Well, it’s that time of year again, where we can all congregate in a giant room and taste beer from all over Quebec, and rest of the world. That’s right, it’s “Festival Mondial de la Biere,” located in downtown Montreal, and the Beerism folks took the day off of work on opening day in order to provide you all with details. Yes, it has nothing to do with the fact that we love to drink beer, or the fact that we would look for any excuse to start drinking this beautiful love nectar at 11:00 in the morning – it was all done for you.
This year’s organizers tried a new venue, located at “Palais des congrès de Montréal.” For those taking the metro, get off at “Place D’armes,” and follow the signs. They had an abundance of staff to direct you, which was odd, however more is better then less. Perhaps they were preparing for when there would be large amounts of people, but certainly Wednesday afternoon is not a busy time . Actually, it was quite awesome, the only people there were beer freaks like us. There are two spaces, one indoors and one outdoors. You can see the indoor map here, and the outdoor map here. When you are walking around, It’s not necessarily clearly outlined how to find the outdoor portion, however, again, there is a plethora of staff standing around willing to direct you. We arrived in the main room, which is where about 90% of the beer is being served, the outdoor portion is mostly food, with a few beer tents scattered around (one of which is Cheval Blanc, which you need to check out!).
Entering the main room, there were kiosks everywhere. I always try to be positive in my posts, but I have to say that seeing all the “marco” brewery kiosks empty and sad was a great sight indeed. The scantily clad “hotties” stood around, looking board, as no one gave them the time of day; it was quite wonderful. Before beer became a hobby of mine, I found Mondial a bit intimidating, given the huge selections and the arbitrarily located booths. However, the following bit of information will certainly help in understanding the whole thing: Besides two specific kiosks, all of the booths at Mondial are either local Quebec craft breweries, or macro distributed breweries, like Molson, Heineken, etc… (There are a couple of exceptions, like Beau’s from Ontario, and a Mead spot, but you get the point). So I’d say the rule of thumb for those who don’t know any of the Quebec craft breweries, is that if you recognize the beer, avoid it, and try something new, because I can guarantee that it will be better than anything by Keith’s, Guinness, Molson, Labatt, Sapporo, Becks, Newcastle, etc, etc, etc…
That being said, it can still be pretty intimidating, and the last thing you want to do it try a bunch of beers that you won’t enjoy. So now that you know to avoid the big guys, the next step would be to identify which styles of beers you like, and then try those styles at various local Quebec booths. Talk to the people working these booths, they will be able to give you a high level breakdown of how the beer tastes. They work for the brewery and should know this stuff.
Earlier I mentioned two kiosks that were not Quebec craft breweries, nor marco breweries. They are “Le Petit Pub du Palais” and “Le Petit Pub de L’esplanade.” These two tents house all the beer that you basically cannot find in Quebec, ever (there are a tiny few exceptions, but again, you get the point). These tents each have about 20-25 breweries from all around the world. For beer folk like us, it is key to try a lot of stuff from these tents, as we can’t get them here. Quebec has bizarrely strict import laws, so this is our chance to taste, without having to drive to the states. That being said, it’s important to do some research, as not all the people pouring beers in these tents know their stuff, and might just be volunteering. I was lucky enough to know one of the people volunteering, Mike, who runs Beer Addict-ED, a homebrew Facebook page dedicated to schooling folks on beer. A very knowledgeable and friendly dude; I recommend following his page, just click here.
So now that we covered the space, I’d like to provide some of our recommendations. I’ve previously tasted a lot of what’s being offered this year, so I include those as well, even though we might have not actually tasted them at the event. First let’s start with the Quebec breweries. Bare in mind, we didn’t try everything, so there are likely gems that we missed.
Dieu du Ciel!: Anyone who knows beer in Montreal, knows DDC. Everything they do is fantastic, but look out for these ones in particular:
- Morality – An American IPA with an exceptionally fruity, aromatic & hoppy profile.
- Isseki Nicho – An Imperial Black Saison that is rich, dark, & BIG! With a spicy tangy finish.
- Solstice D’ete – A Berliner Weisse with a sour, tart, and incredibly raspberry infused flavor profile.
Le Trou du Diable: Out of Shawinigan. Until recently, these guys were incredibly hard to find, but they have expanded and are releasing more and more each month.
- La Dulcis Succubus – A Barrel aged Saison with a spicy, tart, and robust flavor profile with notes of woody vanilla and general oakyness.
- MacTavish – An American Pale Ale with a simple, yet assertive hoppyness, but not too bitter.
- Saison Du Tracteur – A Saison with a fruity, spicy, and yeast funk profile that is just delicious.
La Succursale: A local brewpub that we have been meaning to check out, but have yet to do so. I had a chance to try one of their beers, and it was quite fantastic.
- Barley Wine – An American Barleywine that had a really nice caramel sweetness that was cut by a bold hoppy bitter character. Very well balanced and delicious.
Hopfenstark: From L’assomption, these guys make really good stuff. And given that their bottles are not the easiest to find, I recommend giving them a taste. I’ve had almost everything they make, and I recommend everything, but I’ll call out two that we tried at the show.
- Post Colonial IPA (cask) – An American IPA with a rather malty profile and a nice bitter kick.
- Alcyone – An Imperial Black Saison IPA – An all around hybrid beer that carries a big complex flavor profile. Thick, black, spicy and bitter.
Microbrasserie Du Lac St Jean: A Quebec brewery who’s products are starting to become more widespread. Very delicious stuff, we did not have a chance to try anything from them this time around, but please do seek them out.
