Drinking beer in Montreal
A diary of some of the best bars in Montreal
31 July-16 August 2009
Le Cheval Blanc
The black exterior of Le Cheval Blanc (809 Ontario East) leads to a modern metallic interior with odd looking paintings on the wall.
The seven home brewed beers listed were: Blonde 5%, Ambree (red) 5%, Witte Pol 4.5%, Pale Ale de Siegle 5%, Noire (stout) 4%, Blanche (coriander-orange) 4.5% and Inaia Rouge (IPA) 5.5%.
I tried the Pale Ale de Siegle, which the barmaid told me was a rye beer. It was unfiltered, hence the refreshing bitter's cloudy reddish appearance.
My second visit here was during the pre-convention pub crawl.
This time, I started with the Noire (4%), a black bitter stout. Eddie went for Blanche (4.5%). He said this did not have as much kick as you'd expect from a wheat beer, but was refreshing nevertheless. It was served with a slice of lime. I then went for the India Rouge (5.5%), a very, very hoppy American style IPA.
Benelux at 245 Sherbrooke West has a large seating area outside which doesn't look very pleasant given the bar is on a busy main road. The interior is dark despite one wall being all windows. There was piped rock music, but not loud.
The bar stays open till 3am, so a good place to end Wednesday's crawl. Its home brewed beers are Psyclo (pale ale) 5.5%, Congo (Belgian IPA) 6.3%, Gaia (wittbier) 4.6%, Marge (stout) 4.9% and Dreadlux (imperial stout) 9%.
I tried the Congo, another cloudy red beer and delicious, really hoppy and refreshing.
This was also the final destination of the pre-convention pub crawl.
This had been fairly dead when I called in on Monday but this night it was packed and noisy. I went for the 5.5% Psyclo pale ale, another very hoppy bitter.
And thus the pub crawl ended. I got back to my hotel at about 1.30am, and I heard the next day that some crawlers were still in the bar at that time.
L'Amere a Boire
L'Amere a Boire at 2049 Rue St Denis has a quaint exterior and split level interior. Its home brewed beers are: Hefe Weizen 5%, Cerna Hoca (pilsner) 5.2%, Drak 5.8%, Vollbier 5.0%, Fin de Siecle 6.0%, Oden se Porter 5.0%, Muesli (stout) 5.0%, Celebratus 6/6% and Stout Imperial 7.5%.
I tried the Fin de Siecle, an unfiltered cloudy red beer with a tangy bitter taste.
My second visit here was during the pre-convention pub crawl.
Here I thought I'd ordered a half of the Muesli 5% stout but somehow ended up with a pint of the 7.5% Imperial Stout. This was black and creamy and a major factor in my hangover the next day. Eddie went for the Celebratus (6.6%), which he described as over complex, with so many flavours that it was hard to pick them out. It also smelt like a toffee apple.
Le Saint Bock
Le Saint-Bock (1749 St Denis) has a small seating area out the front and larger interior with a choice of table chairs or comfy chairs. Our party spread out across both types. This was visited during the pre-convention pub crawl.
I started with a glass of Traitre (5%) and sausages and chips to line the stomach. This beer was a medium blonde, and cloudy. It had a medium bitter taste, very refreshing IPA style beer. Eddie sitting opposite me went for the Malediction (5%) which was black coloured and Eddie said was a stout with all the flavours you'd expect. Very nice. My second beer here was the Crucixion (5%), which was dark and cloudy and very malty with a sour aftertaste. Eddie's second was the Suiverse (3.5%), very light, a little bit cloudy and slightly fizzy. A refreshing session beer.
Brutopia (1219 Crescent) is probably the best known pub in Montreal. As well as its own beers, it also serves beers from other local microbreweries. It has the look and feel of a pub, darkish with barstools and low volume piped music. But my visit was a Monday, and on other nights they have live music.
The home brewed range on the board had no ABVs listed and the barmaid when asked said they were all around the 5 to 6% range, so a bit vague. The listed regulars were IPA, XB (extra blonde), Raspberry, Honey Beer, Nut Brown Ale and Honey Brown. The four seasonals listed were Blackout Stout, 2 Bitter, Cherry Wheat and Ginger Cream Ale.
I started with the IPA, which was red and hazy. It had a low initial hit on taste but a strong bitter aftertaste.
The XB was next, a lager coloured bitter-sweet pilsner.
The Raspberry, unsurprisingly, had a strong smell of raspberries. It was a light, lager coloured beer. It had a bitter taste, with just a hint of raspberry. It was not a pleasant beer.
