Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bière de Montréal

I have been hounding my sister to write some guest posts for me for about as long as I have had this blog. She gets to travel much more than I do, and therefore gets to experience different beers on their home-turf. If I said I am not jealous, I would be lying. For Christmas, my sister did indeed write several guest posts for me, and now I am sharing one with you. Earlier, for Mardi Gras, I wanted to write a post en francais, this post will honor that wish, as it also explores the city and beer of Montreal. So, I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.

Montreal is a beautiful city.  I would go as far as to say that Montreal is North America’s best kept secret.  I’m seriously voting we all pack up and move to its cozy Quartier Vieux-Port to sip on espresso and stroll down cobble streets all day (I am so in!!).  My first (and certainly not last) trip to Montreal was in November 2011 for the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association.  I was sent by my program chair to the conference for a chance to network and experience the professional aspect of my field.  When I wasn’t attending panel discussions and lectures I was wide-eyed and out exploring.  I was lured in by the old-European architecture, the high volume of bicycle traffic, and the heavy concentration of 24hr cafes at every corner.

When I first arrived in Montreal I was exhausted after a long day of flights and an exceptionally long grid-locked cab ride to my hotel.  My concierge chuckled to himself at my attempts at broken French, then turned concern when I asked him, “Is there somewhere I can go for a beer and possibly eat some food?”  After he pointed to a spot on a giant map, spoke rapidly in French, and sent me off, I was determined to find a local gem to just sit and grab a beer.

I was lucky to stumble upon a lower level bar where I spotted a pool table and dark wooden bar from the window, and was greeted by the Rolling Stones’ “Midnight Rambler” when I walked in (Always a good sign).  When I sat down at the bar, the female bartender greeted me, “Salut, ca va?”  I explained to this half-amused girl in my poorest Franglish that I was a weary traveller, and I was in need of beer.  She poured me an amber ale that hit my lips and rejuvinated my jet-lagged head instantly.  Slowly I sipped on this aromatic and full bodied beauty while a handful of regulars started talking to me.  When my beer was gone, they offered to buy me another, but first I had to try them all. 

Much to my taste-buds’ pleasure, each beer was as amazing as the last.  The blondes, the ambers, the brunes, the whole bar.  I finally asked, “Where are all of these beers from?” to which I was answered, “Here”.  Montreal, as I was to discover, is dotted throughout with microbreweries and brew pubs (As I have been dreaming about for years now... but I digress, this is not my post).  Though most of the names of my first beers have blurred from my memory, DernièreVolonté by Brasserie Dieu du Ciel (Montreal) stuck out as one of my favorites of the night.

On my second night, I went to a microbrewery-restaurant by the name of Les 3Brasseurs.  The “three brewers” are named for the three generations of French beer enthusiasts that began the tradition in Place de la Gare à Lille, France in 1986.  They’ve since spread throughout the country and into parts of Canada.  Their beers are the Blond, Amber, Red, Brune, and La Belle Provence.  I tried both the Blond and the Amber while I was dining on a chicken quesadilla and was struck by how both beers had a crispness and clean taste that I had not experienced in any American beers.  I also took note of the “Beer Cocktails” options written in chalk above my head displaying mixes of Blond beer and Sprite; and Blond beer, dark rum, and lemon syrup.  Not curious enough to try these cocktails, I stuck to the tasty ½ pint glasses of ale in front of me.

Of the various beers I tried in Montreal, one of my favorites was Coup de Grisou, brewed by Brasseurs R.J.  This beer was suggested to me at an underground metal bar, Café Chaos.  The flavor of this beer starts out like a wit beer then opens up to have fruity and spicy notes that work together with hoppy undertones.  As I enjoyed my Coup de Grisou, I was introduced to whiskey and maple syrup shots while a man resembling a Viking and a friendly group of metal-heads explained to me the complex metal scene in Montreal.  As the night went on, my French got better, and theirs got worse.  It was a wonderfully strange a great night.

Although I failed to write down all their names, each beer I tried in Montreal was complex, crisp, and refreshing.  Each sip was like a hug for my taste buds that excited my palette while always being comforting.  One day when I’m settled in and riding my own bike through Montreal, I’ll pay attention to the names of all the great beers surrounding me.  Or maybe I’ll stay love-sick-and-dumb for Montreal forever; I’ll just have to move there and find out.

If you have any questions or comments for my sister, send me an email or leave a message in the comments section. And Christie, we are looking forward to the next installment of, Drifting Spirit: Memoirs of travel and beer

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