1920s Montreal Grocery and Its Beers


(Source: Ville de Montréal. Gestion des documents et archives).

Above is a fine image, vintage 1920s, in the City of Montreal’s photo archive. With a couple of clicks there is great period detail of beers and beer styles sold then by Montreal-area breweries.

As I mentioned in a post yesterday, bière et porter (“ale and porter” in English) was a typical description for the beers sold in mid-20th century Montreal. The phrase appears in the image above, under the letters spelling Molson. This particular store also advertised Ekers I.P. Ale (i.e., India Pale) and Black Horse Ale, from Dawes of nearby Lachine, QC (and later Montreal).

The general type of Molson ale then sold, still brewed today as Molson Export Ale was not a IPA, or at best a watered down version. Dawe’s Black Horse Ale was probably similar. Ekers’ IPA was probably more intense in flavour and of darker hue.

Barely legible, just across the vehicle in the background, a sign between the sidewalk and window display advertises Frontenac, another Montreal brewery.

Here is an absorbing sketch about Frontenac and its too-short history as an independent, French Canadian-owned brewery, this at a time when brewing was almost completely dominated by Anglophone business interests.

Molson Porter, for its part, was still sold in Ontario at any rate into the 1980s and was pretty good, the best of the old-school porters. There are modern craft porters at the bland end of the spectrum not very different.

No, I can’t remember the 1920s, any appearances to the contrary, but versions of these signs endured into the 1960s and 70s, and as to those,  je me souviens.




2 thoughts on “1920s Montreal Grocery and Its Beers”

  1. What a wonderful glimpse into Montreal’s beer past! Being able to buy beer in deps/grocery stores nearly 100 years ago…the Ontarian notes with a sigh. I shared this with some friends who hail from that great city – we noted the St. Urbain street sign high up on the wall. But we wonder what the intersecting street might be. Any clues?
    Cheers & thanks Gary.

    • Thanks Sean! It’s at the corner of Vitre St. and St-Urbain Boulevard, I understand Vitre is now called Viger but didn’t check. You can just see the Vitre sign if you look closely to the right of the entrance.


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