An article by Noah Forrest
Well, another Mondial de la bière has come and gone. However, this year I was able to make it out to the event for a few hours in order to take in some of the deliciousness. For the last couple of years, I’ve approached the event rather differently. I used to print out the list of offerings, highlight all the things I wanted to try, and then systematically run through them. This approach (although effective) largely turns things into a science experiment more than an experience to enjoy. This time, I simply arrived with little expectations and walked around with friends, chatting with brewers and beer folk in general, trying their beers and taking it all in. Oh, and also getting inevitably inebriated.
Unfortunately, it seems that several of the best breweries in Quebec were not in attendance. Many have never attended at all, but on top of that, the list of top Quebec breweries seems to be decreasing more than increasing. For example, Brasserie Auval, Brasserie Dunham, Sutton Brouerie, Microbrasserie la Memphré, Brasserie Maltstrom, Microbrasserie Le Castor – none of these powerhouses (and many others) were in attendance. Why? I spoke to several of them, and they all had both different and similar reasons for opting out of this event. Whether due to capacity, finances, cost to participate, time constraints, or staffing, it always came down to whether the positive would outweigh the negative. And, with the increased number of festivals each year, some opted out of this one in order to attend others that suited their brewery’s vision more closely.
That being said, many still attended. Dieu du Ciel!, Le Trou du Diable, and Les Trois Mousquetaires, who easily make some of the best beers in the province were there again this year. However, for this Mondial experience, I wanted to get to know some of the younger or perhaps less sought-after additions to the event.
I started off the day by heading to newcomers Brasserie Bois Blanc, where the friendly and generous co-owner and brewmaster Martin filled my glass with their new IPA. I then mozied over to Microbrasserie Noir et Blanche, where I tried their rather delicious fruit-infused Milkshake IPA, which very much satisfied my need for fresh hops after ingesting several past-due private imports. I continued on the Milkshake train, and headed over to Les 3 Brasseurs (yes, I know). A friend told me I needed to try their Berliner Weisse and Milkshake IPA. Both were actually solid, and made me rethink my previous impressions of these guys. I next hit the outdoor portion of the festival where I tried HELM Microbrasserie‘s truly solid Berliner Weisse, where they also had an accompanying fruit coulis to brighten it up a bit. Tasty!
I don’t like bashing breweries, but I generally avoid anything from Brasseurs du Monde as if they were the plague. However, my trustworthy good friend Derek (blogger Maltytasker) told me that I needed to try their “Blanche du Mur,” a Berliner Weisse that came out last year. Reluctantly I went and also nabbed their “Gueuze.” The “Gueuze” was a nasty vinegar filled mess and went straight down the drain, but the Berliner was indeed quite nice.
Up next was Avant-Garde Artisanal Brewers, where I chatted at length with Renault and Shawn about their impressive year. I was able to sample their mild ale (a collaboration with Brasserie Harricana). It was made with a plethora of grains, none of which being barley. The body was through the roof, carrying a luscious mouth-feel normally reserved for barleywine, and instead was highly sessionable. It was delicious.
Speaking of Brasserie Harricana, I was able to hang out for a bit with Francis Richer (head brewer), and was also able to try several from the enormous and impressive lineup of beers they brought to the event. These guys were my “coup de coeur” for the evening. From their Double Gose made with kaffir lime leaves, to their 11.9% bourbon barrel aged “720” that consisted of 100% pale malts that became brown simply from carmelization in the long 12 hour boil; everything was stellar. However, my favourite beer of all of Mondial this year was “B52,” a beer-inspired interpretation of the infamous drink. It was made in collaboration with Microbrasserie La Memphré. B52 is a double Porter, brewed with Coffee, vanilla, orange peel and lactose, aged in Bourbon barrels and served on nitro. This luscious monster was as complex and layered as it was drinkable and balanced. The coffee was intense and in your face, but not overbearing, instead melding perfectly with all the subtle adjuncts. Simply spectacular.
I think given size, location, and international recognition, Mondial de la bière will continue to do well as a beer festival every year. That said, if they keep losing breweries like Brasserie Dunham (ratebeer.com’s #1 Canadian brewery for 2017), and not providing incentives to bring in highly acclaimed tiny breweries like Brasserie Auval and Brasserie Maltstrom, many of the hardcore beer fans will continue to skip this event. Certainly, this won’t make a difference to the hordes of drunken douche-bag spenders who swarm the event like horny locusts, dishing out loads of cash. However, why not have all your bases covered and make money while staying true to craft-beer fans. Regardless, it’s always a great time! Cheers!
An Article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest