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Returning to the Scene of the Crime

The now shuttered historic Edmonton Molson Plant

I somehow missed it last week – I guess my invitation got lost in the mail – but the Molson brothers hit Edmonton and Calgary for luncheon events celebrating the Molson family’s 225 years in brewing (thanks to Canadian Beer News for highlighting the story). Apparently Andrew spoke at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Edmonton while Geoff hit Calgary.

Where do I start with this one? I could mention that neither brother has much to do with brewing. Sure, they sit on the Molson-Coors Board of Directors, but since the 2005 merger with the American giant the Molson family influence on the company has been minimal. I have to ask whether either of them has ever wielded a mash paddle for the job it was intended (as opposed to photo ops)? Maybe they have (I don’t have them on speed-dial), but I would be surprised if they spent any real time bent over a boil kettle or scooping out spent grains.

I could mention that (according to sources in attendance at the Edmonton event) the speech was more about marketing spin and bragging about acquisitions of new properties than it was about beer. Molson-Coors may be a beer company, but its primary purpose is to buy up other breweries in China and elsewhere in the developing world.

But what I really want to highlight is the gall of Mr.’s Molson to come to town to crow about 225 years of brewing a short four years after they shuttered the Edmonton brewery – a brewery, which I need add that had been in continual operation since 1904 (first as Sick’s Brewing, and then Molson). Am I alone in being insulted on behalf of Edmonton brewery workers and beer drinkers at the unmitigated arrogance of that boast? The Edmonton plant was productive. It was efficient. It was profitable. Yet they closed it anyway. It was yet another victim of a business answering the siren wail of shareholders for higher short-term profits, even if it means the destruction of tradition, stable business practices and costumer good will.

For the record, they closed Calgary’s plant in 1994. It actually had a longer history than Edmonton, first opening in 1892 as Calgary Brewing and Malting. Both the Edmonton and Calgary brewery sites are designated as historic properties and so have not been demolished. However, both have sat vacant since their respective closures (in the case of Calgary that means 17 years).

Here is my beef. The Molson boys want to the public to know how proud they are of their history and family tradition of brewing quality beer for Canadians. But over the past 25 years the track record of the company they once owned and still bears their name has been one of razing the very history they proclaim to uphold. Your are not brewers, you operate as a multi-national behemoth for whom Canada is a mere speck, AND you come to my backyard, which you shamelessly dumped a few years ago, and want ME to celebrate your brewing heritage.

Not this beer guy. When you start being honest with the public is when you will get some kudos from me. Not a moment sooner.

8 comments to Returning to the Scene of the Crime

  • old coyote

    Molson also closed the Lethbridge plant that had been in operation since 1901. That one they tore down. Why their beer sells in a province where they have destroyed so much brewing history, simply shows how advertising sells products. I am glad you called them out on it, it should happen more often.

    • Yes, of course. I hadn’t meant to ignore Lethbridge, which also has a long history, I just got caught up on their visits to the two cities. Thanks for reminding all of us.

      They closed that brewery (which was also a Sick’s brewery originally) in 1989.

  • Don’t forget that the Regina Molson plant (originally opened in 1907) was very productive and running at capacity, but was shutdown in 2002 so that production at the larger brewery in Edmonton could increase. It too has sat vacant ever since.

    • Yeah, Molson has been a serial brewery killer for sometime. Don’t forget Winnipeg – opened in 1872 as Herchimer and Batkins and brewed continually since 1878 (originally as Redwood Brewery), until Molson shut it in 1997.

      And the famous case of Saskatoon, opened in 1927 (as Hub City) which was saved from closure in 1989 by the folks who started Great Western.

      There are others as well. From my count there were 8 different breweries on the prairies closed by Molson between 1989 and today. And that is just the prairies!

      I realize, at least at first, there was some validity in issues of over-capacity (for example, they had 2 breweries in Winnipeg). However, those days are long gone. Plus there is the lack of accountability for the historical resources going to waste in those great old buildings.

      Gets me thinking I should perform a similar accounting for the breweries closed by Labatt – as they have had their share as well.

  • Sean

    Wow, I’m surprised that there wasn’t some more significant negative press about this, particularly in Edmonton. My understanding is that Molson became frustrated with the labour dispute in Edmonton and just decided to close down rather than negotiate. (Feel free to correct me if Im wrong). Returning to EDM after leaving on such a low note seems in really poor taste.

    • That is not quite what happened with the Edmonton brewery. I was somewhat involved because of my day job at the time. While the workers were on strike at the time of the closure, the company had slated it for closure for some time, and maneouvred the negotiations in such a way to lead to a strike, giving the company some cover for its decision. Even if the workers had caved to company demands, the brewery wouldn’t have survived. In general big corporations don’t make multi-million dollar decisions based on a strike that has lasted only a few days.

  • molson employees son

    My dad had worked for molson’s in prince albert saskatchewan when they shut that one down they asked him to move to regina, then they shut that one down as stated above when they were making 1 million dollars a year profit after expenses, when they shut that one down they asked him to move to edmonton but by then everyone knew what was going on so he decided to decline the offer shortly after (3 years) they shut edmonton down and another one in brazil or jamaica dont recall which country it was in. there was also another labatt brewery in saskatoon (not the great western) that they had shut down in the late 80’s or early 90’s. If im not mistaken all were profitable at time of closure. not sure why they shut them all down but it really crushed alot of careers and families. needless to say i will drink anything not owned by molsons now

  • Meredith

    I have a Sicks brewery beer bottle. Does anyone know how old it is or worth

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