Sunday, 1 April 2012

If This is What They Call Dry, I Can't Wait Until it Gets Wet!

So my new neighbourhood in Verdun is, theoretically, a dry neighbourhood and has been so for about as long as anyone can recall, but essentially for the last century at least!  Yet, what is meant by 'dry' here is not quite what Toronto's Junction, for instance, had in mind - though the two districts currently follow a common trend I will explore in a moment.  Here, the dry neighbourhood/former City of Verdun allows drinking in restaurants - provided you order food - and has beer and wine for sale in every grocery store and dépanneur.  (My kinda dry, even if the pubs are non-existent, since pubs typically serve macro-lagers anyway and I am just a few subway stops from Dieu du Ciel, Vices et Versa, or a 30-minute walk from McAuslan, but having a 5-month old son keeps my beer consumption both down and indoors while limited to that one in the evening once he's asleep while I sit in front of the television, but I digress.)

Both the Junction and Verdun were historically working class neighbourhoods that are close enough to their respective downtowns such that their cheaper rents are encouraging gentrification processes (yes, I am part of the problem).  Yet while the Junction 'got wet' in 2000 and has seen an explosion in breweries, brewpubs, pubs, and more, Verdun is just dipping its toes (deeper) into the water now.  I say 'deeper' since my local supermarket has the single best beer selection I have yet found in Quebec (okay, the selection is tied with a very select few others, but with better prices) including seasonals, growlers, and gift-packs.  Yet Verdun has just decided to allow a single pub to open - a brewpub - as a test.  More specifically, the second location of Benelux Brasserie Artisinale et Café which is slated to open at 4026 rue Wellington near de l'Eglise in the old Bank of Montreal building at the end of May (or thereabouts - details to follow).

Thus, Benelux took part in this weekend's (and last's) Urban Sugar Shack and offered their Smoked Maple Porter (at 4.8%) for $1 samples and this enticed me to a visit.

There I met and chatted with the friendly and talented head brewer, Tico, who told me about the varied selection of beers brewed and served on rotation.  Benelux apparently brews 23 beers (on a schedule) and has 12 taps at their first location which rotate as these brews are, umm, brewed.  Their styles are both Belgian and American, with numerous saisons, a dubbel, a tripel, and then the imperial IPA, American Pale Ale, American Brown and more.

Having never been to the original Benelux location, nor having tasted their other beers, I obviously cannot comment on them, but I can say that their maple smoked porter is delicious!  The nose has a sweet toastiness that is intensified by the strong maple aromas and just a faint hint of smoke, while the smoke is absent on the tongue, yet the sweetness of the darkly roasted malt is similarly intensified by the maple sugar (which makes me fear the caloric content as much as I savour the flavour).  With this beer to entice me, I think you'll be able to find me 5 blocks from home as frequently as time and money allows!

I will post more details on this pending opening as they become available.

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