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Dawes Brewery and NBL

The founding of Dawes Brewery in 1826 marked the beginning of industrial development in the village of Lachine (southwest of Montréal). The Dawes family, the company founders, also contributed to Lachine’s advancement with support for local projects, such as the construction of St. Andrew’s Church, the Lachine Rowing Club facilities and the General Hospital.

The brewery the Dawes built was a commercial success and by the turn of the century had become a major enterprise. When the business outgrew the first brewery building, the Dawes had others built, in the 1860s and 1870s: one for roasting the grains, two for fermenting the beers (ale and lager), a storehouse, an icehouse and a cooperage, for making kegs and barrels. Similarly, as the brewery thrived, the need for specialized workers increased. To house their employees, the Dawes had lodgings built near the Lachine plant. In time, a second village grew up around the Dawes Brewery industrial complex, west of the original village core. Thanks to the brewery, the residents enjoyed Canada’s first privately owned telegraph line and a tramway. In 1847, the Dawes installed a direct telegraph line linking the main plant with their offices located in what is now Old Montréal. More than thirty years later, the line was converted to telephony, enabling the first telephone in Lachine.

In 1909, Dawes Brewery joined National Breweries and had additional facilities built in Montréal. Sales of Black Horse were growing and soon more brewing capacity was needed. In 1922, draft beer production was moved to Montréal and the Lachine facilities were closed, and then sold a few years later. The new plant, on St. Maurice Street, was the largest in the National Breweries consortium. In 1931, the Ekers Brewery building was renamed Dawes Draught Ale Brewery and given over to the production of Dawes Black Horse draft beer. 

Strength in Numbers

In the 19th century, the Montréal beer market was dominated by the major players: Dow, Dawes and Molson. But there were many other breweries, and competition was fierce. In 1909, more than a dozen Quebec brewers decided to reduce their production and marketing costs by forming a consortium called National Breweries Ltd. The cornerstone companies were Dawes, Dow, Ekers (Montréal) and Boswell (Quebec City). These former competitors now operated within the same organization.

Molson Brewery was asked to join the National Breweries group but chose to remain independent. From then on, Molson and National Breweries waged a price war that eventually forced Frontenac Brewery to join the consortium, in 1926. This was the beginning of a long series of mergers, takeovers and acquisitions in the Quebec beer industry.

While National Breweries was dominating the Quebec market, an industry giant called Canadian Breweries was on the rise in Ontario. In 1952, it bought National Breweries for several million dollars and began retiring brands in order to cut production and marketing costs. In July 1952, the last Black Horse ale was brewed. Canadian Breweries was focusing its efforts on producing and distributing a single brand of ale, called Dow, and it changed the National Breweries name to Dow Brewery. In the mid-1960s, Dow Brewery briefly revived the Black Horse brand.

Resource References:

historique_compagnie_nbl.pdf: The Review. Published in the interests of the employees, vol. 12, no. 3, March 1949, The National Breweries Limited, Montréal, Qué., p. 17. 

business_ownership_en.pdf: Concept: merlicht.com / Graphic layout: bertuch.ca