I learned some stuff in Montreal. The first thing was that other countries are yet to adopt the astringent caucasian notion that in order for a bar to be classy it must offer a handful of microbrews. The classy joints served Molson. The not so classy joints served Molson. That was the one constant and everything else was utterly unpredictable.

For example, I was looking forward to trying some fresh Unibroue, but we didn’t see it on tap anywhere and bottles were only at gas stations. So before I left I bought a sixer of these little guys, which are part of Unibroue’s budget “U” series and not available stateside:

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 10.40.33 PM

It was horrid. Not, like, bad by Unibroue standards. It’s bad by any standard. And with the preponderance of okay-to-good macro-style beers in Quebec, I really have no idea why Unibroue is trying to branch out like this. Maybe if it tasted decent they’d have a point, but it flatly does not.

Often, along with Molson, bars would offer some variety of Rickard ales. Here is a can of Rickard Dark:


Rickard came in Red, Blonde, White, and Dark. Released as a sub-brand of Molson, they were basically the Quebecois version of Leinenkugels: unexceptional but solidly brewed beers that are priced midway between macros and crafts. These are the kind of beers that beer snobs unreasonably shit on as part of that “craft vs. crafty” bullshit. Because, horror of horrors, occasionally neophyte beer people confuse them for actual micro brews! But, seriously, they were all pretty good.

The only time we came across actual “craft” beers was when we went into a brewpub. The first was called Brutopia and it was close to the Bell Center. The beer was okay—their stout was eerily close to Guinness:


(Pictured: not the stout)

But the biggest, best place was Dieu Du Ciel:


You’ve probably had their flagship Peche Mortel. They have a few other beers that are more or less readily available in the states, including a really good chocolate stout and an hibiscus beer. Here’s a few of their rarer, tap-only beers that I had at the pub:

Pionnier Imperial Black IPA (9.5%)

black IPA Ciel

Mid grade milk chocolate mixed with a strange aftertaste that’s like how you smell if you spent a few hours working around a deep fryer. So basically take a hit off of the Chocolate Wonderfall at Golden Corral and you get the gist of it. Ends with hop profile that’s very similar to Dreadnaught’s, and that’s actually really nice for a black IPA. A more fruity hop profile means a bigger break from the stouty beginning, the effect is nicely jarring.

Neuvaine “Biere a’l’Absythine” (8.5%)

absinthe beer

Absinthe is what they used in olden times to go on acid trips. This was back in the day when you could order a tank of nitrous out of the Sears catalogue, mind, so I’m guessing the Absinthes I’ve had stateside are missing some of the punch of the old drink.

Now, there’s a lot of sissy-mouthed “scientists” who have pored over old Absinthe recipes and insisted that the drink didn’t contain enough of anything to cause any effects aside from drunkenness. These scientists probably never even heard of Nine Inch Nails because Trent Reznor says Absinthe in the perfect drug, and that dude is cool as shit.

Yes, Absinthe don’t make you trip like you just dropped acid. Obviously. That’s why they didn’t have guitar solos in the 1890s. But it does produce an ancillary effect to the booze intoxication, the same as how hoppy beers make you feel different from malty ones, which make you feel different than red wine, which make you feel different than vodka, etc. Absinthe is numbing and floaty. And, back before the damn Democrats and their goddamn unconstitutional FDA, the drink probably rocked.

This beer, however, is terrifying. You can give it to kids in lieu of a DARE progam. Like, still call it DARE, but now you’re DAREing them to drink a whole pint of this. The waiter said he couldn’t do it. I—and I a man who once chugged a bottle of tequila I found laying in a parking lots—I could not finish this.

Pours like that picture you see up there. (I was thinking it would be greener). Tastes like strong anise, fennel, and pain. The front end is black licorice patent medicine boffo, but the back end is uncomfortable verdant and bitter, like you’re eating the sort of plant matter that you’re biologically not supposed to. It’s like I’m chewing wood, or oak leaves. The back, back end is good black licorice, again, but then the plant matter bitterness lingers like cancer.

There are some things that man was not meant to eat, and such prandial incompatibility is signaled through gross, awful flavor. Anyone who says that perception can’t be grounded in biological fact has never tasted this beer.

Fortunella (IPA with Cumquats) (7.2%)


Good! On tap at the brewpub, billed as an IPA with cumquats. Poured light for the style and the nose and flavor both belied the alcohol content–very crisp, very American, lacking the heavy back-end bitterness of most of the Quebecois pales that I’ve sampled. Cumquattiness was present but I probably wouldn’t have recognized it for cumquats without being prompted by the chalkboard; it’s more of a general fruit spriteliness that gives the beer an air of an American west coast IPA, only with nicer malt start and more balanced than your usual west coast IPA.

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