Posted on December 1, 2009 by Liz
Recently the Steam Whistle Production Team visited Montreal to visit their wide selection of micro-breweries and brew-pubs. We loaded up a super-slick party-bus full of people and beer. The bus was driven by our friend Tara, who talks to her GPS as if it were a human.
24 people. I remarked: “This is what a 2-4 of people looks like.” We were in for a trip! A beer was instantly cracked as the engine fired up, and five of us toasted the trip before the bus left the driveway.
The first stop was Beau’s in Vankleek Hill, Ontario. Vankleek Hill, for the record, is near Hawkesbury, east of Ottawa. We were welcomed with open arms and open taps. It was nice to see that Beau’s, like Steam Whistle, offers its thirsty guests a taste immediately upon entering the building. I opted for their IPA, while many of my colleagues trying the Lug-Head, which is Beau’s “lagered-ale.” Beau’s is located in a farming area, and it carries that vibe. In fact, they embrace it by using a tractor as their symbol! Perhaps they should change their name to Beau’s Beer Farm.
Our first stop in la Belle Province was Brasseurs de Montreal, a fantastic little brew-pub on Ottawa Street. They offered a wide variety of beers. I began to notice similarities between Quebec beer and Belgian beer, in their passion for Blondes and Blanches. One of their more exotic beers was a ginger-lemongrass wheat beer! Brasseur de Montreal also fed us a very nice meal. I felt a strong desire to eat lots of bread to soak up the copious amounts of beer I sampled.
We then checked in to the hotel and then visited Brutopia. I tried their dark pilsner and their stout. And their IPA. Then the washroom. Then the dark pilsner again. Then the washroom again. Then the shuffleboard table. Brutopia, for the record, does not offer sample-sized drinks, so all the above figures are in pints!
The final brewery of the evening was Les 3 Brasseurs. I remember trying their wheat beer and finding it very enjoyable. Then having another one. After that…
The next day we started our day bright and brutally early. Our first stop was Boreal. They offer a wide variety of beers, but it was too early for them to offer us any to try. For some reason I was surprised that they cared about liquor laws in Quebec! We got to see the plant in action. Their robotic skid-stacker was very impressive and had our Steam Whistle skid-stacker Gibbs wanting a chance to race it! They were extremely generous, giving us each a 12-pack to take home.
We then visited Montreal’s Canada Malting facility where barley grains are malted for brewing beer. It was very interesting to see the shear volume of barley that is dedicated to making beer. Such an excellent use of one of our natural resources!
Only ten of us were still standing at 3pm when we visited Dieu du Ciel. They are a tiny little place that in my opinion made the finest beers we tried. Luc the brewer led us through their menu of Stouts, IPAs, Blondes, Ambers, Blanches, and even a beer spiced with pepper. We did a lot of research in a very short amount of time, including their 9% Imperial Stout.
The rest of the evening was a blur of brewpubs, bars, and finally some familiar Steam Whistle back at the hotel. Another ridiculously early morning start and we were homeward bound.
Quebec offers an interestingly different beer drinking experience than Ontario, and perhaps the rest of Canada. They are loyal to their beer and it’s really hard to crack into that market for out-of-province beer companies. Their passion lies not so much in making bold and outrageous beers, but creating well balanced and unique beers that can hold their own on the international scale. Au revoir!
The pictures: Beau’s IPA, Brutopia’s Dark Pilsner, Canada Malting, me and Gibbs at Dieu du Ciel, the table after a round at Dieu du Ciel, me enjoying a Steam Whistle in the hotel lobby (totally legal by the way!).