Black horse Ale

This beer is no dark horse!

Black Horse Ale was a highly rated and highly sought-after brand, both in Canada and the United States. The early labels date to 1826 in a small town outside of Montreal, and the first American labels started showing up in 1933.

Brewed and marketed initially by Dow’s Brewery in Lachine, QC, several mergers and sell-offs in the early 1900s meant changes to the name of the brewery, but never to the name of the famous ale. In fact, there is still a beer by this name brewed and distributed exclusively in the small Canadian province of Newfoundland.

Although beer from the two neighboring countries shared a name, they were clearly different recipes. They also marketed similar labels, with one very important distinction. The Canadian Black Horse was a Percheron, the same breed that was used to run deliveries around Quebec City. The American Black Horse, by contrast, is a Thoroughbred and was used to signify strength of pedigree in the brew.

The Canadian beer had been imported into the northeastern US in the 1940s and could still be found on shelves thirty years later. It’s unclear how two competing products of the same name, so similar in design could be sold at the same time.

Despite the slight variations in Black Horse Ale history, it is Champale Inc of Trenton, NJ that is responsible for your shirt this month. Champale began brewing Black Horse Ale in 1939 under license of Diamond Springs Brewery in Lawrence, MA. In 1961 Fred Koch Brewery of Dunkirk NY also wanted in on the action of the highly popular and successful beer, so they contracted with Diamond Springs to also produce the ale.

Black Horse had a slightly higher alcohol content than most ales of its time and was sold for a premium price. Its claims of “a bright clear ale premium brewed for robust character and flavor” were validated when The Great American Beer Book of 1978 declared Champale Black Horse the best ale in America!