Le St Bock – I have not tried much from this brew pub, but T.J. is a huge fan. If you are going to Mondial this year, you have to go check out their booth, and here is why:
- Calice “Randall” – An American IPA that is filtered through a big tube filled with fresh hops, the flavors that come from the fresh hops are incredible. Earthy, grassy, with bitter resins. This is something to experience at least one, but I went back a few times.
Le Cheval Blanc: We were quite impressed with these guys. I’ve been to their brew pub years ago, however I has been way too long.
- Bonheur – An American IPA that was incredibly light and drinkable, a perfectly complex session beer – to be drank in the sun.
- Double Bonheur – A big double IPA, that is served through a nitrogen tap, which makes for a thick and incredibly creamy beer that is exceptional fruity, hoppy, and well balanced against a solid bitterness.
- Ponette Ceries – A big sour Lambic beer brewed with cherries. Very delicious.
Les Trois Mousquetaires: Located in Montreal, this Quebec brewery specializes in German styles, with some exceptions. We didn’t end up drinking anything from them this time around, mostly because they were not offering anything new, which we were really trying to get our hands on.
Boquébière: A brewery that we quite enjoy, but did not have a chance to try anything at this year’s event. They do an array of styles, from North American IPA’s, to a slew of Belgian beers, including a Flanders red and a Brut. Check them out.
Benelux: A local brewpub that just opened a second location in Verdun. We are always a fan. We only tried one from them this time around, but it was delicious:
- Grisette – A sour Saison that carried a tart, fruity, funky, and dry character that would be perfect to have in the sun on a hot day.
Most of the Canadian craft offerings are found at “Le Petit Pub de L’esplanade,” with the exception of Beau’s.
Beau’s all Natural Brewing: A brewery located in Vankleek Hill, about 45 minutes west of Montreal. I highly recommend stopping by the brewery if you are driving to Ottawa. All of their offerings are good, seek them out!
Central City: Located out West.
- Red Racer IPA – One of, if not the best IPA brewed in Canada, you should try it. No bells and whistles, just a solid beer.
Muskoka Brewery: One of our favorites from Ontario, everything they do is pretty solid.
The US has a massive craft beer scene, the largest in the world. It’s great that there are some offerings at Mondial, but it really doesn’t even scratch the surface. That being said, there were some fantastic beers on the US list, and we had a chance to try quite a few. All of these are available at “Le Petit Pub du Palais.”
Allagash Brewing Company
- Allagash White – A Belgian Wit, spicy, robust and refreshing. Quite delicious.
- Allagash Curieux – A barrel aged Belgian tripel. This beer was the highlight of the day for me (picture to the right). Rich, delicate and powerful, this spicy tripel had strong oak and vanilla qualities, with a well balanced Belgian yeast spiciness. You need to try this, but watch out, it’s 11% and takes 6 tickets.
- The City Never Sleeps – A big black Saison that was bordering on being an imperial stout. It was robust, with dark roasted grain, and slightly tart flavor.
Dogfish Head: A brewery out of Delaware that generally produces hop forward ales. Having tried most of their stuff before, we opted out this time, but they are certainly a brewery that should not be overlooked.
- Burton Blanton – An Imperial IPA that is a blend of new and oak aged versions of itself. It’s rich, caramel, oak flavors balance nicely against the hoppy finish.
Elysian Brewing Company
- Avatar Jasmine IPA – An IPA with the most floral character that we have ever tried. The use if jasmine is not understated here. Quite nice if you are looking for something different.
- Dragon’s Milk – a big and creamy Imperial stout that goes down nice and smooth.
Rogue Ales: Located in Portland, these guys make some good stuff. You can often find their offering at the LCBO in Ontario.
- Hazelnut Brown Nectar – This brown ale is brewed using hazelnuts (one of Portland’s biggest exports), and it is more then apparent. I really enjoyed this, and was not expecting to. It had the illusion of being sweet, but was not. Great stuff.
Stone Brewing Company: located in California, Stone is one of the oldest American craft breweries, and make quality, forward thinking beer.
- Stone Cali-Belgique – A solid Belgian style IPA, with notes of spicy yeast and bitter, aromatic hops, while still remaining dry and quite drinkable.
- Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale – An American Strong ale, aged on oak. This style carries hefty bitterness with a rich, malty backbone, and little to no aromatic hop presence.
So there you have it, we hope this information serves you well. Again, keep in mind that we did not have a chance to try everything, but given the information above, hopefully you will be slightly better equipped to make some great beer decisions!
In order to simply things, we also wanted to provide a list of all the breweries that Beerism recommends. This way, you could take with you on the go! We didn’t have time to give a break down of all the Latin American and European offerings, so you will just have to fend for yourselves there!
- Microbrasserie Dieu du Ciel!
- Trou du Diable
- Cheval Blanc
- Benelux Brasserie Artisanale
- La Succursale
- Les Trois Mousquetaire
- Boquebiere Microbrasserie de Sherbrooke
- Microbrasserie Du Lac St Jean
- Le St Bock
- Beau’s all Natural
- Muskoka Brewery
- Central City
- Allagash Brewing Company
- Dogfish Head
- Elysian Brewing Company
- Rogue Ales
- Stone Brewing Company
I think we can safely say from our opening day adventure, that overall, Mondial 2013 was a success. There are always going to be problems and preferences, however on the most part from our perspective, it worked. I was sad not seeing Unibroue, Charlevoix, or Dunham, but there were certainly many other heavy hitters to choose from. So what are you waiting for, go drink some beer!