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Beer was first introduced to Canada by European settlers in the seventeenth century, as Canada had an ideal climate for making beer before refrigeration was introduced. The first commercial brewery was built by Jean Talon in Quebec City, in the year 1668. Over a century later a number of commercial brewers thrived, including some that became the staple of the Canadian industry: John Molson founded a brewery in Montreal in 1786, Alexander Keith in Halifax in 1820, Thomas Carling in London in 1840, John Kinder Labatt in 1847, also in London, Susannah Oland in Halifax in 1867, and Eugene O'Keefe in Toronto in 1891. The very first patent to be issued by the Canadian government on July 6, 1842, was to one G. Riley for "an improved method of brewing ale, beer, porter, and other maltliquors."

Prohibition in Canada did not last as long as in the U.S. and was largely over by the mid 1920s (apart from Prince Edward Island, where it ran from 1901 to 1948). Nevertheless, it had a similar effect of leaving very few brewers, and it was only in the late twentieth century that there has been a revival and microbreweries have started. Brewpubs are still illegal in some provinces, however.