Microbrasserie Labrosse – The West Island Finally has Beer
An article by Noah Forrest
Like so many Montreal “Anglos,” I grew up in the West Island. I lived there for a good portion of my life. As a people, I don’t think we are particularly well-liked by the rest of the city. Many see West Islanders a people who act entitled in some way, and perhaps overly defensive of their English. Those that think this are not totally off, it does seems that many of the folks that stay in the west for their whole lives remain stuck in this weird kind of bubble, viewing the more urban parts of the city as a place reserved for other people. And I think the rest of the city picks up on this. It’s only when you leave, that you truly get it.
In my twenties I moved downtown for about a decade before having kids, and now, I’ve moved even further west – off the island of Montreal entirely. I don’t want to bash the West Island. Some of my favourite people in the world grew up there with me – that said, most have left. There are also several misconceptions about this part of the city. Although the “west” is generally box store after box store, with very little actual culture to be found, there are pockets of interesting and culturally relevant areas if you go looking for it. People also have the misconception that all of the people in West Island are English, rich, and white. I’d actually say that it’s pretty 50/50 English to French, and I can assure you not everyone has money given that I grew up right next to several low income housing projects. Not to mention, my high school was extremely culturally diverse. And let’s be honest, the West Island gets a lot of flack, but all suburbs are kinda shitty in their own particular way. Yet, they certainly serve a purpose when you need to raise a family. Many of the things I disliked about the suburbs are things I now value as a father and homeowner.
There are countless beer stores and brew pubs all around the city of Montreal, including within the suburbs. Besides having maybe one beer-depanneur, the West Island has historically been a ghost town for craft-beer. It’s essentially an untapped market (pun intended). That is, until the good folks from Microbrasserie Labrosse decided to open up a brewery and tasting room earlier this year.
Labrosse is off the beaten path – located in an industrial district of Point-Claire. However, given how impractical it is to walk around in the suburbs, I don’t think it affects them much given that everyone drives everywhere. Also, they get a lot of traffic from those who work in the neighbourhood.
I finally had a chance to drop in a few weeks back when I didn’t have two children dangling from various parts of my body. The place certainly has an industrial feel to it when you walk in, but they have transformed the space into a nice and cozy tasting room where everyone was welcomed with a smile. You don’t get an ounce of pretentious beer-geekery from anything or anyone in there. Well, that is, until I arrived (I’m kidding, somewhat).
Armed with their fucking fantastic in-house popcorn, manager Jeff and co-owner Troy kindly layed out two giant flights for me. Like most breweries, some beers were good, some were great, and some needed work. Their honey Porter and coffee stout didn’t really do it for me, lacking a pronounced roast profile, with some adjuncts that overpowered or underwhelmed, depending. Their standard IPA was pretty good, delivering that quintessential west coast vibe, while not trying blast your senses with hop intensity nor boring you with lacking flavour. (They are working on the recipe and I had a chance to try the latest version from the fermenter – I really enjoyed it). They also had a strawberry milkshake IPA going. To be fair, this was the last in a ten beer flight, so my palate was tired at best. That said, I didn’t understand what was happening with this beer. There was no nose, it wasn’t hazy, and it barely had a hop or fruity profile – all the things that this style should showcase. However, there were several beers that I thought were really excellent, like their Tripel, Pilsner, Saison, and Hopfenweizen. I grabbed growlers of my top three and went home to give them the Beerism treatment.
The Pilsner pours out a crystal-clear golden yellow, carrying a bright and lively effervescence. The nose is a classic mix of oats and freshly cut hay, alongside light citrus fruit. This is followed by that herbal and tangy German hop character we all know too well.
The palate matches the nose, showcasing lots of floral honey and earthy hay, while finishing with a sharp and crisp hop bitterness that cuts through everything nicely. The hop profile is zesty and citrusy, with an herbal character that lends a nice tang to the whole thing. The beer is certainly a classic, and a well done one at that. It drinks super well – a must have for the sun.
The Saison pours out a slightly foggy yellow orange colour. The nose is a nice mix of phenols, with light clove alongside a little dustiness. Pears and apples make themselves known in the form of rich fruity esters, while the whole thing has a slight floral component to it.
The palate matches, but with even more fruitiness. Again, lots of pear and apple, alongside some wheat and freshly cut hay. Floral honey notes work well with some slight earthy layers – adding complexity. The finish is dry and crisp, carrying a nice, almost tannic linger. Overall, this classic saison is extremely drinkable, while also being interesting enough to dissect. I really enjoyed this one.
This German hybrid pours out a sexy and foggy orange colour, with some tan highlights. The nose is a nice mix of clove-forward phenols, mixed with a zesty and fruit-forward hop backing. Citrus fruits come through, with hints of banana esters in the backdrop. It’s spicy, but not aggressively so.
The palate matches the nose, carrying a similar spicy profile with ample clove and cardamon. The body is full and robust, while still being quite dry and very drinkable. The hops are present, lending a fun floral and zesty counterpart to the yeast forward profile. It has a long finish, holding an effective hop bitterness and some dry phenols.
This beer works really well overall. The balance between the hops and the phenolic-forward yeast flavours are on point, making it something that is layers but extremely drinkable. Great stuff.
If you live in the West Island, you need to go to Microbrasserie Labrosse and check them out. Even if you’re from elsewhere, I’d still recommend going to see them and grabbing a few beers. After trying most of what they had to offer, it seems that where this brewery excels is with classic styles. This is a good thing. It’s important that your base is solid, because if your one-off strawberry Milkshake IPA falls flat, it’s no big deal because you can fall back on your classics. I can’t wait to head back over there.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest