Monday, May 19, 2014

Henry Reifel

When I first started to talk about prohibition in Vancouver, I mentioned the Reifel family. Today I am going to tell you a bit more about that family.

Heinrich "Henry" Reifel was born in Speyer, Bavaria, Germany in 1869. At the age of 10, he was engaged in the brewery business in Speyer. In 1886, at the age of 17, Henry and two of his brothers - Jack and Conrad Reifel - immigrated to America.

Immediately, Henry found employment at the Weinhardt Brewery in Portland, Oregon. A year later, he moved to the Chicago Brewery in San Francisco. In 1888, Henry and his brother Jack moved to British Columbia and started a small operation in Brewery Creek (Vancouver) located near 16th and Main. Unfortunately, that operation failed and Jack returned to the US while Henry went to Victoria.

Henry worked for the Victoria Breweries for a while before moving to Nanaimo and working for the Lansdowne Brewery. This operation was owned by a British man by the name of Cawthorne. Reifel left the Lansdowne Brewery to go to work for the Nanaimo Brewery. In 1891, the two breweries merged and Henry became brewmaster and manager. His brother Conrad assisted Henry with these duties.

In 1893, Henry met a young woman from Barkerville. Annie Elizabeth Brown was born May 7, 1873 in San Francisco, California. She and Henry fell in love and married.

Henry and Elizabeth had three children. The first was a boy named George Conrad Reifel, born on May 15, 1892 in Nanaimo. At the age of 16, George was sent to brewing school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Once young George completed his schooling, he went to work for a Victoria Brewery.  The second child, also born in Nanaimo, was Henry Frederick "Harry" Reifel. Harry was born December 3, 1895 and he also went into the family business. The third child was a daughter named Florence. I don't have a birth date for her.

In 1908, along with some associates, Henry Reifel built the Canadian Brewing and Malting Company. Later that company merged with Pilsner Brewing of Cumberland, the Nanaimo plant and the old Vancouver Breweries. This new company operated under the name of Vancouver Breweries.

Now the Reifel family owned three breweries, all quite successful. Vancouver Breweries was later sold to the eastern Canadian brewing company, Carling O'Keefe.

Then World War I started. Canadian men were off fighting overseas and the women were left at home. Many of these women were temperance advocates and a major voting constituency in Canada.  By 1917, they had managed to convince the politicians to bring in prohibition legislature.

I am getting this information from a Tripod website with information on the Reifel family. I will tell you more on Wednesday.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Great blog Karen. You always have something interesting and short enough for me to read. Thanks.

    1. Thank you Lee. And thank you for continuing to read the Vancouver Vagabond.