Mondial de la Bière – Long (very long) Report

Reflecting on Mondial de la Bière, after three days of tasting (and one more morning to go!) I have determined that this may be the best beer festival I’ve ever attended. Unfortunately I don’t have the means to share photos, but I do have a little (okay – a lot) – to say.

Montreal is a great city.  We haven’t seen as much of it as I’d like, what I’ve experienced leaves me wanting more. The pubs are fabulous and plentiful.  There is a wealth of culture here – the diversity is outstanding.  It is clean, trendy, attractive and eclectic.  And the festival – our raison d’être – is c’est magnifique!  These are just a few of the things I’ve listed:

Pros:

  1. five days of tasting – you don’t have to pack it all into one day or a four-hour session; doors open at 11 AM each day, close at 10 PM and participants have in/out privileges
  2. taste as much or as little as you like – buy as many tickets as you care to, and taste as many beers as you like; very few of the breweries seemed to run out of any particular beer (we missed out on a rhubarb beer, but that’s about it!)
  3. BYO-glass is acceptable as long as it is 12-oz or less
  4. friendly folks running the booths – willing to talk and share
  5. open door – come and go as you like (well, if you get there late and there is a crowd, they do make a line out the door…)
  6. tasting areas that are both outdoor and indoor (under a glass ceiling so it feels kind of like outdoor); Windsor Station and Courtyard is a wonderful place for a festival
  7. the French pavilion, which included 16 exhibitors, 13 of which are microbreweries and one of which was Thiriez (a brewery we fell in love with after Chris and Jen treated us to a bottle at Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, ME)
  8. outstanding restroom facilities – ample, clean, spacious and fully functional (complete with a hook on the door designed just for my mug!)

Cons:

  1. five days of tasting where you can taste as much or as little as you like – we like, so we spent a lot of cash!

So what have we had?  Well, we made it a point to taste all of the award winning beers and as many of the 15 anniversary mashes created just for the festival. 

  • Awards were given to twelve breweries for a variety of beers. Among them, I particularly enjoyed Aphrodisiaque from Dieu du Ciel – a stout that tasted rich in chocolate and vanilla (kind of like a stout milkshake.)
  • For the 15th anniversary, Mondial dela Bière has teamed with places such as À la fût (creators of La Survivante), Brutopia (creators of African ale Nigerian Nectar), Dieu du Ciel (creators of Double Triple), Broue Pub Brouhaha (creators of Special B) and La Barberie (creators of Sangri-Bière.)

My favorite brewery of the festival? That honor goes to Hopfenstark.  They are cool guys with great vision and beer integrity. They work hard to make a perfect product, and won’t compromise for popularity.  The Baltic Porter De L’Ancier With Maple Syrup was by far one of the best beers at the festival, and they carried an impressive number of saisons: Station 10 (a sour beer which won a platinum medal!), Saison Station 16 (rye beer) and Saison Station 55(bitter and hoppy.)

Some of the more distinctive beers were La Carotte from Microbrasserie du Lievre (a beer brewed with carrot), Viotlette (made with Aizelles (?) and violets) and Verte (made with Denepi) both from Mont Blanc and Juliette from Brasserie Uberach.

In addition to plenty of beer, we have made plenty of new friends and enjoyed spending time with friend who are not so new to our lives. 

  • Our Thursday night table at Dieu du Ciel grew from four to fourteen as friends came and left. With sixteen of their own beers on tap, and all of them right on, it was hard to make a choice!
  • On Friday evening, we had a great cookout on the deck, which just happens to straddle the property of our friend Josh (party host) AND the bed and breakfast where we are staying. Several of the attendees were MontreAlers, and it was great fun to meet them.  Josh bought a wide selection of cheeses and beers (mostly from Vermont), and D brought a large selection of beers from our cellar. One of the stars that night was Stonecutter Scotch Alefrom Renaissance Brewing Company in Marlborough, NZ.
  • Saturday morning started with a trip to Metro Joanette – a grocery store where we found an awesome beer selection, which I hope to write about it a later post because of our À l’Abri de la Tempête find…
  • Saturday afternoon we left the festival with Beth, Jim, Mark and Matt, and we met up with Cornelia and Ray, forming an impromptu pub crawl!  We started out at the microbrewery L’Amer à Boire for Czech lager and stout, then moved down the street to Le Saint Bock, where they brewed their own beers and served plenty of other products on draft and in a wide array of bottles. Next we went to Le Cheval Blanc for a quick visit before taking a cab all the way down to Vices & Versa where 29 Canadian beers were available (and none of them Molson!) I particularly enjoyed Postcolonial IPAfrom Hopfenstark and Hoppy – an IPA from Brasseurs et frères.
  • Tired of all the same food at every single pub (nachos, chips, frittes, pizza and pannini), D and I found a nice little Peruvian restaurant called Chicho, where we had a great meal before returning to Josh’s apartment to dig back into the bottle tasting
    • My pick of the night was Rock Art Double IPA;
    • Josh chose Green Flash Imperial IPA as his favorite;
    • Troy liked the Otto’s Double D IPA and the Smuttynose Wheat Wine quite a bit, but his pick of the night was the 2007 Dark Lord Imperial Stout (even in comparison to the 2008 Dark Lord);
    • D was most impressed by the 2005 Bushwakker Wheat Wine (which we are calling a “double import”, since it traveled from Saskatewan to PA for cellaring, and now to Quebec.

