Brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, Upper Canada has grown since 1984 to become one of the most popular brewers in central Canada. Frank Heaps founded the company, the first microbrewery in Toronto. It released its first batches in 1985, of lager and dark ale. The company went public in 1996; Sleeman's purchased the company in 1998. Both moves resulted in certain changes.
The newer Upper Canada finally introduced twist tops and canned beer, for example, and many of their newer labels lack the deliberately archaic look of the traditional ones. They still eschew preservatives and other additives.
As of this writing, they still refuse to advertise their beer in the conventional manner (no TV commercials, for example, where kids see beer presented as part of the "cool" lifestyle). They sponsor, however, all kinds of events, including a "Writer's Craft" award, given each year to a deserving Ontario author. They also released an expanded line of brand-related merchandise in 2004.
At the height of its independent days, Upper Canada offered the following:
Publican's Special Bitter
Point Nine (a "near beer")
Brewster's Scottish Ale
Drayman's Tawny Porter
Woody's Wild Ale
Since the Sleeman's takeover, the original Toronto brewery has been closed-- much to the dismay of the city-- and the line reduced to the most popular items: Lager, Dark Ale, Light Lager, Wheat, Rebellion Lager, and Point Nine. They also introduced Maple Brown, a dark ale with maple syrup that recalls Rickard's Red. They still offer the "assortments" pack, though always with the same six brews, rather than the changing variety once found.
The diversity and microbrew charm are gone, though I heartily recommend most of what remains. Their lagers manage to be flavourful and smooth, while wheat remains an excellent brew, especially in summer. While beer aficionados mourn the loss of the independent brewery, Upper Canada remains popular. Frank Heaps, Jr., meanwhile, has founded his own Toronto microbrewery, Steam Whistle, which is growing in sales and renown, and which some hardline fans of the microbrew see as the true successor to the Upper Canada name.