Since The Guru wasn’t able to make the trip to the 2010 Mondial de la Bière in Montreal, Quebec, he asked me to offer some thoughts on the event.
First, the disclaimers. I am not a beer judge and I have not been brewing beer for any real measurable amount of time. I love beer, especially big dark porters and stouts, and hoppy ales. I work with The Guru at the South Royalton Market, and have tried my best to absorb some of the wisdom he passes along, but I’m the first to admit that I am more like the Karate Kid at the beginning of the movie; still painting the fence.
My whirlwind trip — 30 hours including driving time — to Montreal was planned to coincide with the beer festival, but also in order to visit with friends who recently had a new baby. I spent about two-and-a-half hours at Mondial de la Bière on the second day of the 5-day event. Because I tend to focus on big beers, it was probably a good thing I didn’t have more time … especially since my host and I were expected at a birthday cocktail party immediately afterward.
The event location was a nice mixture of indoor and outdoor space. The exhibitors did an excellent job of making their mini pubs look inviting from the front, with colourful displays and menus, as well as attractive young ladies to pour drinks. However, the all-white tents against the all-white floors didn’t give one much to look at while sampling the brews.
Perhaps that was a feature rather than a bug, intended to get visitors to spend more time with the barmaids. Problem was, other than the rare exception none of them knew much about the beers other than their colour and type. To be fair, this was true of the handsome young men who were occasionally pouring beers. I mention this, because as a novice brewer I wanted to ask questions. Some of the vendors had their brewers on-site, but not all of them. I noticed soon after that most of the brewers were gathering in little groups, comparing notes, and sharing stories. Ah-ha. Made more sense then.
I know, enough with the whinging about having to talk to good looking women while drinking beer. What about the beers? Well, there were too many to count, and certainly too many to drink in such a short time. Even attending all 5 days of the event this would have been a challenge. The complete list of exhibitors can be found in PDF on the Mondial de la Bière in Montreal site. This event is a great deal. Entrance is free, and we got the combo pack with a nice souvenir glass and 12 tasting tickets. Most tastings were 2 tickets, with a few of the bigger brews at 3-4. The samples are very generous, and there were washing stations set up so one could clean their souvenir glass between tastings.
The selection and the time limit meant that whenever possible we would focus on the most local of the breweries, with a required visit to a personal fave, Dieu du Ciel!, where I tried the Rigor Mortis Abt (10.5%). My vague notes tell me that I tried a delicious beer from Beau’s, an “all natural” brewery based in Vankleek Hill, Ontario called Beaver River I.P.eh? (5.5%). I also tried a cask conditioned “Post Colonial IPA” (6.5%), apparently one of the regular beers brewed at Hopfenstark in L’Assomption, Quebec. This was my favourite beer of the day. Another Québécoise brewery in attendance was Les Trois Mousquetaires. Their booth attendant — while not the head brewer — knew the beers and had the wisdom to have small plastic cups for free tastings, which he shared. We tried a few things, but what stood out for me was the Weizenbock (9%). It was explained to me that it was originally around 11%, and while still good, it was apparently a little sweeter than desired. They are rightfully proud of this new recipe. The brewery that was the greatest distance from Montreal that I tried was Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (8.7% 90 IBU).
I really had a grand time, and the Bixi bike ride back to my friend’s house was exciting, as we negotiated Montreal traffic while buzzing! There were really only two things missing from this event: more time to wander and drink, and the presence of The Guru to guide me. Hopefully both of those things will be remedied next year. Thanks for your time, and thanks to The Guru for the use of the blog.