Sleeman: The Toast of the Town

written by: Kelly Waterhouse

hist-15Where else will you find a place where the first mayor was also one of Canada’s most successful brewers, and had the vigor to protest prohibition (and even find some careful ways around it).  George Sleeman was the brew master of choice for Al Capone and his pals, the craftsman behind Sleeman Cream Ale, and the inspiration behind the The Sleeman Family Recipes that have kept the tradition of award-winning beer craftsmanship centered in our city.

George understood the quality of a work-life balance and helped create an active city. A man about town, he was an active member of the Guelph Turf Club, Guelph Bicycle Club and the Guelph Rifle Association, as well as president of the Royal City Curling Club. But his true love was baseball. He put the city on the map from the pitching mound as pitcher and president of the Guelph Maple Leaf Baseball Club, winning the coveted title of the best baseball team in Canada and the banner of World Champions. Known as the “Father of Canadian Baseball,” more than 100 years after packing up his cleats, Sleeman’s legacy was honoured with his induction to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

When Guelph officially became a city in 1880, the man at the helm was George Sleeman. He was elected mayor five times. As one of the most successful business leaders in town, he was as generous with his wealth as he was with his desire to promote and enhance the quality of life in Guelph. An innovator, he brought steam power to the brewery production line and electric power to the streetcar line, as founder of the Guelph Railway Company.  Appreciating culture, George invested in Guelph’s Opera House.

hist-13George Sleeman was a true Guelphite long before the term was coined. His contributions are legendary. His family changed the city, before it was a city. And his legacy lives on with as much civic pride, corporate integrity and just a hint of rebellion, to keep it interesting. We believe he would be as proud of his city. Cheers to that.

(John H. Sleeman with George. Photos courtesy of Guelph Museums and Guelph Public Library)

There must be something in the water …

It’s no accident that Guelph was the city of choice for the Sleeman family, more than a hundred years ago, and it’s the reason Sleeman Brewery rose again in the city that has always been its home.

When founder John H. Sleeman was looking for a new location for his brewing business, pristine water was a key ingredient. He toured southern Ontario taking water samples and sending them back to his homeland of England for analysis, intent on brewing quality ale like those of his British roots. Guelph passed every test, with its plentiful and clean aquifers. Of all the ingredients in the Sleeman Family Recipe Book, the one thing that could not be duplicated was Guelph’s water.

In 1988, when a new generation of the Sleeman family got back to the brewing business, John W. Sleeman insisted Guelph was the natural site to continue the family business. But he did so with an environmental consciousness. Today, Sleeman’s operates with innovative and efficient technology that commits the company to a sustainable respect for Guelph’s environment.

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