Speak Friend and Enter: A Sneak Peek of Mellön Brasserie

Mellön Brasserie is a brewery I’ve had my eye on for a while now, naming them as one to watch in 2020 a few months ago. While they are currently deep into the construction process, with plans to open in late spring, I was lucky enough to be invited along to visit the brewery-in-progress, try a few of their brews and learn more about this exciting project.

Mellön comes onto the scene at a critical junction for craft beer. The last year has seen huge upheaval as brewers find themselves competing for an ever-growing market, but also an ever-shrinking attention span as beer geeks focus on the newest releases and the latest trends. It’s difficult to know what 2021 holds in store, but Mellön promises a breath of fresh air, pitching itself as a brewery focused predominantly on lagers and saisons with the occasional IPA and stout thrown in for good measure. As I’ve already noted, there is definitely plenty of room in the scene for such a brewery, as the trend-driven focus on sugary beers has also brought on a crispy countermovement. Frankly, the more styles we’re seeing, the better!

I arrived at Mellön on a sunny early-spring afternoon and was greeted by co-owners and brewers Alexandre and David. Friends for over seventeen years, Alexandre and David originally bonded over a mutual love of Lord of the Rings, which is where the name Mellön (Elvish for “friend”) comes from. While this is their first business, the pair bring with them plenty of experience that bodes well for Mellön’s future. Both are trained marketers, having worked together for several years before branching out and putting this new project in motion. This background is already very apparent in their branding and social media presence which, while often an afterthought for most breweries, are both very professional and expertly put together. Of course, it helps that Alex’s sister-in-law Émie is a trained graphic designer and can, quite literally, put their identity into all their designs.

On the beer front, their story is a tale as old as craft beer. Alex and David started homebrewing together five years ago, focusing on the styles they really loved; lagers, saisons and the occasionally hazy IPA. More recently, Alex has spent the last few years in the world of professional brewing, training at several local breweries, including Saint Houblon, Beauregard, and, most recently, Avant-Garde. This latter brewery is becoming quite the incubator for new breweries and has partnered with Mellön for their launch, brewing a collaboration beer for launch called Ce Soir Lager et Dans Tes Yeux (more about this later!)

After an especially testing year, Alex and David are finally on the threshold of something great and I was honoured to be the first to visit their new location and find out their story. Like Frodo before the Door of Durin, all I had to do was speak “friend” and enter the world of Mellön.

Tucked a few minutes walk from Jean-Talon metro, the Mellön taproom takes its inspiration from its brewers’ voyages around Quebec and the United States, being modelled around the industrial-style taprooms of the likes of Other Half. As such, it features a large garage door at the front that will be thrown open once the Montreal summer hits, letting the hustle and bustle of the Rosemont/Villeray area in. Plans are also in the works for a terrasse that will wrap the building on two sides, catching all the fantastic sunlight that adorns the building throughout the day. I already can’t wait to be sipping some tasty lagers here while watching the world go by!

Inside, the space is very much still under construction, but it’s clear that the boys have been working hard to turn this former CrossFit gym into a welcoming spot for beer fans. Once complete, the taproom will be able to host up to eighty people as soon as restrictions are lifted, with seating both around a magnificent central bar and at a series of more intimate table set-ups. All guests will also have a fantastic view of the brewery itself through a large glass wall at the back, intended to break down the gap between production and consumption and bring to life the Mellön ethos of “brewing good vibes.”

Alex and David are immensely proud of their kit, which was made entirely in Quebec by HM Brewing Systems, a family-run business in Bécancour. They have designed it entirely around their homebrewing roots, forgoing automation to stir their mash with a paddle bought on a trip to New Jersey— the same one that features prominently in their logo. This setup will soon be christened with a few tasty brews the boys have up their sleeve, but I will keep these secret as they are big fans of teasing their clients on Facebook and Instagram. A few horizontal tanks and barrels for more funky brews are also on their way, promising good things to come.

Indeed, while at Mellön, I was lucky enough to try a few of their beers, which show the direction they will be taking. The first was their homebrew Kellerbier which was brewed using the decoction method and lagered for over eight months. The result is a deliciously sweet but crisp lager with a honied malt sweetness followed by a refreshing dryness that was incredibly more-ish, which will definitely keep the taps flowing when the taproom is opened. The second was their collaboration with Avant-Garde, an India Pale Lager hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka, which recently hit stores across Montreal. Possibly one of my favourite beers in a while, this beer really lets the Nelson and Motueka shine, offering delicious, crisp vinous notes and juicy lychee on a body of fresh grains with a classic dry lager finish. It also left an insane lacing that traced every sip that I had, something I always take as a sign of quality.  If these are anything to go by, Mellön is soon going to be making a name for itself in the lager game. Maybe we really are seeing Year of the Lager 2.0…?

It was a pleasure and an honour to visit Mellön and I can’t quite express how excited I am to see such a project emerge in Montreal. I will be following their progress closely and recommend you do too. Best of luck to you Alex and David and remember “even the smallest [brewery] can change the course of the future.”

An Article by Mike Davis

Photography by Noah Forrest