Obviously I have a lot to say about this trip, and really, I could keep going, but it’s seriously time for bed.  I’m going to slack on the links for tonight, and sign off.

 

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Mondial de la Biere – Short Report

So much to taste, so little time to write! I assumed I would have time to make daily reports, but it’s been a whirlwind of activity in Montreal. We had a great trip north with no stops along the way, and arrived in Burlington Wednesday night. Beth and Jim were terrific hosts, showing us the Burlington beer scene (we visited Magic Hat, American Flat Bread – where there is a cask ale festival going on!!!), Vermont Pub and Brewery and Three Needs.) And our days in Montreal with Josh and company have been great – beautiful walks through the city down to the festival, and taste after taste of terrific beer from Canada and France. Later in the day and evening, we’ve been meeting up with friends from the States – just a few of the interesting people we’ve been hanging with are Cornelia Corey and Ray McCoy (Beer Drinkers of the year, 2001 and 2003 respectively), Lew Bryson and Jack Curtin . The rest of the list is just too long to write….

We spent an entire evening at Dieu du Ciel! and had lunch yesterday at Benelux. Hopefully I’ll have a full report later, but right now there is more beer to be had….

Have a Beer (Before You Die)

All About Beer has created a list called “125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die,” and I was thrilled to see that Selin’s Grove Brewing Company made the list. 

I was initially disappointed at their placement of #45, but in reading the associated article, I don’t see anything stating this is a ranked list (as in, you are better off having a beer at the seats on top of the Green Monster in Fenway Park in Boston at #16 than you are having one at Cantillon Brewery and Gueuze Museum in Belgium at #90.)  With that in mind, I find the list to be much more palatable.

I know that All About Beer won’t keep this article on the forefront of their website, so I’m copying the text here for posterity.  I think it’s important that the list be read with an understanding of how it was created and why.

The Growler List: 125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die
By Rick Lyke

Beer drinkers are particular not only about what they drink, but also where they drink. We all have our favorite places to enjoy a cold one. Some are laid back and relaxing. Others are loud and rollicking. Because beer is such a social beverage, our favorite places to sip a brew are often where our friends gather, or a pub where you can make new friends almost from the minute you arrive.

All About Beer has been chronicling great watering holes for nearly three decades. In the process our writers have come up with a few favorite places of their own. The following list is an attempt to bring together the 125 best places in the world to have a beer. The Growler List, if you will. With any list of this sort, we fully expect it will cause some debate and even a few arguments. More art than science went into constructing this list, but we can assure you that having a beer at any location on this list is a special experience.

We hope your favorite place is on the list. If its not, let us hear about it. After all, we are always in search of the next great place to have a pint.

This week, I’m heading to Mondial de la Bière in Montreal (Quebec), which is on the list at #17.  While I’m sure I’ll have a great time, I can bet money I’d rather be drinking my beer at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern in Monroe, WI on the list at #88.  If for no other reason, there aren’t crowds of people there, and I speak the language.

Carl Melissas – An Artist at Work

Approximately 16 months ago, I had a Carl Melissas beer on the very night he left Green Man.  Prior to that it had been several years – as far back as his days at Bullfrog Brewery.  I knew he would be surfacing again, but unsure how soon.

So I was thrilled to learn details from Asheville beer friends James and Tony that Carl’s beers will be available possibly by the end of the month!  The Wedge Brewing Co. is located at 151 Roberts Street in the French Broad River Arts District of Asheville, NC and Carl has begun production on Iron Rail IPA, which will be available at the tasting room. Citizen-Times has five photos of the place.

