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The Bar Towel on the road: THE BREWPUBS OF MONTREAL - April 2001

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Montreal is an excellent beer city, in an excellent beer province. I have long ascertained that Quebec produces some of the best beer in the country - their brewing culture closely resembles Europe's more than any other province in Canada.

Breweries such as Unibroue and McAuslan have been producing high quality beers more many years now, and we are fortunate to have many of their brands available in Toronto. However, the inter-provincial beer trade in Canada is seemingly not very free; Quebec has many other microbreweries that are not distributed to Ontario.

Further, Montreal has a number of quality brewpubs, five in all. There are so many fine beers in Quebec that will never excite an Ontarian's palate if the province is not visited directly. So we decided to do so (again), and I encourage you too. Montreal deserves to be sampled by any connoisseur, beer or otherwise.

Many thanks go to Benoit Mercier, who generously created this brewpub map of Montreal.
Our whirlwind beer tour of Montreal began early evening on a Friday in April. The first stop was the most anticipated one - the newest brewpub in Montreal, Dieu du Ciel. I had heard from some acquaintances in Montreal that this was the place to check out. They were not mistaken, and we were thoroughly impressed.

Dieu du Ciel is a relatively small and cozy pub. There are few, if any pubs that are quite like Dieu du Ciel in Toronto. The brewing equipment is visible in the bar through large glass walls similar to Denison's in Toronto. The tables are all scattered on the floor, creating a very jovial atmosphere. In Toronto, a pub that invests in quality brewing equipment would probably try to create a fine-dining experience. However, Dieu du Ciel is significantly more relaxed, like a neighbourhood pub, where one can sit back and enjoy a few excellent brews.

Dieu du Ciel brews a vast range of beers, however only up to eight of which will be on tap at any given time. There were seven on tap at the time of our visit: Paienne (blonde ale), Fumisterie (hemp ale), Déesse Nocturne (stout), Nativité Blonde (weizen), Gaélique (Irish cream ale), Vaisseau des Songes (India pale ale), and Equinoxe du Printemps (maple scotch ale).

The Equinoxe du Printemps was quite unique - a maple scotch ale. I do not think I have ever tried a beer that was in this style - and it was very good. It had a deep bronze colour and a nice flavour, with a prominent sweetness no doubt coming from the maple. Brewpubs have the freedom to take greater risks with beer styles than commercial breweries due to their size - the Equinoxe is exactly the kind of interesting beer a connoisseur should expect from a good brewpub.

A number of their other house brews were sampled, all being very flavourful and well done. "Dieu du ciel" roughly translates into "oh my god" in English. Our feelings exactly. Dieu du Ciel is the kind of pub that embodies what is great about Montreal. It will be the first place I visit during my next trip to Montreal.

Le Sergent Recruteur is a two-level pub only a couple of blocks from Dieu du Ciel. They offered a number of house brews: Ténébreuse (stout), Bitter du Sergent, Bucolique (weizen), Criminelle (cream ale), Boutefeu (strong amber ale), Raconteuse (blonde ale). They newest beer was Prêt-à-porter, a clever name for their porter.

Le Sergent Recruteur is quite a nice pub, albeit somewhat chilly on the lower level. The main level was much more lively and full of good beer drinkers. We had a tasty sampling in the cold basement and moved on.

L'Amère à Boire is a popular night destination, on St-Denis closer to downtown (near Ontario). L'Amère à Boire is also a two level pub, offering both ales and lagers. Beers included Cernà Hora (pilsner), Amère à boire (English pale ale) and Fin de siècle (red ale). During our visit they also offered an imperial stout, a dark and delicious brew, although not as bold as imperial stouts from the U.S.

Our final stop for the evening was Le Cheval Blanc, Montreal's oldest (1987) and probably best-known brewpub. It is also the name of a local microbrewery, whose beers are available in grocery stores and the SAQ (Quebec's version of the LCBO). However, the beers that can be found in the brewpub often differ from their commercially produced brews. It has a funky, almost diner-style décor, a must on any beer tour of Montreal.

Their regular house beer menu includes an Ambrée (amber ale), Rousse (red ale), Blanche, Blonde and Noire (stout). There were also two specialty house offerings the night the Bar Towel visited - bottled versions of a Bock and Cerise, a cherry-flavoured beer.

Montreal has one other brewpub, Brutopia. Unfortunately, we did not make it over to Crescent Street where it is located - Brutopia will have to wait for the next Montreal excursion.

Montreal has many interesting bars and bistros beyond these brewpubs - many Bar Towel On The Road reports would be necessary to do this city justice. However, we will try - look for another Montreal report soon.

Dieu du Ciel! - 29 av. Laurier Ouest, (514) 490-9555
Le Sergent Recruteur - 4650 boul. St-Laurent, (514) 287-1412
L'Amère à Boire - 2049 rue St-Denis, (514) 282-7448
Le Cheval Blanc - 809 rue Ontario Est, (514) 522-0211
Brutopia - 1219 rue Crescent, (514) 393-9277