The Montreal Craft Beer Scene
In my early twenties, I had the good fortune to live in Montreal for a few years. Back then it didn’t have much of a craft beer scene, aside from McAuslan and Unibroue, both providing staples like Griffon Pale Ale, Blanche de Chambly and Maudite. In fact my first craft beer experience in Montreal was a bottle of Maudite, or “Damned”. I’ve always loved the label with the canoe of the damned flying over the Notre Dame church in Montreal. It’s an Abbey style dubbel and at that point in my life I’d never tasted anything quite like it. In fact I still regularly enjoy Maudite; I keep a case or two in my cellar because it ages so incredibly well.
Mondial de la Bière
Fast forward almost twenty years and the craft beer scene has a completely different landscape from what it had back then. This past weekend while at the Mondial du la Bière, Montreal’s largest annual beer festival, I was extremely impressed to find out just how many small artisanal brewers were making excellent brews in La Belle Province. It ranged from the familiar like Dieu de Ciel!, Trou de Diable and Cheval Blanc, to many others that I’d never heard of before like Jukebox, Brouhaha and Noire et Blanche.
What really struck me though was the variety of styles that were brought to the festival. There were a fair number of excellent pale ales and IPAs, but there were also quite a few examples of not so common styles like Berlinerweisse, Gose, Gueuze and more Brett beers than I’d ever seen in one place. The entire list of what was on offer was truly awe-inspiring and was thoroughly enjoyable to sample.
Outside of the festival, Montreal has a number of exceptional brewpubs making really interesting beers. We were able to visit three of the literally dozens of them during our brief weekend stay; Benelux, Le Saint Bock & Dieu du Ciel!
Benelux – 245 Rue Sherbrooke West
Benelux Brewpub on Sherbrooke
This brewpub has a very laid back atmosphere and a pretty diverse crowd of patrons. We were able to try seven of the twelve offerings available and were completely blown away by their Berlinerweise. They call it “Berlinoise” and it was seriously the best example of the style we’ve tried outside of Berlin. The beers are served in style-specific glasses and were very reasonably priced. We accompanied our beer with a sampling tray of dry roasted almonds, olives and artisanal Quebec cheese.
Le Saint Bock – 1749 Rue Saint-Denis
The Randalls at Le Saint Bock
Not only was the tap list impressive in it’s size and diversity, they also had a ten tap “Randalizer” or Hop Rocket. If you’ve never experienced beer on a Randall, it’s a cylinder filled with flavoured additives that the beer runs through before exiting into the glass. We tried several of these including an APA that was infused with whole leaf Citra hops, apricots and orange zest. Another one we tried was a black IPA infused with coffee and garam masala.
Dieu du Ciel – 29 Laurier West
Brett beer on the terrace
The Dieu du Ciel brewpub on Laurier has great little terrace out front and the Disco Soliel, their IPA brewed with Kumquats, seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to the sun filled afternoon. They have an impressive line up of beers including a nitrogenated “India Cream Ale”, which was like drinking a grapefruit flavoured cream-sicle. Along with the beers on tap they also had a few really nice bottled beers including their Denière Volonté (Last Will), which was refermented using Brettanomyces yeast.
Paradis de la Bière
Lastly, no visit to Quebec would be complete without a visit to a Depanneur (Convenience Store) to buy beer. However not all Depanneurs are created equally. If you find yourself at the Dieu de Ciel brewpub, you’ll be very happy to know there is a fantastic Depanneur that has dubbed itself “Paradis de la Bière”, just down the street. Super Marché Rahman (151 Avenue Laurier West) comes pretty close to beer paradise in it’s selection of hard to find local brews. While there I managed to pick up some rare releases from Jukebox, Castor and case of the Disco Soliel from Dieu du Ciel.
Montreal is a great beer city and one that I look forward to returning to again!