BY STEVE GENTILE AND CATHERINE MOREAU
Every year, the event that I look forward to most is Beerfest aka Le festival mondial de la bière. What started as an excuse to hangout at Windsor Station and drink the entire day, has turned into an annual tradition. However, there is a strategy in order to fully appreciate the experience: arrive early and go during a weekday. This will ensure that you actually get a chance to sample new beers without competing with the crowds and drunkards. To quote my friend Nerio’s shirt that he wore this year “You can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning.” Wise words. I would like to point out that I am in no way a beer expert, but I’ve tried many different varieties throughout the years and have taken a stab at making my own brews.
This year, I was able to sample over 20 beers and some of the delicious food, which is just as important and should not be overlooked. Here are some of the beers that I actually remember drinking (by the way, people told me I had a great time).
1. GRÄTZER AKA GRODZISKIE – LA SUCCURSALE
This is the first beer I got to try from La Succursale Brasserie in Montreal. Gratzer or Grodziskie is a very old fashioned eastern European beer. It has a very unique taste because it is a smoked wheat beer, which really gives it a sausage like smoky flavour. It might sound strange, but it actually works fairly well. Would not want to drink a six pack necessarily, but it’s definitely worth a try.
2. LA TITE’KRISS, LA BRISE DU LAC & LA JOUFLUE – ARCHIBALD MICROBRASSERIE
The second stop was at Archibald Microbrasserie and it was probably one of the best stalls visited all day. Not because they have the fanciest beers at the show, but more for the simple fact that I could picture myself drinking any of these three beers on a regular basis. La Tite’Kriss is an Irish red cream ale that was extremely smooth and would be perfect for barbecue season. La brise du lac is their blonde offering and has a hoppy taste that isn’t overpowering, which makes it refreshing and easy to go down. My girlfriends “coup de coeur” of the day was their white beer named La Jouflue. It has hints of citrus and coriander which make it an ideal summer beverage that is amazingly crisp and interesting to drink.
3. THE BOGFATHER IMPERIAL GRUIT & OISEAU DE NUIT – BEAUS
Next on the list, is the Bogfather Gruit which hails from Beaus, a brewery located in Ontario. Every year, this family run brewery always leaves a lasting impression. The Bogfather is a strange hop-less beer with a powerful blend of flavours that include burnt toast, herbal bitters and cola, just to name a few. It’s is a heavy spicy beer that is enjoyable to sample, but maybe not an everyday beer. Another innovative entry from Beaus was the Oiseau de nuit. This again is brewed without hops and sets itself apart with a blast of pumpkin flavour and cumin. Unlike the Bogfather, I could see myself drinking this regularly, especially during fall.
So at this point, food was in order to help absorb some of the ‘reviews’. First stop, the always important meat on a stick at the Kévy stall. You can never go wrong with bison and wild boar with spicy mustard. With hot meat still warm in my belly I was ready to conquer the rest of the beerfest!
4. LA MACTAVISH IN MEMORIAM – BRASSERIE LE TROU DU DIABLE
The MacTavish in Memoriam was a random pick and, honestly, I was attracted to it because of the large Viking and because it was called a legendary ale. I’m not exactly sure what happened, maybe I got the end of a keg, but this tasted sour and overly hoppy. That said, I gave this Shawinigan native beer another try recently at a restaurant in its bottled format and quite enjoyed the full body and overall flavour.
5. BRASSERIE BENELUX
I had previously tried this American IPA before on site at Brasserie Benelux. It pours cloudy and has a nice citrusy taste with a clean finish. Side Note: Benelux is one of the best places to go for a quick sausage sandwich and beer for a 5 à 7. Definitely worth a visit as they have a very good variety of beers both bottled and on tap.
6. STONE OLD GUARDIAN – STONE BREWING CO.
Stone Brewing Co. describes this as a downright excessive barrely wine. This proved to be correct in the worse way possible. I struggled to finish my half glass because I found the bitterness to be overwhelming and did not enjoy the consistency of it. However, I would like to point out that I am by no means a connoisseur of barrely wines, but this was not a great first impression.
7. CALICE “RANDALL” AMERICAN IPA – LE SAINT-BOCK
Le Saint-Bock is one of the best places to quench your thirst for Belgian beers in Montreal. They have over 600 varieties of bottled beer, so it’s no surprise that you would see them using a “Randall” machine that allows for the infusion of extra hops into the beer before it’s served. This was a first for me and although it may seem a little gimmicky it actually does make for a tasty brew. The beer was an American IPA and the infusion of hops gave it a great organic taste.
Slightly intoxicated, it was a pleasant surprise to see that some food trucks were set up on the outskirts of the Palais des Congrès. I stopped at the P.A. & Gargantua truck which serves gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. I wanted to keep things simple so I went for the bacon grilled cheese. It was a conservative choice, but by no means ordinary: thick slices of bacon with smoked butter and confied green onions. Salty & cheesy – it really hit the spot. Also, my girlfriend wanted me to point out that they have a pretty mean veggie sandwich option. Good times, good friends, good beer, good food…what more could you ask for?
I will be back next year to keep the eight year long tradition going. You can spot me with my friends wearing the ceremonial Beerfest bags on our heads.