Newfoundland loves drinking, that is no secret. This has resulted in a number of domestic beers that are exclusive to the province. These are available in any liquor store in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as corner stores and gas stations, though availability and selection will vary.
While the term “domestic” beer may be a bit of a grey area these days, for the purposes of this article we’re referring to beers made by two of the “large” local breweries, Labatt and Molson, and also some from local brewery Quidi Vidi.
Numerous Newfoundland craft beer breweries have sprouted up in recent years, and while long-established Quidi Vidi Brewing labels itself as “Newfoundland’s Largest Craft Brewery”, we feel it’s in a bit of a different league from the newer, smaller microbrewery-types due to its size, history, and position in the market. Only as craft breweries grew in popularity over the last decade has Quidi Vidi really expanded their offerings with smaller batches and flavors on top of their traditional brews.
Additionally, Quidi Vidi Brewing offers a selection of its beers in the traditional Newfoundland-exclusive domestic glass bottle. With Newfoundland’s longstanding rule to allow gas stations and convenience stores to sell domestic beer, it has been commonplace over the years to see beers from the above-mentioned 3 local breweries in bottle and can form at these types of retailers. Today, even with many more local breweries operating, the small retailers have limited space and therefore mainly sell the traditional “domestic” bottles and cans. This further solidifies the quasi-domestic label we’re using in this article. Though technically there are many more local Newfoundland beers these days, those would generally be available from either the breweries themselves and/or local liquor stores, and fall outside what we have traditionally defined as domestic.
As the craft beer craze has swept across Newfoundland and the rest of the world, having a larger offering of local/domestic beers no longer seems overly special, but what originally made this subject interesting was the fact that two breweries with an international presence were serving up Newfoundland-specific brews from within the province.
Blue Star is one of those “love it or hate it” beers. Personally, I love the stuff, but I know lots of people who won’t go anywhere near it. Either way, the shining star of the granite planet is an icon of Newfoundland. The flag is nicely integrated into the label.
India is an Indian Pale Ale with a Newfoundland Dog on the can, proclaiming to be “man’s best friend.” It’s a great friend on some nights, but on other nights I wish I had never met it (because I drink too much due to it being massively delicious).
Jockey Club is a rough drink. I don’t know anyone who regularly drinks this, which makes me wonder why it’s still produced. I do like it, but it’s far from my first choice. If you like strong tasting beers, this one’s for you. Oddly, back in the day, it was advertised as the champagne of beers. Sometimes you’ll find it on sale at a pub, such as The Ship. Depending on how good the sale is and how little money you have, you might drink Jockey Club all night.
Quidi Vidi is a completely local brewery (the other Newfoundland-exclusive beers are made by Molson or Labatt). They have many different offerings, including a variety pack if you can’t make up your mind. I recommend the Quidi Vidi Premium. You can also take a tour at their brewery and enjoy some pints afterward, including some of their more craft smaller-batch brews on tap.
Dominion Ale claims to be “for Newfoundlanders only,” but I won’t tell anyone if you decide to give it a try. The name comes from the province’s official name, Dominion of Newfoundland, used between 1907 to 1949 when it was under British rule.
Oh, Black Horse. It’s right up there as one of my favourite Newfoundland beers, but it’s got a pretty dirty taste. Dirty in a good way, though. A lot of people hate this stuff.
Iceberg is produced by Quidi Vidi, but it deserves a dedicated mention. The beer is nice and smooth, but the real spectacle is the blue bottle it comes in. The bottles are such a spectacle, Quidi Vidi brewery has had trouble keeping up with demand in the past, and actually ran out of the blue bottles, since many people would not return the empties and tourists would keep them. The bottle is one thing, but we can’t forget that this beer is brewed using water from real icebergs! All this makes Iceberg a bit more expensive, but here’s a tip: when getting it on draught at a bar, it’s priced nearly the same as the others. Unlike the other beers on this list which all have twist-off caps, Iceberg will need a bottle opener (or some special skills) for its pry-off cap.
Those are 7 of the readily-available beers exclusive to Newfoundland. You may even discover some others while you visit, such as Molson Extra.
As is common with most places, while in Newfoundland if you’re looking to try these beers you can head to a bar or the NL Liquor Store. But, something that may surprise you, is that in Newfoundland you can also buy beer at most convenience stores and gas stations from 9am – 2am daily.
Check here if you’re interested in Newfoundland’s extensive list of craft breweries.
Wondering if you can drink your local Newfoundland beer in public?
If you’re seeking a non-alcoholic beverage, check out 6 Crush Sodas You Can Only Get in Newfoundland.