The Sand Porter of Montreal (Part I)

In the 1880s and 1890s in Montreal, at least two breweries advertised sand porter. The “s” in sand is not a typographical error, as I’ve reviewed numerous ads for the beer.

Here are two links to such ads. The first is from The True Witness and Catholic Chronicle of Montreal in 1892. Montreal Brewing Co. advertised typical products of the day – India Pale Ale, pale ale, stout porter (i.e., stout), and the sand porter.

Montreal Brewing Co. placed many such ads in the press in this period, in French- and English-language newspapers, especially the early 1890s.

Dawes Brewery was a much larger brewery based at the time in Lachine, Quebec just outside Montreal. It too sold sand porter. It advertised it in different-size bottles (pintes and chopines, old French measures). See in French at p. 3 its advertisement in Le Peuple, in 1882, or the same ad the same year in English in the Montreal Herald, here.

The fact that two brewers advertised such porter suggests “sand” was descriptive, not a trade or fancy name. No one surnamed Sand was connected to these breweries, as far as I know, or to a process for porter. There were no beaches near Montreal or Lachine of the type that would suggest an obvious borrowing from local topography.

Since porter was always regarded as a rich, restorative drink, it seems unlikely sand referred to a sunny holiday destination, something unrealistic for the time anyway.

There were no ownership connections between Montreal Brewing and Dawes brewery then, not until 1909 which is years after sand porter disappears from the scene.

Montreal Brewing was helmed by Thomas Cushing, son of prominent businessman Lemuel Cushing of Trois-Rivières, Quebec. Lemuel was issue of a well-known United Empire Loyalist family from New England. Thomas had set up in brewing in Montreal in 1876.

His brewery was one of the smaller ones in Quebec then. Still, it was prominently profiled in the 1898 La Presse article I discussed recently that described contemporary Montreal brewing.

In 1909, Montreal Brewing, Dawes Brewery, and most others in Quebec became part of National Breweries Limited, a Montreal-based combine. NBL endured until Toronto’s E.P. Taylor, a pre-eminent international raider, bought NBL in 1952 via Canadian Breweries Limited (since 1989 part of Molson-Coors Beverages).

Cushing had two sons who were associated with National Breweries. One was Gordon Cushing who later became a stockbroker but stayed on the board of National until the end.

Sand porter seems to disappear from the scene by 1900, it is not mentioned for example in the La Presse profile (while other brews of Montreal Brewing were). I have not been able to locate a label for it. As it endured at least between 1882 and 1892, it was not a flash in the pan. I would think it was the staple porter of these breweries, perhaps for bottles, with their stout being the premium grade.

Any ideas what it was?  I have an idea, but will solicit opinion first.

Part II follows.

2 thoughts on “The Sand Porter of Montreal (Part I)”

  1. The French word for “sand” is “sable”.
    One English definition for “sable” is (or was) “black”.
    So perhaps this is a mistranslation of Black Porter.
    Alan.

    • Very good, black sable is a fur I think. Given Montreal’s dual language context, who knows? My idea is quite different, but let’s see first, there are a few porter experts out there.

Comments are closed.