Friday – July 10 Sunday – July 12, 2015 – Centre De La Nature De Laval, Quebec, Canada
The first edition of Festival des Bières de Laval was held this past week-end at the picturesque Laval Nature Center. Showcasing the Quebec craft beer scene, the event attracted 200 types of beer from 30 different breweries, spread across 60 kiosks alongside local ciders, spirits, and food.
While there are still five big beer festivals left this summer, this one had the makings of being the best located in terms of setting, with a beautiful, lush green space. In terms of practicality, the only downside was that if you planned on tasting a lot, public transportation to the park was not easy to get to. The Nature Center was a 20 minute bus ride from Cartier metro station. However, Laval services an untapped market for craft beer. If you’re from the Laurentians, the location could be easily reached by car and, there was plenty of parking.
The festival was the brainchild of Marilene Baral, another strong female presence on the Quebec beer scene. The event was well-rounded to attract as wide an audience as possible, and to spread the word about great craft beer to the masses. Personally, I love beer festivals in the summer. Now, I also love driving out to microbreweries in the middle of nowhere on release day as much as the next guy. In fact, Noah has a nice collection of articles describing the hardest to find gems in the beer world that keep his readers drooling. However, I also think that it’s important to not get too caught up in the collecting and the trading aspects. Brew fests like this one remind you to go outside and get back to the roots of the thing: to just drink great beer and have fun!
#1 on Checklist: Setting
So then, as far as checklists go for what I want in a beer festival, Laval scored well as a venue, especially when considering that it was the first of its kind. It’s fine to have an outdoor element but, you also want festival goers to have something to look at between tastings. While it’s not ideally located to get to by bus or metro, the Nature Center was a picturesque setting, with a beautiful park to walk around in. Perhaps, shuttles could be arranged to attract more people next year. One thing that they did manage well was to provide plenty of “terraces” for people to sit at in the shade. There were also a lot of good stations to rinse your glass between tastings and food trucks for everyone – even vegans.
#2 on Checklist: Beer choice
The next item on the checklist, obviously, is something special from the brewers. To stay competitive these days, many brewers are bringing some of their rare beers to festivals to keep the connoisseurs interested. Microbrewery lovers can’t attend every special bottle release, and festivals are a good way to allow everyone to get a taste of new and limited offerings. For my part, here were the standouts.
- Brasseurs du Monde: La Réserve du Picoleur: Cerisette du Bretteux (wild ale with Brett)
- Le Saint Bock: Nux Indica Porter Coconut/Cacao
- Boreal: ISA (India Session Ale)
- Brasseurs Illimites: Berliner weisse and Cask: session IPA + Chinook, El Dorado, Citra.
- Le Saint Graal: Campagnole rose (wit beer with rasberries)
* Though the website had done a good job to provide a full list of available beers, quite a few tents didn’t have some of their standout beers on the Saturday afternoon we attended.
I think that for any time of year, opening a cask is always an event in itself. I think every festival should have them, it’s tradition! If you’ve ever been confused by the word “cask”, the term refers to unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned and served from a cask using only gravity or hand pump. These are known as “real ale” and usually opened to great fanfare among beer geeks. Thankfully, Laval had a few on offer, with Brasseurs Illimites bringing three samples: Berliner Weisse / Pale ale citra/polaris (CASK) – Saison belma (CASK) – Berliner weisse verveine (CASK) and Loup Rouge bringing two: Chenal aux Corbeaux (double IPA dry hop – CASK) – Chapeau Noir (black IPA with coffee – CASK).
#3 on Checklist: Set up
The finally box in my checklist concerns how well the place was set up? In other words, were their stations to rinse your glass, good value and, a good choice of food? Was the space well layed-out to avoid attendees getting bottlenecked? In a word, yes. One highlight was that rather than have tickets to buy a beer, they opted for cash, which was far easier to manage. Great decision! The pours at each vendor were always generous and the crowds were manageable, creating almost no wait times even at popular brewer’s tents.
Overall, we had a great time at the Laval beer fest. The sweltering heat could have killed it, but there was plenty of shade to be found and some good beers on offer. Let beer festival season begin!
Article by T.J. Blinn
Photography by Tommy Levan