I spent a good chunk of the holiday season in la belle province. I wasn’t there to seek out beer, but for good times in general. That being said, I did manage to get to a few beer spots and I was not disappointed. I’ve often been told that Quebec produces most of the best beer in Canada, but I’ve only managed to thus far sample the odd Dieu du Ciel or Trou du Diable that makes it to Vancouver. While those are great beers, they don’t represent a whole province… or do they? Turns out Quebec brews a lot of good beer and I got my hands on some of the best of it. If it wasn’t so damned cold, I’d say Quebec is Canada’s beer heaven.
I commenced my beer explorations in Montreal and I did not get off to a good start. First off, Les 3 Brasseurs. Meh, with a capital M. These pubs are all over and the beer is very below average, so give this one a miss.
Next stop was Brutopia, which was a bit better, but they served me a horribly oxidized pint that I sent back. I send back about one beer every year or two, so that give you an idea of how bad it was. The pub at least had character, worth going to if you’re in the area.
I was beginning to doubt Montreal’s brewing prowess until I stumbled upon Le Saint Bock on charming rue St. Denis. They brew their own beer and also serve good stuff from other Quebecois craft brewers. It was here that I first sampled Les Trois Mousquetaires Réserve de Noël, which assuaged my doubts completely. This is a great place and worth checking out.
Another good but not overly amazing brewpub is Bennelux Brasserie. It’s a modern brewpub and quite close to the McGill and the city centre. The beer is pretty good, again worth it if you’re in the neighbourhood.
Now for the good stuff…
Vices & Versa
I looked this place up, saw some good reviews, and then decided not to go there because it was a ways out of the way. Then I met up with a local former colleague, who said we should go. I’m glad a listened because this place is fantastic, like the Alibi Room of Montreal. It’s not just a great beer bar, but likely one of the best of the world, and every beer on the menu comes from Quebec. They post their current beer list online here. Mine was different, more Christmasy, but you get the idea. I ended up ordering three tasting trays, each with six 4oz tasters (which I shared somewhat). Of the 18 beers I tasted, most were good to great and none were bad. I loved this place and highly recommend it.
Good times at Vices & Versa, pays to know a local
Dieu du Ciel!
Most everyone into beer in Canada knows about these guys; their reputation is well earned. Visiting their cozy brewpub in Montreal is a pilgrimage we beer geeks must make, and I finally did it. This is my happy place. The neighbourhood and atmosphere are both great, and then the beer is fantastic. I think we tasted twelve beers there. Outside the regular lineup, the standouts were Disco Soleil, a kumquat IPA, Solstoce D’Été, a sour wheat beer with prunes, and Chaman, an imperial pale ale. Love this place, a must visit.
I made it! You might not be able to see the sign, but this is Dieu du Ciel
I want to taste them all! Dieu du Ciel and chocolate
On the outside, and even on the first half of the inside, this place looks like a shitty corner store, complete with gross rolling hot dogs. As you get to the back of the store, it turns into beer wonderland. I’ve never seen so many beers from one area (Quebec) available in one place. They have a Legacy sized beer section, but then 95% of the beer is from Quebec. I asked one of the guys working there to point me towards the best examples of Quebecois beer. He showed me at least twenty before I eventually stopped paying attention because it was too much to handle. I did end up with Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus and Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique, plus a few (seven) others. Had to drink those that wouldn’t fit in the suit case, oh well!
Too many choices at Depanneur Peluso..
Places I missed
There are a lot of brewpubs in Montreal and there wasn’t time (or liver) enough for all over them. I would have liked to visit Brouhaha, Hopfenstark Station, Cheval Blanc, and la Succursale.
Rad Montreal Food Things
Montreal is a big city with a lot going for it. I would be remiss not to mention some of the great food experiences we had. Interestingly, we noticed and enjoyed the abundant use of foie gras and maple syrup, totally goes with everything.
We didn’t do as much in Quebec City as we’d hoped, mostly because of the -30 degree or worse temperatures. I wanted to check out Bateau de Nuit, a supposedly cozy bar with a solid Quebecois beer list, and La Barberie, a coop brewpub.
We did get to Depanneur La Duchesse d’Aiguillon, which is almost as good as Peluso, just smaller. I picked up a few bottles and then hibernated indoors. We also hit up Pub St. Alexandre, which was fine but a bit disappointing. Their good stuff was mostly bottled and from Belgium. Not bad, but not what I wanted in Quebec.
Is it worth it?
Yes, Quebec makes great beer. Montreal is a fantastic city to explore, for beer lovers and just anyone. Even thought it’s a five hour flight and they speak a different language, it’s still Canada too. You should go to there.