Carl is a beer artist, and during his time at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA (approximately September 2002 through January 2004) he created some wonderfully creative brews, such as Organic Carob Maple Porter, Raspberry Imperial Stout and Flander’s Golden Ale. Between his years at Bullfrog and Green Man, he was brewing in Georgia. I was thrilled on my first trip to Asheville to learn that he was there, and thoroughly enjoyed his IPA on cask at Green Man in February 2006. I understand that he also brought many fabulous beers to the people of Asheville during his Green Man years (among them, the award-winning Belgian-style Merlin Tripel at 8.4% ABV and Golem – a Belgian strong ale described as “spicy and hoppy, with a sweet, pear-like flavor that finishes dry and slightly bitter” – at 8.8% ABV.)

And now Wedge Gallery owner Tim Schaller is putting his money on Carl to do great things for the Asheville beer scene.

I credit Carl (or at least the results of his work) for helping me get through one of the more painful times in my life – frequent long drives from Harrisburg to Williamsport and back to visit my dying grandfather were comforted by his inventive offerings. Some nights I just stopped in for a half-pint, other times I would dine with my family or bring home a growler. I’ve heard negative commentary on his personal appearance and his business sense, but I have never heard an adverse criticism on his ability to create fabulous beer.

Congratulations to Carl and to Asheville. I look forward to seeing how things go, and hope we can visit soon!

A Reason to Return to Hanover

I’m finally catching up on all of my beer news, and just ran across an article on Hanover Brewing Company.  We’ve been hearing about this for a long time now, but it sounds like opening day going to be a reality.  The building they are renovating is at 600 W. Elm Ave in Hanover, PA.

There is a website where interested parties can register to get updates.  It is possible that the beer refugees will have a reason to return to Hanover soon.

A Brewery in Union County?

I received some news from Russ at Copper Kettle Brewery in Millmont, PA.  He says they are open for business and are available for tastings by appointment only.

At this time they are not filling growlers but hope to in the near future. The styles they are making are Porter, Wheat, Belgian Dubbel, and Grand Cru.

The address listed for Copper Kettle Brewery is 339 Fairground Road in Millmont, PA.  The phone number on the website is (270)342-1638 – an Internet phone number, so the 270 area code IS correct.

The website was available earlier, but it was not informative (and at this moment, is not available.) Russ said it will be updated by the end of the week.  I’ll see what I can find out from friends and family in the area, and perhaps get a chance to check it out myself very soon!

Beer and Birds with the Brits

It was worth all of the pains of preparation to spend a little more than a week with our friends from England, mostly touring the state of Pennsylvania in search of birds, but taking in plenty of good beer, too.  Mike and Rae were terrific house guests and it was a lot of fun taking them all around our state.

Things really got started on Friday when we took off for Pittsburgh (that’s also when the weather took a turn for the worse, but we made the best of it.)  Between raindrops, we searched the flooded fields and swollen lakes for birds, and had a really great time of it – Red-Headed Woodpeckers; Caspian, Common and Black Terns; Common Loon; Ruddy Duck; Green Heron.  There were lots of great birds out there which were enjoyable to watch when the rain slowed.

Inside, we found lots of great beer. Our first stop was lunch at the Jean Bonnet where were one of best beers we had was Monkey Boy from East End Brewing Company.  We were pleased when we checked into the Four Points Sheraton in Cranberry.  It appears that the Chief Beer Officer (CBO) has been doing his job – among other decent beers, they had Arrogant Bastard in bomber bottles which we shared and introduced to the Keuhl’s (who continued to enjoy it all weekend.)  Later that night, we headed out to Mad Mex where my beer was the always-yummy Ithaca Flower Power.

On Saturday, we had a fabulous morning walk at Raccoon Creek State Park, which was full of woodland birds.  The hills allowed us to get great views of the treetops, and the birds were abundant.  Acadian Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager and Red-Eyed Vireo were among the long list of birds observed. And after a nice walk, we looked forward to lunch with a small group of friends at Church Brew Works where I especially enjoyed my short glass of Pipe Organ Pale Ale on cask. The visit to “church” was followed up by a visit to East End Brewing to pick up a bottle of Gratitude and do a bit of tasting.

As part of my campaign to “Take Back the Basement in 2008,” I was not opposed to having a few people up to our room later that night for a little tasting. Since it was the conference hotel, a steady stream of visitors came through the door, and we ridded ourselves of a little more than a case, attempting to match people to new beers.

Sunday was windy, cold and wet, but our patience paid off while looking for our target bird – Upland Sandpiper – in the reclaimed strip mines.  What better way to celebrate a good day in Butler County than by going to North Country Brewing Company for lunch, and then taking a great walk at Buttermilk Hill. Our friends Kathie and Jerry hosted all four of us, and helped us target a few key species such as Purple Finch and Swainson’s Thrush. Kathie even sent Jerry out with hot hors d’oeuvres and excellent beer (Eel River Triple Exhultation Ale was the favorite of our crew) while we waited for the Woodcock to make his appearance.

