Most people living in Southern Ontario have driven by the Molson’s brewery in Barrie, Ontario as it sits right next to the busy Highway 400 halfway between cottage country and Toronto. Molson’s is still Canada’s second largest brewery, even with the closing of several locations in Toronto (now a condo), Calgary, Edmonton and Barrie. Molson’s is also the second oldest corporation in Canada, after the Hudson’s Bay Company. Although it doesn’t look even remotely interesting by any historical standard, it housed a wonderful collection of machinery and related bits on multiple levels which at the time were fully intact, minus the copper vats which had been long removed. This Molson’s location however is not best known for beer brewing, but rather pot harvesting, with one of the largest grow-ops that operated for a few years before an early dawn raid in January 2004 that busted one of the largest marijuana farming operations in Canadian History.
Images gleamed from the police and various news agencies
Everything was done here from growing, drying and processing, with workers actually having living quarters in the former office area.
The police raid involved over 100 officers 11 ‘farmers’ were arrested. Police seized +25,000 plants (that’s no typo) worth $30,000,000. Although much of the weed was carted off, areas of the building still reeked of bud in 2007 when I visited.
The vats were never cleaned out properly either as there were bottles of hydroponic super-grow food strewn all over the place, and the drying screens and other equipment still around covered in the green stuff.
Molson’s actually closed their operation in 2000, but about 60% of the huge 200,000 square foot facility was slowly renovated and space saw continuous use, except the far end of the facility which still had not one, but two huge fermentation vat areas, spread over 4 floors in two buildings, another huge storage and bottling area complete with refrigeration and copper vats which has been long pilfered.
Although one had been partially emptied, another was fully intact, complete with vats and humming lights. Arriving just after a torrential rainstorm, we were provided with wonderful flooded corridors and a dripping sensorium as the sound of water droplets reverberated throughout the complex.
Access was quite humorous (thanks copy 6) from other places we have visited, although at first we were put off by the barrage of 18 wheelers that kept circling the complex. It later turned out to be a truck driver’s school!