A couple of weekends ago was the “Festival l’Oktoberfest des Québécois,” a beer festival located in Repentigny, which is not too far from the greater Montreal Area. After a full day of drinking big, bold, complex, and high alcoholic beers, I thought it would be hilarious to take the below photo with my fellow Beerism buddy, T.J. The next morning, I was trying to figure out exactly why I thought this would be so funny. Were we trying to re-create Michelangelo’s “The creation of Adam?” Was it some kind of “Hands across America” thing, but for Quebec Oktoberfest? Did we intend to start frolicking immediately afterwards? Maybe we did, honestly I don’t really recall. And as you can see on the right from the glazed over look on my face, and goofy ass smile, I clearly had a good time.
This was my second year going, and just like last time, I don’t have any complaints. Last year, Dieu Du Ciel and Microbrasserie Charlevoix did not make an appearance, so it was really nice to see them on the roster this time around. The venue takes place on a big grassy peninsula overlooking the water – it was quite pretty. However, we weren’t there to look at the view, rather we were there to check out any and all of the one off beers that one can hope to find at these types of events. The beers on cask, the barrel aged stuff, the weird infusions that don’t normally get bottled – these were what we wanted to try. As you saw from the above picture, T.J. was with me, but we also had the pleasure of being accompanied by a new friend of mine who runs a great blog called Malty Tasker.
There were loads of breweries to choose from this year, including Dieu du Ciel, Microbrasserie Charlevoix, Brasserie Dunham, Trou du Diable, McAuslin, Les Trois Mousquetaires, Brasseurs de Montreal, La Succursale, Brasseurs Illimites, and many many more. If for whatever reason I don’t end up mentioning a brewery, it’s not necessarily because they don’t have a solid line up, but more likely because what they offered at the festival were products that we have had several times before; we were trying to concentrate more on what’s not generally available, and not so much what we have already tasted.
Les Trois Mousquetaires. We arrived at the event in the early afternoon with a thirst for some strong beer; well, I guess it’s not that different from every afternoon really. The first thing we hit up was Les Trois Mousquetaires because their infamous Double IPA was making an appearance and we wanted to have one before they ran out. This pungent and unfiltered bad boy still had little green pieces of hops floating around in the glass. It was an intense way to start the day, but whatever, our palates could handle it (Beerism’s bottle review of this one here). Earlier this year, they released an American Barleywine, and for the festival they were not only serving it on Cask, but also through a Randall (a device that pumps beer through whole cone hops). It was sweet, thick, and brown, with an earthy grassiness that you could only get by running the beer directly through a bunch of hops on the spot – delicious. Later on that day we went back as they were tapping another small cask of their Baltic Porter, with the addition of fresh black cherries. This massive 10% beer was jet black, with virtually no carbonation. It was incredibly fruity with strong dark chocolate undertones. A sweet delight.
Brasserie Dunham. One of my favorites. We had a chance to try their KeKriek, which was unlike any beer I’ve tasted before. Kriek is Flemish for cherry, and usually refers to a Belgian Lambic beer aged on oak. This beer tasted like Cherry pie, with some subtle sour undertones, but nothing so tart as to make the sides of your tongue ache. It was well balanced, and although different from what we were used to, I quite liked it and hope to see it in bottles soon.
Boquebiere. These guys pump out tons of different styles of beer, and that was certainly the case for this event as well. However, there was one beer in particular that I was eyeing since before we arrived. It was their Rouge Érable, a Flanders red, aged for 18 months on oak. A Higher then average ABV for the style (8%), this beautiful auburn colored beer carried a potent sourness that balanced extremely well against some pretty apparent sugars. The maple came through nicely, lending a great compliment to the earthy vanilla oak flavors. This one stole the show for me, and I can comfortably say that this was the best beer I had all day; against some tough competition. I also had the chance to try their Imperial Stout, which I also quite enjoyed. It had a big dark chocolate flavor profile with hints of star anise, coffee, and vanilla – Quite nice.
Trou du Diable. These guys had a massive year. TDD used to be a brewery whose bottles were virtually impossible to find. For one, their beer was only available in three stores across the greater Montreal area, and those three stores never really had them anyways. They expanded exponentially this year and now we can get Trou du Diable at most of the beer shops I frequent. From what they brought to Oktoberfest, there were two that I hadn’t tried, so of course I had to taste them. The first was Fous Alliés, a collaboration beer between TDD and Beaus All Natural Brewing from Ontario – another one of my favorites. This was a Saison brewed with Mango. It wasn’t without its charm, but I think I prefer TDD‘s “Saison Du Tractor,” which is more readily available. That being said, a couple of hours into the day they cracked open L’apocalypso, a white IPA at 7.5%, and it knocked our socks off. A brilliantly hoppy American IPA, loaded with citrus and pine, carrying a balanced, but potent bitterness that sticks with you nicely. We were curious about the “white” portion in the name. Was it just that the beer brewed with wheat? Or a Hoppy Belgian Witbier? It didn’t really have those Belgian yeast flavors, so we asked. The gentlemen said it was called as such because of the color. I guess the foggy, unfiltered beer style is synonymous with “white.” All I know is that it was fantastic, and if they could produce this in bottles, I’d be a happy boy.
