Arthur Bunster started one of the first breweries during the Fraser River gold rush. At a time when grog shops were sprouting up on trails north, Bunster was advertising in the British Colonist newspaper. His notices were catchy and unforgettable always ending with BUNSTER in all caps.
In 1859, Arthur Bunster,an Irishman from County Tipperary, established the Colonial Brewery in Victoria.
In 1865, Bunster leased the 700 acre Saanich Hall Farm to supply hops and barley for his own brewery. Growing food on Vancouver Island was considered a major breakthrough.
Some of those ‘Island Casks’ must have been made by the Victoria cooper F.G. Odin who claimed to be the fastest anywhere. In 1860 Odin issued a $500 challenge that he could make more barrels per month than any other cooper in British Columbia.
Principal Manufacturer of Ale on Vancouver Island
Under an editorial titled “Imports for 1865”, the British Colonist declared “…our dependence on foreign countries for the necessaries of life is gradually getting smaller…our market is surely, however slowly, being supplied by Island farmers…”
As the Cariboo gold rush winded down, there was an economic slump. On top of that the government considered an import tax on barley. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to grow his own as Arthur Bunster revealed in his March 18, 1867 letter to Governor Seymour:
“Being the principal manufacturer on Vancouver Island of Ale and having been the means of proving that British Columbia is second to none for Brewing. I beg to call your attention to how ruinous it will be to have a Tax levied on Barley to the Brewing Industry of thirty cents per 100 lbs in as much as there is not land enough on the whole of Vancouver’s Island to supply me for Six Months under cultivation and as a Further Proof of what I say the People have to import from the United States there Chicken Feed.
Navy at Esquimalt large consumers of Ale
Her Majesty’s Navy laying at Esquimalt are large consumers of Ale brewed by me and if the present only are insisted on it will compel an Inferior Article to be produced which will Injure the reputation of the colony at large particularly when we think of how proud England is of her Brewers and there is no reason that we should not make ourselves equally felt in time in proportion to our Population provided you will give a fair open field for to work agains(t) the California & Oregon Brewers as well as the English so that we can Export to Ports on the Pacific the Population here not being sufficient to support a Brewery of any capacity and I have lately added a large Malt House a Boiler & Engine and double the size of my brewery with a view of doing an Export Trade.
I would further state that no brewery can live successfully on the local trade as a proof of what I state I can shot that there has been ($120,000) one hundred & twenty thousand dollars lost in the Business in this Colony. I am not asking to have the duty on Barley to be take(n) off without well knowing how ruinous it will be to the Brewing Interest from the fact that I was carrying on the largest Farm on the Island for the last two years give me a chance to know positively that there never will be Quarter enough Barley raised on the Island to supply a Brewery…