Molson Coors to build new brewery in greater Montreal area
New location has yet to be announced, no plans yet for historic site on Notre-Dame St.
Molson Coors has announced it will be building a brand new brewery in the greater Montreal region rather than modernize the building where it's been brewing beer for the last 231 years.
Wednesday's announcement comes exactly two years after the company launched a feasibility study looking into operations in the city.
"The result was really to build a new brewery that would be more effective for us and that would also answer all the consumer demand in the future," said François Lefebvre, director of corporate affairs for Molson Coors Canada.
"There's a lot of requests for new products. So we're talking about bottles, cans, malt beverages. So we need to be able to provide what the consumer is asking for. We need also to be able to brew specialty beers."
A site for the future plant has not yet been selected, but it won't be in downtown Montreal, according to Lefebvre.
"For sure it will not be in downtown Montreal because there is no land. We're looking for a green field," he said.
"That could be on the Montreal island or that could be also around Montreal, in the suburbs of Montreal on the South Shore or North Shore."
Initial reports suggested the new brewery would cost Molson Coors about $500 million to build, but Lefebvre said a price tag has not yet been confirmed.
"We will determine in the coming weeks or months the size of this new brewery, so that will determine how much we invest," he said, confirming it will cost "hundreds of millions of dollars."
'Good news,' union says
The union representing the employees of Molson Montreal called the announcement "good news."
"It means we're going to continue to produce some beer here in the Montreal region," said union president Éric Picotte.
Picotte's main concern at this time is to find out whether the new brewery will be producing beer in bottles or cans.
In a bottle line, 16 employees are needed per shift in each line. In a can line it's four employees for the same amount of production.
The current brewery operates one full-time bottle line and two half-time can lines.
"Since the last five years we've lost 120 jobs already," said Picotte. "We expect that Molson will tell us that the new brewery will be also in bottles, but if they take all production to cans it's going to be very big loss of employees."
On Notre-Dame St. since 1786
It's not yet known what will be done with the current brewery on Notre-Dame Street along the St. Lawrence River, where workers have been brewing beer since 1786.
Molson Coors says it will find a way to preserve some of the building's history.
"For sure we want to keep something as a legacy. It's been 231 years that we're brewing beer here on Notre-Dame Street," Lefebvre said.
"There's a lot of scenarios right now but for sure this is really important for us that keep something heritage on the site to demonstrate how Molson helped to build Montreal and Quebec."
The brewer plans to maintain a microbrewery and sales venue at the historic site near Old Montreal, with the rest being sold for redevelopment under the auspices of the city.
Molson Coors sold its operations in Vancouver last year. The company will continue to produce beer at that site for up to five years while it builds a new facility in Chilliwack, B.C.
With files from CBC's Patrick Butler and The Canadian Press