oldest beer brand since 1876, Sleeman continues to build on this enviable reputation by delivering a portfolio of brands that are consistent with the original principles set down by John H. Sleeman himself over 170 years ago.

2006

Sapporo Breweries reaches a deal to purchase
Sleeman, for approximately $400 million.

2011

Opening of
Vietnam Brewery.

2015

Expansion of the Okanagan Spring Brewery

2015

Introduction of the Sleeman
Breweries corporate identity