Dieu du Ciel! As T.J.’s last beer of the day, he opted for Isseki Nicho, aged one year. I had to steal some. This beer was likely my favorite beer bottled in 2013. They call it an Imperial Black Saison, and that’s pretty much exactly what it is. Imagine a Russian Imperial Stout, thick and rich, but brewed with Saison yeast. This element changes the flavor quite a bit, giving it a subtle tartness, with spicy notes, like star anise and peppercorns. After a year, the 9% ABV smoothed out nicely, and stronger caramel and brown sugar flavors came to the forefront. An incredible achievement in brewing, everyone should seek out some bottles when it’s released again this year.
Microbrasserie Charlevoix. As I mentioned earlier, Microbrasserie Charlevoix made it this year, and being one of my favorite breweries, I was happy to see that. That being said, the last couple of times I’ve seen them at events, they seemed to only carry their year round offerings with a couple of one offs. This time however, they brought with them an array of beer from their brew pub (Le Sainte Pub). These offerings were not all being offered at the time when we were at the festival, but we had a chance to try a couple; one in particular was quite exceptional. It was their Porter, and at 9%, I would have prefaced it with “double” or “Imperial,” but what do I know? It was rich and nutty, with a nice light roasted coffee backbone and some residual sugars that balanced perfectly against a slightly floral hop bouquet. Charlevoix is one of my favorites (yeah, I have a lot of favorites), and it was really nice to be able to try beers produced at the brew pub, instead of always in bottles.
Lagabiere. I’d never heard of Lagabiere. Probably because they are new to the brewpub scene and they don’t bottle their beer…yet. A lot of the time at these festivals I’ll skip over breweries that don’t look familiar. It’s a result of not wanting to waste my time on something I haven’t researched; the logic being If I haven’t seen them before, they’re probably not that good. This was an arrogant misconception on my part, and my experience drinking several of Lagabiere’s offerings certainly showed me that. Early on in the day I asked David Atman of “La Décapsule des frères Atman” what he had tried so far that unexpectedly impressed him. He pointed at the Lagabiere tent and said they have a 2.5% English Mild that he thought was amazing. So towards the end of the day, after being “slightly” inebriated, we stumbled, I mean walked over to their tent to check things out. Whatever! You try and stay sober at a beer festival!
We happened to start chatting with the brewers (pictureD above) as they were in front of their tent hanging out with some folks in the crowd. Francis and Sébastien Laganière are the brewing brothers names, and you couldn’t ask for friendlier gents to chat with. They talked to us about their brew pub while pumping us full of sample after sample or their delicious offerings; we gladly downed them with a smile. We were impressed. The first thing I got my hands on was their Annedd’ale, called L’Alegonquienne, which to date is the best I’ve had. Annedd’ale is a modern beer style that originates from Quebec. It’s brewed with Annedda (evergreen) & Balsam fir. Like spruce beer, it carries that pungent tree sap flavor and aroma. The previous versions I’ve tasted only had hints of this element, and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed, but was never really wowed. Lagabiere’s version had this pungently spruce, and juniper berry potency that balanced beautifully against the other flavors. It was like a Christmas tree in a glass! Their APA (Evel Knievel) and IPA (Bomb’ale) were also quite impressive, carrying a wonderful hop forward bouquet with a hefty bitterness. Their “Mild” (Red Light) was also delicious, and being 2.5% ABV, you could drink it all day. I finished – I think – with their Spout-nic Russian Imperial Stout which was an impressively rich and complex brew, with loads of dark roasted flavors and a thick meaty body. Their whole line up was solid, with some that really stood out. I’m certainly going to head to their brewpub sooner than later.
Well that was our day of big beers at “Festival l’Oktoberfest des Québécois.” “Mondial de la Biere” may get some decent imports and a few more beer tents, but I love the outdoor environment, and the fact that the people pouring the beer actually work for the brewer they represent, or at least know their stuff. I highly recommend this event to anyone who wants to have a good time, while also enjoying good beer.
An article by Noah Forrest (mad cow shown below)