Golden-Hued Montreal Through a Golden Beverage
I have canvassed many aspects of the history of Dow Brewery in Montreal. The brand was finally absorbed, in 1989, into what is now Molson-Coors Beverage Co. It suffered a punishing blow in the 1960s due to an additives scandal, and never recovered.
But in 1955 the brand was at its apogee in the Province of Quebec, by then part of Toronto-based E.P. Taylor’s Canadian Breweries Ltd. A few years earlier Canadian Breweries had absorbed National Breweries Ltd. which comprised the subsisting functioning breweries of Quebec, including Dow in Montreal, except for Molson Breweries.
In 1955 Canadian Breweries, through its renamed Quebec unit Dow Brewery, issued a stunning commemorative booklet, “La Brasserie Dow 1808-1955”. It must have been issued in English as well but I have not been able to trace such a version.
The French one is catalogued in a number of Quebec libraries, and was reproduced in the Exploration Urbaine website, a group of intrepid urban explorers who comb and document what they find in disused urban properties.
It appears in their section devoted to Dow Brewery in Montreal, whence the grabs herein were sourced. The booklet is a smooth, corporate sales-piece that surveys the history of Dow, taking in also other breweries that joined National Breweries with Dow in 1909.
The brochure is illustrated by well-executed drawings, idealized renderings of a 1950s Montreal in full efflorescence (this despite the growing French-English tensions that would, in my view, soon foreclose the city’s full potential).
Beer et Seq claims some knowledge of many diverse fields, from beer to British rock, from food to French. Art is not one of them, including commercial art. Not from lack of interest, but there is only so much time…
Still, even I gazing at these Montreal panoramas – I was five years old in 1955 and newly registered at school – know they were executed with great skill. I think they are watercolours.
In one of them, one detects the flowing script “Cloutier”, whence literally two keystrokes produced the artist’s full name: Albert Edward Cloutier (1902-1965). A short bio is offered in the Ask Art website which states:
Albert Cloutier was a painter, commercial artist and muralist who was born in Leominster, Massachusetts and grew up in Montreal. He also lived in Ottawa and during his time as a war artist was posted in several locations in eastern Canada. He moved to Saint-Hilaire, Quebec in 1959 where he lived the rest of his life. His mediums were primarily oils and graphics. His subjects landscapes, commercial art and (during the war) military. His style was expressionist and greatly influenced by the Group of Seven.
For further information see Albert Cloutier’s detailed biography in Wikipedia, which lists numerous other of his commercial commissions. These included the interior of Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Cloutier was also a noted war artist, with the Canadian Army during World War II, and taught at Montreal’s Ecole des beaux-arts.
(While born in the U.S. in the French-Canadian enclave of a factory town, his Canadian-born parents moved the family to Quebec when Albert was a child).
For the beer and brewing side, he drew a striking picture of the Dow brands of the period: Dow Ale, Kingsbeer (a lager), Dow Cream Porter, and Champlain Cream Porter. The text makes clear the last two were the same beer. The Champlain was directed to the Quebec market, the other to Ontario’s.
The use of pastels in commercial art was a trend internationally at the time, as, say, some European beer posters show, or those dreamy pink, blue and yellow posters advertising holidays on the Riviera.
Cloutier rendered a Platonic picture of 1950s Montreal, one rather removed, as I suppose for any city, from the reality in street and district, whether rich, poor or otherwise for that matter. (We were entre les deux chaises).
When I think back, it is his Montreal I will remember, family apart.
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