Mondial de la bière 2015 – Finding the perfect beer for the perfect beer hater

Mondial de la Biere is a yearly beer festival located in downtown Montreal.  I met up with my good friend Paul Aflalo from from Edge of the City  (an acclaimed podcast from the No More Radio network) for an interview, and some fun…

The details of the event are as follows:

  • Date: June 10 to 14, 2015 – 5 days
  • Opening hours: Wednesday: 3:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
  • Thursday to Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Site: Palais des Congrès (201, Avenue Viger Ouest, Montréal)
    Exterior terrace, l’Esplanade
    (De la Gauchetière Street, between Chenneville and Côté)
  • Admission: Free Admission
  • $1.00 per coupon, $5.00 per reusable plastic cup and $10.00 per souvenir glass
  • 2 to 8 coupons per tasting – for the majority of beers
  • Each tasting: 2 ounces
  • Beers: 523 products available (beers, meads, ciders…) including 475 beers
  • More than 85 breweries including 40 microbreweries from Quebec
  • 226 new beers, never presented at the Mondial de la bière.

Given that my baby daughter is scheduled to arrive pretty much any day at this point, it seemed wise to only attend the event for a couple of hours this year. Given the sheer girth of this festival, it’s not ideal to run around, trying to sample everything on my “must try” list in such a short period of time. But honestly, I’m totally okay with that. Turning a festival like this into a beer geek tasting marathon can make for a pretty dry and somewhat robotic experience, especially if you’re on your own. What I was hoping to do this year, was to simply walk around and chat with some of the fine folks who work in the industry; and of course, drink a stupid amount of beer in a short period of time. I was successful, but that’s not the only thing that was successful…

Mondial done

I have this good friend named Paul, who runs a highly successful podcast called Edge of the City. He contacted me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be willing to have him interview me about my blog, Mondial, and beer in general. However, most importantly, he asked me if we could make it the mission of the day to help him find a beer he might actually like. That’s right, you read that correctly: Paul doesn’t like beer! I know, I know, that definitely makes him a terrible person, but he’s clearly trying to change.

Our day began at BierMarkt, where we pulled out some microphones, had something to eat, and chatted beer. Paul explained that the only beers he has ever liked were on the fruitier side. For instance, he can stomach the St. Ambroise apricot wheat ale. Okay, so I had something to work with. I wanted to see how he would do with a beer on the fruity, sour, dank, and dusty side of things, so I ordered us a bottle of Boon’s Oude Kriek Mariage Parfait. This wine barrel aged lambic blend is made with cherries, and fermented with wild yeast strains and souring bacteria. Also, it’s fucking fantastic, and “almost” worth the silly price they charge for it (considering a portion of their beer is stored in the sun, it was surprisingly perfect). Paul didn’t hate it, but he didn’t really love it either. But that’s okay, we were just getting started.

mondialbiere-DSC_6387We showed up at Mondial when it opened, and power walked towards the VIP area, where we got our shiny media bracelets. Paul strapped me with a sexy little microphone, and then we got to tastin’. In the “VIP” media area, the beer is free, but you are limited to about 100 or so bottles to choose from (that’s not a criticism, but rather that it could be a challenge to find “the beer” that Paul will love).

The first thing that caught my eye was something I really wanted to try anyway: a yuzu fruited Berliner Weiss from New Belgian brewing. Also, this could be a potential candidate for Paul. However, after tasting it, I found that it wasn’t nearly sour enough, and had this off-putting, overpowering spiciness. Paul wasn’t impressed either. The next thing we tried was Muskoka’s Double Mad Tom IPA, aged in cognac barrels. Arguably this one was all for me; I didn’t think he’d actually like it, and he didn’t. Sadly, neither did I. It was way past its prime, and the cognac barrel notes weren’t interesting enough to save it. I’m not sure how old the bottles were, so maybe that was the problem. Next was a beer that I’ve wanted to try for a while, but it’s more for the gimmick than anything else. It was “Beard Beer” from Rogue Brewing out of Portland. This beer is made with a yeast strain that originates from the brewmaster’s own beard. Yes, you read that right – we drank beard. More details on this here. It’s considered a “wild ale,” but from my perspective, it carried none of the complexities that one normally gets in these styles. Instead, it was a muted, cardboard flavoured mess. Paul also wasn’t a fan either.

