Reason #5 to come to Montréal: Québec artisan beer
Beer has been part of the Québec tradition since the early days of the New France colonies, favored by the colonials to wine or cider. In those days, beer was safer to drink than water and Jacques Cartier and his men survived scurvy and the harsh 1535-1536 winter thanks to the indigenous Bière d’épinette or Spruce beer (not today’s soft drink…).
The first organised brewing dates as far back as the Recollet missionnaries in the 1610s and was mostly based on French brewing traditions. With the takeover of the French colonies by the British Empire, beer became an even more popular drink. As for brewing techniques, they shifted towards the British brewing traditions.
In 1786, Montréal witnessed the establishment of the first industrial brewing company in North America: The Molson Brewing Company. The oldest running company of the continent, it still produces beer on the site of it’s original brewery.
Big industrial and small artisan breweries cohabitated untill the 20th century, when the price increase of raw materials brought on by the World Wars eliminated small procuders. As for Prohibition, Québec was the only legislature in North America to exclude Beer, Wine and Cider, so that was not much of a problem. I would even say it was a great southern export opportunity!
Since the 1980s, there has been a resurgence of Artisan beer in Québec. Microbreweries have flourished and have sought to produce distinct and bold new products for beer connoisseurs, marrying French and British brewing techniques. Beer tastings and festivals have also become very sought-after events.
So, for beer lovers, Montréal is a great destination. With more than 20 different microbreweries on the island, the choice is yours. I remember tasting the different beers from the 2 oldest brewpubs in Montréal a few years ago, L’Amère à Boire and Le Dieu du Ciel. Since then, many other brewpubs have opened and offer all kind of beers to please every taste, from the fruity ones to the more bitter or darker heavy ones.
Here are a few places where to enjoy a good beer:
L’Amère à Boire
Dieu du Ciel
Broue Pub BroueHaHa
In the Old Port:
Bistro-Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises
Les Trois Brasseurs (for a more industrial type of artisanal brew)
Specialised corner store retailers (dépanneurs):
Supermarché Rahman, Le Paradis de la bière (for a real ‘dépanneur’ experience)
151 av. Laurier Ouest
Many thanks to Gabriel for his contribution.