seems like operations in this building died a lot longer ago than they
actually did, in 1992. I explored this with my son, Matt and his
Remember that this kind of exploration takes several visits. I have
done only one, so regard this as an introduction.
urban explorers, the Dow Brewery is pretty popular, and with good
reason. It's a fine adventure. [Standard warning: these adventures can
be dangerous; this description in no way invites you to try it.]
1790, a Scotsman, Thomas Dunn set up brewing operations in Laprairie,
outside of Montréal. In 1808, he moved it to Notre Dame Street in
Montreal and in 1818 he took on an assistant, William Dow, who later
became Dunn's partner.
The company became Dunn and Dow. in 1830,
William was joined in the business by his brother Andrew. When Dunn
died, they renamed the company W. Dow and Company.
In 1909, Dow
amalgamated with another 13 companies to become National Breweries
Limited. However, Dow still retained its identity. This was the
beginning of a series of amalgamations as various beer giants attempted
to control and monopolize the industry.
the roof: looking toward the stock cellar
In 1952 E.P. Taylor's company,
Canadian Breweries Limited, which
already had O'Keefe under its wing, bought up National Breweries
and renamed it Dow Breweries Limited.
Dow then spread across Canada, but
retained its largest plant in Montréal.
1959, Dow was one of the major companies involved in charges of
monopolizing the industry. At the time, it was almost impossible for
small companies to get into the beer business.
In 1964, the
company began construction of Dow Planetarium (now the Montréal
Planetarium), near their downtown brewery. The completed project,
costing $1.25 million was given to the city in 1966.
Unfortunately that year was also the year of the company's
downfall. In 1966 it
put an extra dose of cobalt into its brew to maintain its frothy head.
Although nothing was conclusive, it was felt that the cobalt resulted
in the deaths of between 16 and 25 people (figures differ in reports)
number of sicknesses. All of those who died were heavy drinkers.
in an an attempt to keep its reputation, dumped tons of beer into the
Lawrence River (!) as a goodwill gesture, even though they maintained
they had untainted beer. However, when beer companies were ordered not
to put cobalt into their beer, no new deaths occurred. Dow beer went
from being the number one beer in Quebec in 1966 to almost nothing.
Breweries was sold to Rothman's Pall Mall in 1968-69 as part of an
ongoing love affair between booze and the weed. In 1972, Molson
purchased, produced and marketed the Dow brand.
The old "stubby"
from back in the day
Photo: external site
back at the (now O'Keefe) Montréal brewery, production continued. In
1989, Molson's bought Carling-O'Keefe and in 1992, the Montreal brewery
was shut down.
I can well remember the jaunty slogan's of Dow.
"Wouldn't a Dow go good now" was it's most famous. "Dit donc Dow," was
the French version of the English slogan, "Now for a Dow."
Some sources for the above: Macleans's magazine, Brewed in Canada, Brewing in Canada.
Finding dates for the actual closure of the building is dodgy on the
Internet. They range from the mid-1960s (which is dead wrong) to the
mid-1990s (which is more likely). I picked the most reliable, and
figured about 1992.
The brick building was built in 1923 by
Louis-Auguste Amos. The stone and wood sections go back to 1860.
equipment: A flashlight. Solid shoes (no running shoes that could be
punctured by sharp objects). Work-style clothes you won't mind getting
There are two connected buildings. We investigated the northern one.
in took a bit of wandering around. Some avenues have been made
difficult. A fire escape at the back of the building lacks
rungs, making an obvious entry more difficult. In the end, finding the
entry is part of the
adventure (after all this is not a walk in the park). Look out for big
garage doors; they may help.
The front of the
building. We explored the left (red-brick) side.
Once into the inner sanctum, we
walked over piles of frozen rubble in a loading dock until we found an
open space into the basement to one side of the dock. It was pitch
dark once inside and we had to look for exits that might show a glimmer
of piping and machinery appear in the gloomy basement. On the left is
what a flash photo captures, with natural exposure. On the right the
fill light has been grossly overdone; strange parts appear.
off to the edges we found that light and then a stairway with metal
railings. Water had dripped down on some steps and frozen. We had to
can take each floor level as they come or climb to the top of the
building, you can take a stroll on the roof and investigate rooms as
I won't describe each floor in detail. The photos
tell a better tale. There are no guidebooks here, so all you can do is
marvel at the rusting beer tanks, bits of machinery and evidence of
folks who may have made the brewery home for a while.
Watch the banisters. Some are
okay (left). Some could be disastrous (right).
stairs need to be taken with care in winter. Water has dripped in from
the roof and covers the first couple of floors of of the
stairs. Overall, extreme care needs to be taken on floors as well for
both ice (see below) and rubbish.
didn't venture onto this icy floor. There was no way to tell how secure
the floor was, so we admired it from a distance. in the same room, an
opening high up (see the light bulb picture above) made interesting
These are solid beams; to an amateur at least, this is a very solid
Below left: someone has constructed a fine throne out of a vehicle seat
and some machinery.
Below, right: The graffiti in the building is not of a particularly
high quality. For some images of better stuff see these fine photos. For a company
that corporations might glom on to (unfortunately) see
Goodbye Graffiti. One of these days, I must chronicle a
graffiti walk; Montreal has some great ones