modialdelabierelogo_montreal_2015Damn, that’s three pretty epic fails in a row! Normally I’m so positive. I had enough of this, so we got the hell out of there and headed towards the main room. I wanted him to drink some of the fresh fruited sours available on tap from our local Quebec breweries. First we hit up Les Trois Mousquetaires, a fantastic Brossard-based brewery (on the south shore of Montreal). We were greeted by my friend, the amazing Alex, who also happens to be their brewmaster. He had just tapped a cask of their recently released Berliner Weiss, however this particular variant was fermented with Brett and some berry called “Cameries”, which he described as tasting like a combination of cranberries and blueberries. It was deliciously fruity, yet exceptionally dry, with just the right sourness and bretty phenols to keep it all in check. I’d love to try it with some big carbonation (something you don’t get in a cask). Paul liked it, but it still didn’t rock his world. Then I realized what I thought the problem might be. Paul must need sugar. I quickly asked Alex to pour him their Baltic Porter Special Edition. It’s a 10% ABV, bourbon and brandy barrel aged Baltic porter that’s essentially liquid dessert (but still extremely well balanced). He took a sip and his eyes perked – he liked it, like, A LOT. Finally!

While Paul (who was wearing giant earphones and holding a mic) had sex with the luscious black liquid in his glass, I got my hands on the latest instance of Alex’s Double IPA. This beer is only released to the public one day a year, and sells out in about an hour. It’s even better on tap, throwing huge juicy tropical fruit flavours at your senses, kind of like being angrily slapped in the face with a wet mango. The sweetness to bitter ratios are down to a science; I could have just sat there all night sucking back obscene amounts of this stuff until I passed out and died. But sadly no, we needed to move on. (LTM will be tapping all kinds of amazing cask concoctions throughout the festival, so be sure to stop by to see what’s happening.)

11390009_10153545841204050_5800416809546495997_nPaul very much liked the big Baltic porter, so we had something to work with. He loves sweet things, but I didn’t simply want to have him try a bunch of crappy sugar bombs, because honestly, most overly sweet beers just aren’t all that good. If they are too sweet, they are not balanced. We went over to the Brasserie Dunham tent (which if you read my blog, you know I’m a big fan). We were greeted by Sébastien, owner of Brasserie Dunham (and owner of bar Vices & Versa), where we chatted about beers Paul might enjoy. I ordered him something a little different, but still on the big, dark and ever so slightly sweet side. It was called “Deze Monnik Is Dronken,” and it’s a somewhat different take on a Belgian Quadruple. The beer is aged in Chianti barrels and fermented with figs. It’s an exceptional offering, and you can read about in in one of my previous posts right here. Paul loved it, again! So we did it, we found beers that Paul “I hate beer” Aflalo, actually likes. I was pretty proud of myself, so I ordered “Chevaliers Du Funk,” which is a collaborative beer from Brasserie Dunham and Le Castor – another amazing local brewery out of Rigaud (west of Montreal). It’s a dry hopped, Brett fermented ale brewed with various souring bacteria. It’s supper hoppy, funky and sour, while all at the same time keeping perfect balance, finishing with a clean, fruit-filled freshness.

As I said, we were really tight on time, so we didn’t try all that much more – at least nothing particularly notable. However, we quickly stopped by Glutenberg. I saw a rum barrel-aged barleywine from Oshlag that had my name on it. The man pouring beer was Francis Richer, who is also one of Glutenberg’s brewers. The rum perfectly complimented the rich malt base, and the hop bitterness was potent enough to keep any and all sweetness in check. It was delightful.

While my time at the event was far less extensive this year, I still had a blast running around with Paul and chatting with the great folks brewing and pouring beer. LTM’s Double IPA was certainly just as special as usual (if not more), and the Dunham/Castor collab “Chevaliers Du Funk” pretty much won Mondial in my opinion. Great work!

Also, keep your eye out for the full episode of me being interviewed on Edge of the City, coming soon!

An Article by Noah Forrest