Little Italy brewpub Birra Bar à Bières Maison has always been a popular spot in an area known for some great microbreweries and beer bars, catering to both a local clientele and visitors from across Montreal and Quebec. In the last year though, the pandemic has changed their approach and they have joined many other bars and breweries in putting out their family of beers in cans for their loyal clients to enjoy in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Brewed and packaged at their partner brewery Brasserie Silo in Ahuntsic, Bob, Irma, Ginette and Francesco are now available at stores across the province, so we thought we’d dive in a give them a go!
Bob is a proper old school American Pale Ale. Floral aromas mix nicely with malty, caramel notes and a hint of tropical fruits and citrus rind. Initially, it’s smooth and sweet on the sip, with a bunch of pleasant fruity and caramel sweetness carried by a strong malty backbone. Then, it fades into a potent, and somewhat intense, pithy grapefruit and orange bitterness reminiscent of the early IBU wars. Yet the beer finds a good balance between the bitter and the sweet, offering a refreshing walk down memory lane.
Irma is the younger sister of a Bob, offering a more modern profile combined with a lower ABV of 4%. This Session IPA features Mosaic, Citra and Azacca, which bring some very floral aromas up front, followed by zesty orange, grapefruit and a touch of resin in the back. A slight juiciness comes out on the sip, with plenty of bright citrus notes, but this is capped off again by a strong dose of pithy bitterness and floral accents that makes themselves known throughout. Given its low ABV, it’s pretty light but does not fall prey to the wateriness that sometimes plagues the style. This was probably my favourite of the family.
Then there’s Ginette, a dry-hopped sour featuring Crystal and Amarillo. It packs some vibrant zesty orange and lemon notes on the nose, but these fade considerably on the sip, only resurfacing as part of a gentle citrus bitterness in the finish. Otherwise, the beer brings a gentle acidity that isn’t overly aggressive and marries nicely with a body that is surprisingly smooth and round for a beer that only clocks in a 3.5%. Tasting like a dry-hopped lemonade, I can imagine this would be a great summer beer.
Last but not least is Francesco, a Porter brewed with coconut. It opens with some strong, bitter dark chocolate aromas on the nose with a slight hint of coffee in the background from the roasted malts. This continues on the palate, but the bitterness is met by a touch of vanilla and a smooth malty body that brings out some chocolate sweetness, reducing some of the overall intensity. If you’re looking for coconut though, you’ll have to let this Porter warm a little and even then it’s quite subtle and only apparent at the back of the sip, lending a little interesting twist alongside the bitter, dry finish.
Birra’s family offers an intriguing blend of modern design with more classic profiles. A common feature between all their beers is a noticeable bitterness, but in each case, this is well balanced by other elements. Their range will appeal to newcomers and beer geeks alike, especially those hoping to find something a little more traditional, or even just less sweet or green than many beers on the market. With the facility at Brasserie Silo still growing, it’ll be interesting to see who they add to their family next!
An article by Mike Davis
Photography by Noah Forrest