The Honey Beer was medium light with a head. It had a dull taste and a little bit sweet with a syrupy aftertaste.
The 2 Bitter was a red coloured and bitter, as expected. A very nice beer.
On my second visit I started with the Nut Brown Ale: Dark colour, but hard to say how dark given how dark the pub was. I tasted a hint of coffee in what otherwise resembled a fizzy mild.
Honey Brown: This is a combination of the Nut Brown and the Honey Beer I had the previous night. Interestingly, the mix does produce something that is better than either. It was very red coloured, but not unlike an alcoholic pop.
Blackout Stout: Black. A good, solid stout.
Cherry Wheat: Light and clear. Strong cherry aroma. It had a bitter taste with a hint of cherry. It was very similar to the raspberry beer I tried yesterday.
Ginger Cream Ale: Red, cloudy with a head. This had a horrible flat dead taste, and no hint of ginger either. I suspect it was off.
Peel Pub (1196 Peel Street) is a dark sports bar with loud music and multiple screens. They had two local beers - Vieux Montreal Blonde and Vieux Montreal Red from BVM Breweries in Montreal.
These were nothing special. Both were 5%. The Blonde was a pilsner style lager, slightly hoppy, and the Red was darker but not dissimilar in taste. The bar also sold many of the mass produced lagers such as Budweiser, Coors, Carlsberg, Heineken and Labatt. They also had beers from Unibroue, which the barman told me was earning itself a bad name by gobbling up some of the country's microbreweries.
I tried the Unibroue Maudite at 8.5%. This was red and cloudy, with a simple malty taste. Very uncomplicated and uninspiring. They also sold some Unibroue bottle conditioned beers.
On my second visit, I started with a half of the Alexander Keith's IPA. This was horrible. A pale lager with hardly any flavour and what there was tasted of puke. Avoid at all costs. they have a nerve calling it IPA.
I then went for safer ground with a bottle of the Unibroue Raftman at 5.5%, a light coloured fairly average blonde style beer. And I finished up with the very nice bottled Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, which I'd also had the previous night.
Le Mezz is on the mezzanine floor of the Cantlie Suites Hotel, which was our hotel at 1110 Sherbrooke Street West.
The bar had two keg draught beers and two bottled beers from the McAuslan Brewery in Montreal, so I had to try them. All were 5% abv.
First up was the Griffon Extra Pale Ale from the tap. This is a hoppy lager served a little cooler than I would have liked. In fact, as it warmed up a malty aftertaste became apparent that wasn't noticeable when cold.
Also from the tap was Griffon Brown Ale. This was a refreshing dark lager with a slight caramel taste.
The first bottle I tried was the St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. As I poured it, I think I saw some sediment sneak into the glass suggesting a bottle conditioned beer, but the beer was too black to tell for sure. The beer had bitter notes though the flavour was dominated by coffee and chocolate flavours.
The St-Ambroise Pale Ale is claimed to be the first speciality bottled ale to be brewed in Quebec. It has a reddish colour and is not as hoppy as the EPA. It scores on maltiness rather than bitterness.
They also had the Belgian bottled beer Vondel Brown Beer, a nice 8.5% dark beer.
Les Trois Brasseurs
Les Trois Brasseurs has five brewpubs in Montreal, though I only visited three of them, and one of those only briefly.
The first one I visited was at 1536 St Catherine, on the corner of Crescent. The brewery was upstairs in what seemed to be a noisy but relaxed and dark bar.
I went for the sampler tray, which was actually a sampler paddle with holes to hold four small glasses, probably 25cl. First up was the L3B Blonde at 5.2%, which was light and refreshing with a noticeable hoppy aftertaste.
Second was the L3B Amber at 6.2%. This was more red coloured than amber and more malty than bitter. Very nice.
The L3B Brown at 4.9%, was a very dark brown colour, almost black and had a chocolaty and bitter taste.
The fourth beer I tried was a seasonal beer described as a rye lager by the barmaid and called La Brasse-Riz. It was 6.5% with a strong vanilla taste upfront with a hotness, possibly ginger, lying beneath the surface.
I then had a half pint of the L3B Blanche at 4.8%. This was a fruity wheat beer served with a slice of lemon.
Sadly, they were sold out of the bottles of La Belle Province, described as a 6.2% amber beer with a hint of maple syrup.
However, La Belle Province turned out to be a 7% bottle conditioned beer when I tried it at the Rue St Paul branch. It comes in 75cl bottles and maple syrup is used in the fermentation. The result is a light red coloured Belgian style blonde beer with a slight sweet taste. Very nice too.
