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Journal: Molson Brewery

It would be a mistake to overestimate the structural soundness of the Molson brewery.
Molson Brewery (early June 2003): The old Molson Brewery, like all other buildings in the Greater Toronto Area, is in the midst of being redeveloped into condos. After several scouting and exploring expeditions with Liz (during which we went in a few different entrances and established that the claims that the complex was patrolled by packs of free-range guard dogs were greatly exagerrated), I eventually partnered up with Gilligan in order to explore the complex in more depth. We arrived on the property in the early afternoon and briskly strolled past the busy parking lot and security trailer to one of the entrances Liz and I had discovered earlier. We hoisted ourselves up and in.
       The first four storeys, formerly devoted to storage, were just hallways suspended in the air. Not only do scarcely any interesting artifacts remain, most of the walls and floors have been stripped away as well, which makes for some interesting pictures but not a lot to explore. Fortunately, a partially flooded stairwell leads up to more interesting levels.

Molson Molson
All the various storage and fermentation levels are sealed by large Jamolite cold storage doors; this one wasn't actually used to store C4.
Gill checks out the pinhole that is projecting movies on the far wall (unfortunately, the pictures of those movies didn't turn out).
Closer to the top of the building, the "fermentation" levels are more interesting, mainly because they're still fully (or almost fully) in possession of floors. Additionally, each of the upper levels has a fantastic pinhole camera effect going on: a small, sunlit hole on the wall facing the expressway projects the images of passing cars across the whole room onto the opposite wall, so it's like watching a film of suspended cars driving along upside-down beneath an elevated roadway.
       We would've missed that if we'd come at night; and we might have missed something else, too. On the seventh floor we found a portable metal staircase lying on its side in the middle of the floor, and Gilligan propped this up so he could climb up onto an i-beam for a picture. While I was getting ready to take his picture, Gilligan pointed at the floor and mentioned I might want to look out. In the spot where the staircase had been, there was a two-foot by two-foot square hole in the floor leading to a 30-foot drop. We carefully lowered the metal staircase back atop this hole, and then headed up in search of the roof.
Looking down four storeys from the catwalk.
       At the top of the stairwell, we were delighted to find a ladder leading up to an unlocked hatch. Gill climbed up and out first. When I popped my head up through the hatch, I saw that Gilligan was lying flat on his front in the gravel with a big smile on his face. As I climbed up, I looked up at the lightbulb-filled Molson billboard, and out at the city. My god were we exposed! There was no ledge at all around the sides of the roof, so we were just a couple of feet away from a nine-storey drop. And we were in plain sight of everyone on the elevated Gardiner Expressway: the reason the brewery is wrapped in three of the biggest billboards in Canada is that 200,000 cars drive past the building each day, probably making it one of the most visible places in the country. I flopped down in the gravel beside Gilligan, and we laughed out of happiness, excitement and nervousness.
       Eager to get away from the edges of the roof, we started making our way toward the Molson billboard; Gilligan simply rolled through the gravel and broken lightbulbs scattered around the roof, while I tried to stay low as I crawled toward it. I noticed that the roof felt more like firm pudding than solid cement, though this was pudding with a lot of broken lightbulbs in it.
       "This roof has a lot of give," I called over to Gilligan, as he rolled along behind me. "A LOT of give. Like maybe too much."
       "It's probably good that I'm rolling, then," Gill replied.
We had a great view from the roof; everyone else had a great view of us.
       We proceeded to the centre of the roof very cautiously, and climbed up onto the metal framework supporting the huge Molson billboard. We crawled along this into some much-needed shadow and took the best pictures we could manage from this shielded vantage point. We also noticed that the part of the roof in the shade seemed quite solid, and concluded that it was just warm tar that was making the rest of the roof seem, in my words, "like walking on a trampoline".
Coming down from the roof, we wandered over to the southern half of the complex, which was much less gutted, and then headed out past the guard and his fabled dog.
       "It's more like being on a waterbed," Gill offered. "Might be a nice place to take a girl."
       After only a few minutes of poking about under the billboard, I pointed out that a few thousand people had probably seen us now, and suggested that we get back inside. As we were making our way back through the hatch, a helicopter soared overhead, prompting us to go that much more quickly. I'd forgotten that we were only a block or two away from the island airport.
       Returning to a lower level, we made our way over to stairwell six and the southern half of the complex, and toured a variety of old mechanical rooms and distilling rooms still filled with a variety of photogenic artifacts before making our way back down to the ground floor and returning to the outside.
       After a short rest, we headed on to examine the second building in the complex. We had begun discussing how pathetic the site's security was, and I was just explaining how ridiculous the claim about the guard dogs was, when a guard and a dog on a leash appeared a few feet away from us, behind a fence, and stared at us meanly.
       "What were you saying?" Gill asked, as we strolled away.
       "Alright, fine. One guard dog, on a leash. He looked friendly."
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