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Oakes Weekly - April 3, 2003

A visit to Montreal...
Beer Travels April 3, 2003      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

<P>This past weekend it was nice to get out on the road, up to Montreal. I know it’s different for Americans, but in Canada there are no statutory holidays between New Year’s Day and Good Friday. It also happens that the winter was very bitter this winter in Toronto, so I was going insane from cabin fever.

<P>I always try to combine other activities with my beer trips (I mean that, really I do), but as few of you really care about things like capybaras, 100 year old sturgeons and Montreal bagels, I’ll just stick to the beer.

<P>The first stop was Métro Joannette, a quality store carrying most Quebec micros. Usually it would be all, but they’d sold out of the Charlevoix 8e Jour I was hoping to score. About the only thing new that I left on the shelf was the $25 magnums of Schoune Gueuze, since normally one can buy lambic from that brewery in its small bottles with all kinds of different labels, if you know what I mean. I really wish they’d fix that, because they make some nice products.

<P>The brewpub 3 Brasseurs was the setting for the first beer of the day. Radek had tagged along on this trip, and we met muzzlehatch at the 3 Brasseurs. Those guys weren’t huge fans of the beers there, but I at least enjoyed the Blanche de Lille, though it was my first witbier in a while and I love witbiers.

<P>From there we headed north to Dieu du Ciel!, which is a favourite among the city’s beer community. MartinT and Simon_Patrice were there, and Martin had arranged for brewer Jean-Francois Gravel to join us for a few. One of the things I really love about this place is the wide range of beers. There are often ten beers on tap, in a wide range of styles. The flagship Charbonnière was not available, which was too bad because it’s my favourite of their regulars. The spring seasonal, titled Equinox de Printemps, was a Scotch Ale with maple syrup – big, complex, deep flavours. I especially enjoyed the way the maple was built in so as to add a little something without taking anything away from the Scotch Ale presentation.

<P>Things got serious from there. Beers like McNeill’s Imperial Stout, Dogfish Head Raison d’Extra, and DDC’s own coffee imperial stout Péché Mortelle and barley wine Equinox d’Hiver made appearances, offering bigger, bolder flavours, each appealing to their own drinker. The Mortelle was a big hit overall, though I personally just don’t like coffee beers (though I admit it was quite well made). Jean-Francois also grabbed a bottle of Rigor Mortis Abt, which apparently they aren’t releasing just yet, as it still needs aging. Maybe I was getting tipsy, but I disagree because I thought this beer was fantastic. It is, to my mind, ready to go right now.

<P>From DDC, the natives left us and we headed for another recent edition to the Montreal brewpub scene. (There are seven brewpubs in Montreal all told, a testament to the that that unlike Ontario, it is easier to open a brewpub than a micro in Quebec). Réservoir is a trendy kind of place, and one that seemed utterly unprepared to host three visiting beer geeks. The crowd were predominantly young, well-dressed chain smokers, which was a strike against to begin with. They didn’t really do samplers, but allowed free tastes of each beer, but only to one of us because they only had a couple of spare small-sized glasses. After we’d all managed to annoy the bartenders by asking for samples when clearly that was not something the wanted to do, we determined that the beers weren’t very interesting and it was time to move on.

<P>Radek took off, and muzzlehatch and I went to Amère A Boire. Sometimes I forget that while most Montrealers speak English, they’re not always fluent, and may not understand my flat, slurred accent and proprietary dialect. And that, I presume, is how I came to have eight samples in front of me when I only ordered three. I’d finished two of the ones I wanted when the food arrived, and the others were all various shades of amber, so I lost track of which was which and just rated those first two.

<P>The last stop was Cheval Blanc, the retro-diner style bar that exemplifies Montreal’s “lived-in” feel, especially coming from spit-polished, bland Toronto. I was starting to lose my focus, but picked it up long enough to enjoy a hugely aromatic Sarrasin (“buckwheat”) and a firm Triple de Mars, which was more like a strong bière de garde, before heading off to sleep.

<P>The weekend wasn’t done, though, and on the way home we stopped at the Kingston Brewing Company, Ontario’s oldest brewpub, to check out their wares. Not only do they make their own beer, but cider and wine as well. The strong cider and cranberry apple cider were acceptable, I didn’t try the wine. I went with a very Ontarioan meal of a grilled ham and cheese made with Ontario cheddar and peameal bacon. The best beer in the house by far was Dragon’s Breath Pale Ale – a bitter English pale of some quality, rather different than the former Hart Brewing beer that borrowed (some say stole) its name. Radek enjoyed his halibut with jam and whipped cream, accompanied by a glass of fish cider.

<P>All in all, a far-too-brief but successful Montreal invasion, although we did fail to connect with dhurtubise and his merry band of CABA (Canadian Amateur Brewer’s Association) members on their annual March in Montreal weekend. I’d been on that same event back in 1998 and had a lot of fun. Weekends like that are why I hunt beers. Coming back and seeing some of the foolishness that had gone on in my absence on the other hand…



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start quote Radek enjoyed his halibut with jam and whipped cream, accompanied by a glass of fish cider. end quote