In the morning, we took a great walk down to French Creek, where we got excellent views of a Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-throated Green, Cerulean Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo. It was quite a day and, as always, a great visit, but we had more beer and birds ahead.

Monday afternoon was filled with birding in Cook Forest State Park, several attempts for Henslow’s Sparrow (which were met with success at Troy Hill Road outside Phillipsburg.)  The skies cleared and the winds slowed as we approached State College, so we spent our evening in the Scotia Barrens, where Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock and Whip-poor-wills were abundant (and we also saw Striped Skunk!) There was no better way to celebrate these elusive birds than to enjoy a really nice dinner (crab cakes for Mike and I) at Otto’s Pub & Brewery where pitchers of Arthur’s Mild Ale were on special. Our British friends discovered Double D IPA, which has long been one of my favorites and quickly became one of theirs.

Things looked positive on Tuesday, and we headed over to Bald Eagle State Park for several things, including Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Golden-winged Warbler and, of course, Bald Eagle. From there, we drove north to East Branch Swamp Natural Area in the Sproul State Forest. We had some nice mixed flocks on the way there and also in the swamp, but the rain began to fall heavily, so we changed our plan a bit and headed to Woolrich for a little shopping instead. This ended out chances for finding our English friends a porcupine or black bear, but the rain and wind were extremely frustrating.

Next, it was time for lunch, and we were very close to Williamsport, so Bullfrog Brewery was our destination. With my lunch, I particularly enjoyed a glass of Chocolate Bock, described by the brewery as “a rich, dark German-styled bock beer brewed with eleven pounds of Belgian dark chocolate,” weighing in at 6.8% ABV and served in a 12-oz glass. D enjoyed an Imperial pint of Coffee Cream Stout, described as “a coffee and beer lovers delight” with “10 pounds of freshly roasted Sumatran Mandling coffee and 55 pounds of lactose giving this beer a smooth and creamy coffee flavor,” and measuring 5.8% ABV. And being big fans, of course we got a growler of the Smoked Porter to take home and share with D’s parents. Mike and Rae discovered our family favorite – Edgar IPA – which they enjoyed immensely.

Lunch was followed up by a visit to Bavarian Barbaraian where we finally got to have our taster of Weldspatter IPA which poured a dark amber with a large, creamy head and an herbal aroma. It had a heavy, bitter hop flavor and very little sweetness – it is well balanced and well done. We took a growler of that home, too.  It was nice to hang out a bit with the Heller’s and chat, and for the ride home, the weather cleared a bit.

We stopped off at Weaver’s, which is an Amish farm market and bakery on Route 15 with fresh vegetables, plants, jams, and delicious baked goods such as bread, whoopie pies, fruited pies and cookies. It is just south of Port Trevorton on the Susquehanna River, and should not be missed.  We went home with Shoofly pie, blueberry pie, rhubarb pie, two kinds of whoopie pie, raisin-filled cookies and seven-grain bread.

I had to return to work on Wednesday, but D made sure Mike and Rae made the best of their last two days of birding in PA.  They also got a chance to visit Tröegs, and last night, we tripped up to Selin’s Grove Brewing for supper (joined by Nana and Pop, and Tina, who just flew in from Germany.) Several of us enjoyed the SNAFU IPA, which was on cask, and I had my glass of Phoenix Kreik. I hear rumor that for a final beer stop, they did go to Sly Fox Brewing today, but haven’t gotten details on which pub or what was tasted.

It was a busy little tour, and we’re so glad we finally had an opportunity to take them around our state. They went home with healthy bird lists, and a nice taste for the beers available to us in PA, and it was brilliant fun for us to be in their company.

Nor’ Easter in May

With visitors from out of town at the house and a spike of good weather, it seemed like the ideal night for an impromptu picnic. Friends gathered in the backyard, D fired up the charcoal, and soon we were having the first picnic of the season!

There were lots of good things to drink, but the beer of the night came toward the end of the night, when we broke out the Nor’ Easter Winter Warmer (Batch 2) from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

It is described as a Belgian dark ale brewed with elderberries and aged in bourbon barrels. It is an extremely dark brown to deep purple, only letting bits of light flow through on the edges of the glass. It has very little carbonation, and the thin head in a purplish tan. The scent of bourbon mixed well with that of dark fruit and roasted malts. That scent translated into flavor as tart fruit, chocolate and alcohol, and a slight oak flavor added to the finish.

This was an excellent choice, and I was glad only three people were sharing the 750 mL bottle.