Northern Breweries Ltd. is an employee owned Company based in Northern Ontario. Although we are now employee owned, we have had a number of different owners over the years.
The group that founded our Company consisted of three families, the Doran family, the Mackey family and the Fee family. The organizer and operating head of the Company was the late Mr. J. J. Doran. Doran, together with co-founders, J.J. Mackey and Richard A. Fee, expanded their brewing interests throughout the north by constructing new facilities and buying other breweries. Mr. Doran and Mr. Mackey were married to relatives of Mr. Fee and the close family ties were retained through their association with the Company for the next two generations. J. J. Doran was the long time President of the Company and after his death in 1958 his son, W.J. Doran, assumed the position until l971.
All of our founders were men of great foresight and confidence in developing businesses, particularly in Northern Ontario.
Mr. J. J. Doran, in the late 1800’s, was the proprietor of a hotel in North Bay. This was the beginning of a career that would bring him to the position of the “Brewer of Northern Ontario”.
The Doran, Mackey and Fee brewing group ventured into the brewing industry in the year 1907 with the construction and commencement of operations at the Sudbury Brewing and Malting Co. Ltd. at Sudbury, Ontario. In 1911 the Soo Falls Brewing Co. Ltd. in Sault Ste. Marie was purchased, and in 1913 the Kakabeka Falls Brewing Co. Ltd. in Fort William was acquired. In 1919 Doran’s Brewery Ltd. at Timmins was constructed and in 1948 the Port Arthur Beverage Co. Ltd. was purchased by the original Company.
The Companies that were purchased were deep rooted in their communities. In 1899 a brewery was constructed in Sault Ste. Marie by two gentlemen by the names of Casimir Kocot and Andrew Short. In 1911 this brewery was made part of the Doran group. This was the well known Soo Falls Brewing Co. Ltd. In 1906, the Kakabeka Falls Brewing Co. in Fort William arrived on the brewing scene, constructed by local businessmen Thomas Patrick Kelly (wine merchant), William Curtis Lillie (real estate agent), and James Patrick Doyle, Emil Anderson Daniel MacKenzie, John Meagher and Edwin Smith (all hotel keepers). In 1913 this brewery too was procured by the Doran, Mackey and Fee brewing group.
The distinction of being the oldest plant in the organization rested with the Port Arthur Beverage Company, Port Arthur, which began operations in 1876. As previously stated, it became part of the Doran Company in 1948.
In the following years several significant changes took place. All of the individual breweries operated under their original names until 1960. In 1960 the formation of Doran’s Northern Ontario Breweries was completed with the consolidation of the brewing operations coming under one direct management. This marked the separation of the soft drink and brewing operations. The soft drink operation was known and operated by Doran’s Beverage Co. Limited. All the brewing operations relinquished their previous names and became known as Doran’s Northern Ontario Breweries Limited.
Mr. W. J. Doran, upon the death of his father, became the President of the Company.
For some years the Directors of the Company had watched very closely the operation of the two plants in Port Arthur and Fort William. Only a few miles apart they had almost identical marketing areas. Late in 1961 the decision was made to close the former Kakabeka Falls Brewing Co. and the operation went solely to the plant in Port Arthur. This became effective on June 30, 1962.
On August 31, 1971 the Company was purchased by Canadian Breweries Ltd. The Company continued to operate however under the name of Doran’s Northern Ontario Breweries Limited, thus maintaining its identity.
In July of 1977, the employees of Doran’s purchased the Company back from Canadian Breweries, thus becoming the first employee owned brewing company in North America.
The Company’s new independence brought about a new corporate name – NORTHERN BREWERIES LTD. and the decision to introduce its quality beers and ales to markets outside Northern Ontario. The change of name and introduction of its’ beers to Southern Ontario was made in 1979.
The Company continues to operate brewing plants in Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. The Sault Ste. Marie plant produces bottled and draught beer and the Sudbury plant produces bottled beer (export only), cans and draught. There are no longer any soft drink operations as these franchises were sold during the Pepsi Company’s consolidation phase in the mid 1980’s.