I tried twice to visit the branch at 1658 St Denis. The first was early in the holiday when I was with Tracey and Joshua and it was too noisy for us. The second time was on the eve of convention pub crawl, but there were too many of us to fit in.
Allegro Bistro Bar
The Allegro Bistro Bar was the meeting point for the start of the pre-convention eve pub crawl. The bar is off the lobby at the Days Inn Hotel at 215 Boulevard Rene-Levesque.
I was first to arrive and I ordered a bottle of Boreale Blonde (4.5%). According to the bottle, this comes from Les Brasseurs du Nord in Blainville, Quebec. This fairly basic pilsner was served much too cold and to make it worse was in a chilled glass. I followed it with a bottle of Boreale Rousse (5%), still too cold but this time I insisted on a non-chilled glass. This red coloured beer had more taste than the blonde and was much nicer.
By the time I'd finished, we had a crowd of 18 or 19 ready to set out on the pub crawl. These numbers swelled during the evening as people rang my mobile to find out where we'd got to. Some people too didn't complete the full crawl, but I reckon that about 30 people took part in at least some of it.
Nyk's is named after a former owner. The bar is at number 1250 on the appropriately named Bleury street near the junction with St Catherine. It is a small, friendly pub with large glassless windows opening up onto the narrow pavement, which also contains a small number of tables and chairs.
Though not a microbrewery itself, it sells eight or nine beers from other microbreweries and four regular imported beers - Carlsberg, Guinness, Kilkenny and Sapporo. I went for the microbrewed beers, none of which listed strengths on the chalkboard.
First, I had the Belle Guele Rouse, a light red beer, slightly sweet. This was followed by the Coup de Grisou, a wheat beer served with a slice of lime. It had a very tangy bitter taste. Finally, I went for the Blanche de Chambly, another wheat beer, this time with a slice of lemon rather than lime. This was a more traditional wheat beer with a smooth taste, not as sharp as the previous one.
On my second visit to Nyk's I tried the St-Ambroise Pale Ale, a hoppy US style IPA, though not as hoppy as some I've tried this fortnight. I followed this with the St-Ambroise Noir, a black stout.
Charlie, Feorag and I went to Le Reservoir (9 Duluth East near the junction with Saint-Laurent), a combined bar and restaurant with rickety wooden tables. The brewery was visible to the right of the bar. This was definitely a young-persons' bar; as Feorag pointed out the three of us were probably each at least two decades older than anyone else on the premises.
They had six home brew beers on show and I had the Pale Ale d'été (summer beer), which had a very hoppy bitter taste in the style of US IPAs. It was listed as 5.8%, and was the only one with any strength marked on the board. That probably means the rest were around 5%, which seems to be the standard.
Charlie and Feorag went for the Blanche, which they described as a tart wheat beer; it was served with a slice of lime. Wheat beers either seem to have a slice of lemon or lime and I'm curious to know whether the choice signifies something about the beer.
Dieu Du Ciel!
After leaving Le Reservoir with Feorag and Charlie, we went in search of a bar called the Sergent Recruteur at 4801 St-Laurent but sadly this was all closed and looked like it had been for some time. I don't know whether the bar has moved to a new location or shut down completely.
Luckily, we had a plan B so we headed for Dieu Du Ciel! at 29 Laurier West, near the junction with St-Laurent. This was a dark and quite noisy bar but, as Feorag pointed out, at least the people here looked old enough to drink. While Charlie opted for a pint of one of the beers, Feorag and I went for a sampler of all 16 beers they had on:
1. Paienne 5%. A blonde lager, light, a little hoppy but nothing special.
2. Fumisterie 5%. Light red colour, slightly sweeter than the Paienne.
3. Déesse Noctuire 5%. This was a stout. Black with a head and with normal stout flavours and a hint of bitterness.
4. Rosée D'Hibiscas 5%. Red and cloudy with a flowery aroma. Tastes like alcoholic tea.
5. Cone Du Diable 6.5%. American style IPA. Very hoppy.
6. Charbonniere 5%. Dark red bitter with a smokey taste.
7. Cascade Blanche 5%. Light coloured with extreme hoppiness. Lovely.
8. Gaélique 5%. An Irish cream ale that Feorag summed up by calling it Kilkenny.
9. Rigor Mortis ABT 9.5%. Rigor Mortis is the branding of their abbey style ales. This lived up to that description being a gorgeously complex Belgian style beer.
