Montreal is one of the great brewpub-crawling cities in the world. There are seven brewpubs. Some are clustered and some are spaced out, so you can get a break on a couple of different stretches but you’re not spending too much time in between establishments or criss-crossing the length and breadth of the town. The beers at most of them are of considerable character, and they’re open very late (3am) so you can take your sweet time and still make it to all of them, should you be so inclined.
MartinT, mr_kimchee and myself (along with two non-Ratebeerians) started at Brutopia. This is the English brewpub, located on the trendy Crescent Street strip of downtown, in the English part of town. It is a fair distance from the other brewpubs and as such I’ve passed it by on every visit to town since 1997. That’s why I made a point of stopping by on this trip.
We tried most of their beers, and I found them all to have the same cloying sweetness, which I attributed to incomplete fermentation. Sure enough, the brewer has seven days to get from boil to pint glass. Now, Brutopia does well, business-wise. They sell a lot of their own beer and the place gets a good crowd, due in no small part to their location. But to only ferment your beers for seven days leaves them feeling not only syrupy, but incomplete in terms of roundness and complexity. The flavours aren’t integrated very well, and I really didn’t like any of them. Not even the Nut Brown, which I loved on my previous visit.
The next stop was to the three brewpub triangle centered on Rue St-Denis and Rue Ontario. South of the intersection is 3 Brasseurs, a part of the French brewpub chain. Amazingly, they broke free from their colonial masters and introduce a distinct product of their own, an Imperial Stout. We checked it out. As usual, the service there was quite slow, and the imperial stout wasn’t on the menu. The first waitress thought we were speaking Tibetan to her when we asked for it. The bartender at least knew what we meant. I found the required elements for the style to be present, but they didn’t come together very well in the glass. The roast was quite assertive, and I think that distracted my palate from the other elements. It’s not quite up to snuff yet, but I feel that it does have potential. Otherwise, the only real reason to visit 3 Brasseurs is the Blanche de Lille, a tasty witbier.
North of the intersection is Amère à Boire, a brewpub that does more lagers, with a few ales thrown in for fun. They don’t rotate their lineup as much as someone like Dieu du Ciel does, but they did recently introduce a Münchner Hell. I was less impressed with this beer than the others were – they raved about it – finding it a somewhat straightforward example, without enough conviction in the bready malts.
I also tried the Cerna Hora, which is their basic pilsner. For some reason, I’d not tasted this beer in four previous visits. Back in 1997, I had a Cerna Hora Rousse, which I guess was a one-off. But each time I visited the pub, I got confused and since the Rousse wasn’t very good I never bothered with the Cerna Hora. This oversight being clarified for me, I ordered one and found it a decent rendition of a Czech pils. Amère also had an Imperial Stout on offer.
East of the intersection is Le Cheval Blanc. This brewpub used to be associated with the bottling micro of the same name, but now has decoupled itself from that operation. The funky 1950’s interior makes it a popular place to this day, and I love the atmosphere there. They had a new beer on as well, an assertive Märzen that I loved. Big toasty malts and background leafy hop notes – not the most traditional example of the style but I’m a big fan of this interpretation.
I also tried a corianderish Saison, a somewhat unexciting attempt at the style; and a Pale Ale with some sweetish citrus notes and lingering bitterness.
From there, it’s a long walk north to the next round of pubs. We skipped both Réservoir, which is between those previous three and DDC, and also the Sergeant Recruteur, which is known mainly for its excellent stout, Ténébreuse. Dieu du Ciel was the destination of choice, and always a good place to finish a pub crawl on Montreal. Like Cheval Blanc, it is basically a beer den. They don’t sell much besides their own beer, and that’s really all anyone is drinking. DDC does have some food, however, but they’re not known for that. All week the famous Peché Mortel was on tap, but we arrived to find it gone. Moreover, there were only five of their own beers on at all, and you can’t really count Païenne, the token golden ale. This is the second time in a row that Charbonière, the smoked ale I enjoy so much, was unavailable.
With just five to choose from, I had a pint of Élixir Céleste, a very nice Bohemian pils, and Dance Macabre, a rather spicy new tripel. At that point, it was decided to call it an evening, slightly earlier than planned. We walked a block north for some fresh-from-the-oven bagels and then retired.
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But to only ferment your beers for seven days leaves them feeling not only syrupy, but incomplete in terms of roundness and complexity. The flavours aren’t integrated very well, and I really didn’t like any of them.