Over a two-day span at the Mondial, I sampled as many different styles of beer as possible, as much as my small frame could handle without getting ill or incoherent. So without further ado, here is a review of those places that stood out for one reason or another:
Alexander Keith’s: This was my first beer of the event. Their IPA wasn’t hoppy at all, so my taste buds felt a little bit deceived. (I am quickly learning that beer terminology north of the border is slightly different than what I am used to.)
Rickard’s: a brand name under Molson Coors I almost didn’t go here. However, their hook was beer and cheese pairings. I’m a sucker for a gimmick, especially if it involves cheese. I sampled the White, a Belgian style wheat ale, with a lovely smooth cheese that tasted like brie. Yum.
Benelux: What more can I say that hasn’t already been said? The Cuda was the most authentic tasting IPA I sampled – great balance of hops and full flavored. Kudos to Benoit Mericier, head brewer and his fine staff. I really felt at home here.
Brasseurs de Montreal: I sampled the Chi Orientale, white beer infused with rice, lemongrass and ginger. I was curious. I was not drinking a ginger ale or a flowery tea. I was definitely drinking a beer, and the flavors blended very well together, an excellent and surprising choice!
Boquébière: I sampled the John Hopkins IPA, which was very smooth and tasty. The brewer gave me some Belgian style tripel that wasn’t on the menu, which was deliciously amazing; at 7.5% it packs a punch. Many Québec beers lean towards the Belgian influence, and Boquébière interprets it in a wonderful way.
In my conversations with brewers like Benoit and Phillip at Benelux, I have observed and admired the following: the passion and creativity these people have for their craft is like nothing I have ever witnessed. These brewers strike a delicate balance between art and science, and a true beer lover knows that this is not an easy task.
After waiting in line and in the rain for three hours on the second day, I was tired, damp and achy. I traveled specifically for this, and I wasn’t about to let anything damper my spirits. When the evening was over, I headed to the Cask Ale event at Benelux, which featured local breweries and their cask interpretations. What struck me most about the atmosphere was how all the brewers knew each other, and the sense of camaraderie and revelry after a hard day’s work. Here I was, an Américaine outsider looking in, and I didn’t mind nor feel totally out of place. I sat on the periphery, observing all around me, until Dominic greeted me with a kiss; Phillip, who had forgotten my name, came up to me and said, “Hey, New York!” as I was in the middle of a pleasant conversation with the brewer from Boquébière. Immediately I felt welcome, and not so much of an outsider anymore.
And just like that, the anticipation of a year built up is over in what seems like a nanosecond. I must now wait until 2011, but until then, I will return to my beloved Montreal, visit some of these places, and raise a glass. Jusqu’à la prochaine fois.