10. Ochamena Bi–Ru 5%. A sharpish tea flavoured brew. Not my cup of beer.
11.Rigor Mortis Blonde 6%. Surprisingly authentic tasting Belgian beer with a nice bitter taste.
12. Hors Saison 6%. The French description on the chalk board referred to "seigle" which we later found out means "rye". Crispy bitter with a certain sourness, but pleasant for it.
13. Reute de Épices 5%. Another rye beer. This was hoppy with a hot afterburn. Unusual and excellent.
14. Solstice d'Été, which translated means Summer Solstice 6%. It was described as a wheat beer with cherry and smells like Ribena. Very sour.
15. Rigor Mortis Triple 9%. This was fantastic. Lovely and complex with bitter and sweet flavours. A great beer.
16. Péché Mortel 9.5%, described as an imperial stout with coffee. It has a coffee aroma and creamy bitter burnt taste with a slight coffee undertaste.
Bieres et Compagnie
Despite a heavy session at the previous bar, we had one more port of call before calling it a night. This was Bieres et Compagnie at 4350 St-Dennis. This was not a brewpub but did have a wide range of microbrewery beers. It also had an international range, though the UK section consisted only of Fullers ESB and Fullers London Pride Porter.
First up were two bottled Le Grimoire beers. La Grimousse at 5% had a musky smell and a sour taste whereas Le Noire Soeur, also at 5%, was a stout with a choclatey taste.
From Brasseurs de Montreal was the 4.7% La Black Witch. Dark red, initially sweet with a more complex aftertaste.
From Feirne Brasserie Schoure was the 5% Schounea L'Erable. This had a strong maple syrup aroma and a flavour that mixed bitterness with maple syrup.
The Unibroue La Fin Du Monde at 9% was next up. A strong triple fermented beer. Unibroue's Pistoles, also at 9%, was a dark beer with multiple tastes. A lovely Belgian style beer.
The final drink of the evening was the Unibroue 17 at 10%. Dry and full bodied. A lovely dark beer that deserves a medal.
Lawrence, Glenys and I tried out the bottled beers that I brought back with me from Montreal. All appear to be bottle conditioned.
First up was a pack of four beers I bought at the airport. These are all from Les Brasseurs RJ:
Temblay Blonde 4.9%. Light colour with a hint of floweriness in the aroma. It has an up-front maltiness with a bitter finish, but very subtle.
Le Cheval Blanc La Blanche 5%. A pleasant wheat beer with a noticeable fruitiness.
Coup de Grisou 5%. This was described on the bottle as a spicy buckwheat beer and was a very nice combination of fruitiness and coriander.
Belle Guele Originale 5.2%. Described as a lager, this had a coppery red colour and a nice hoppy smell. In fact it smells like freshly brewed beer at a brewery. It has a very malty flavour with a bitter aftertaste.
Next, we tried the six beers that I bought at a supermarket that was recommended for its beer range. The supermarket is at 349 Avenue de L'Eglise in the Verdun region of Montreal. Again, all these appear to be bottle conditioned.
Le Cheval Blanc Loch Ness 6%. Described as a traditional Scottish strong ale, this dark red beer is very malty but with no real after flavours. Glenys said: "A lovely colour but a bit disappointing."
Dieu Du Ciel! Aphrodisiaque 6.5%. This cocoa and vanilla stout is solid black and has a chocolate and coffee flavour. In fact, Glenys said: "It looks like a glass of coffee."
Brasserie Au Maitre-Brasseur, La Garce 6.5%. This also uses buckwheat and is very nice, with a taste that suggests a stronger beer than 6.5%. "This could hold its own in Belgium," said Lawrence. "Absolutely gorgeous," said Glenys. "A stupid label but a gorgeous beer." The label shows a woman behind bars (the prison kind). The beer has a lot of competing flavours with a bitter finish. Overall, it is very smooth. On colour, it is cloudy and darkish, but not dark.
Les Trois Mousquetaires, Doppelbock Grande Cuvée 9.5%. This comes in a corked 75cl bottle. It is a dark brown beer with a chocolaty aroma. It is thick and malty, and a lovely stout style beer.
Bilboquet Microbrasserie, Mackroken Flower 10.8%. Described as a Scotch ale, it has a flowery nose and tastes gorgeous, sweetish with a hint of sherry. "This is seriously smooth," said Lawrence.
Brasserie Breughel, Biere de Noël (Christmas ale) 11%. Very strong bitter flavour. Extremely hoppy.
Links to the other two pages of my pictures from Montreal:
On holiday in Montreal
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