When the Air Force withdrew from Stephenville, the Atlantic Brewery was the first major industry to become established in the town. The Brewery, which opened in 1968, was Newfoundland owned and employed approximately 50 people from Stephenville area. It was outfitted with the most modern brewing equipment. With all of its high tech equipment the brewery cost about $2.5 million to open. However, by 1969 the brewery started to have problems that eventually forced it to reduce its work force. Ironically, the Atlantic Brewery was closed down.
In 1970 the government received an offer from Bison Petroleum and Minerals Ltd. The brewery was subsequently purchased by this company, with $700,000.00 going to the creditors and $407,000.00 to the government of Newfoundland over a 10 year period. Some people questioned this development. If the brewery was so profitable, then certainly one bought so cheaply should not need ten years of bonds to pay back the amount due to the government.
The management of Bison Petroleum thought they could make it a highly profitable enterprise. Production was increased from 200,000 cases to 400,000 cases. Also, an additional $150,000 was invested in the company with hopes of entering the export beer market. This was accomplished by directing the companies export sales to the densely populated northeast section of the United States, a major consumer of Canadian and European beer.
By 1973, the Bison Brewing Company was on the way out of Stephenville. The brewery started laying off workers in the winter of the same year due to a slow period in the brewing industry. By the end of 1973 Bison Petroleum had left Stephenville. This was also due to a major flood that caused more than $1 million in damages to the facilities. However, at this time Stephenville Brewery started up and became a successful operation. Even though Bison Petroleum was only in
Stephenville for three years, that three years was enough to get the area's economy back up and running again. The brewery gave life back to the town after the base closed down. In 1974 Labatt Breweries began operations at the site. This establishment operated until the fall of 1981. At that time personnel were laid off and the Stephenville brewerie's responsibilities were transferred to St. John's.