Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Topping Mondial: Personal Favourites from Mondial de la Biere 2015

Though family, work, and life commitments mean I couldn't have spent as much time at Mondial de la Bière 2015 as I would have liked, it is a testament to its delights that I dream of having spent all five days reveling in its delights.

This festival is equal parts party, revelry in fine food, and stamina-fest where us beer geeks attempt to try as many of its tasty treats as we can without succumbing to (excessive) inebriation or hangover - or worse, palate exhaustion.  I believe this is the first year I managed to avoid both palate exhaustion and hangovers (by ending early and sobering up before bed), but my notes faded (as they tend to do) as the tastes go on, and having sampled around 50 beers over two different visits means that some of this was inevitable.

Before getting to the brews, on the festival in general, I would like to add that the press event prior to the opening at Station Ho.St was delightful in a great beer location, while the festival this year also brought a fantastic new cask event (run by Benelux) and seemed to more adequately space the outdoor and indoor vendors, while seeming to have more seating and a wonderful vibe.  Too bad I couldn't make it to any Off-Mondial events this time around.  Regardless, and as always, this is a Montreal can't miss event - for all and not simply for the biggest brew-guzzlers amongst us.

Though I enjoyed the sausages, kangaroo steaks, and other ingested treats, I have to pay a special homage to this year's top (nutritional) treat...

Top Treat:

Annual food-service provider, Globe Trotter, brought their usual fares of kangaroo steaks, crocodile sausages, and more, but I was particularly thrilled (after a "few" samples) to purchase a "Bug-shot."  Politically, I am persuaded that insects can provide a nutritious and readily available food source such that I have made a commitment to trying more of these pests!  I've really only tried a few before so this was an opportunity not to pass up.  I mean, who wouldn't rather eat them than swat them?  They should at least die for a cause; better they are martyrs than genocidal victims of our hate-fueled wrath!  For a measly $2 (or was it $3?) Globe Trotter provided a small shooter with around 10-20 roasted grasshopper/cricket like creatures for human consumption.  Though I cannot say I loved them, I loved the experience, and I certainly didn't dislike them (perhaps beyond the heeby-jeeby thoughts of insect consumption).  They were well roasted with lightly smoky notes and a moderate saltiness (though could have perhaps used a touch more salt, or maybe some Sriracha?).  The crunchiness of legs and limbs in the mouth is a bit of an odd experience, but not at all unpleasant.  That is, I'd rate the flavour higher than the mouthfeel.  Were this BugAdvocate I'd give it:

  • Appearance: lightly browned, crispy looking small hoppers.  Looks appetizing.  4.5/5
  • Aroma: The mildest component, but lightly burnt smelling with some ashy components 3.25/5
  • Taste: As noted above, more smoky or lightly burnt (as if barbecued - though I forgot to ask about preparation) and can you imagine how easy it would be to get a lightly burnt taste in a crispy barbecued bug? 3.75/5
  • Mouthfeel: Oddly crispy, which could be fine but when it's crispy legs tingling your mouth and getting stuck in your teeth, it detracts a bit. 2.75/5
  • Overall: The price was certainly right to complement the experience!  A treat not to be missed! 5/5

Now, to the beer!  This year, rather than picking the best in styles or attempting to get through everything, I thought I'd categorize a little differently and pick the best(s) of the following: Top Surprises, Top Revisitations, Top Hops, Top Tarts, and Personal Best of Fest.

Top Surprises:

3) Le Saint Bock is a Montreal marvel with what is probably Canada's largest beer selection, though I am rarely delighted by their own brews.  Don't get me wrong... they're rarely (if ever) bad, but they're likewise rarely more than decent.  However, their Arcadia single-hopped Citra American Pale Ale (5% ABV) stands out to me as possibly the best beer I have had from them!  I have called Mikkeller's k:rlek a poor-man's Zombie Dust (and 'poor' not referring to cost, but wider distro), and this could be called a poor man's k:rlek.  Again, however, the statement of poor is relative to accessibility and this is a very solid APA.  This was so good, I even went to the brewpub for a pint afterwards, such that I have more extensive notes here and can say the following:  It pours a light amber with a magnificent, creamy white one-finger head that lasts through an entire pint.  The lacing is likewise thick and curtain-like.  The nose wafts mainly citrus with a hint of peach and mango.  The taste likewise presents citrusy, but is a touch less hop-forward, presenting a hint of cereal grains before a lemon rind dry finish.  There is moderate carbonation, and it is a touch thin.  My only real knock on this beer is that it is a touch watery in flavour and feel, but stands up strongly all-around.  Grade: B+

2) La Fabrique - a brewpub in Matane, Quebec - was new for me, and though Quebec has SO MANY great breweries, it also has so many terrible ones that I avoid the new without news leading me to risk my taste buds for the unknown.  However, such a recommendation led me to try La Simonne (5% ABV Wit with Camerises aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels) which was remarkable!  In fact, it was so good it led me to try two more of their beers (Gros Chars American IPA which was very solid and Kaliningrad Russian Imperial Stout which was a bit too ashy and thin for my tastes).  La Simonne was pinkish-red (with that minimal head of most sample pours, for poor assessment).  Vinous musty qualities were foremost to both nose and palate, while traces of fruit and oak were likewise discernible, though in no ways was this reminiscent of any witbier I have ever otherwise tasted.  Perhaps I liked it precisely for its vinous, red-wine qualities.  Good carbonation with a medium-light body made for super drinkability, coupled with a moderately dry finish.  Grade: A-

 1) Speaking of places I rarely try, Brasseurs du Monde is very close to the top.  They really aren't a bad brewery, per se, but they just have so many mediocre (or slightly worse) beers without having ever impressed me.  Thus, my friend bugged me all day to trust him on this one, and I finally (and thankfully) relented, to my great surprise: Blanche du Mur (4% ABV Berliner Weisse) is a remarkable product, and would be even more praised had it been brewed by a usual suspect.  The nose wafts lactic funk, with a fair semblance of berries, lemons, tartness, and yogurt, while tastewise it is less fruity, and more funky and tart (if not excessively so) and a slight lemony finish, coupled with a feel dominated by ample (if not excessive carbonation) and a fairly light-medium body.  This is wonderful and one of my favourites of the fest.  I am now ISO a bottle!  Grade: A

Top Revisitations:

With many faded hops beers (due to the SAQ import system predominantly), the local breweries best provide that crucial freshness which brought me to Les Trois Mousquetaires.  Their casked Camerises (Berliner Weisse with Camerises), casked Brett Double IPA, and casked blend of Porter Baltique and Double IPA were all also very solid and worthy of high praise, but in particular, it is that which I'd imbibed before which they brought most strongly.  Clearly, they dominated the revisitation category for me personally.

2) Les Trois Mousquetaires' Porter Baltique Fut de Bourbon et Brandy 2014 is a delight in bottles, and the draught version here was even better, complementing the chocolate and barrel notes with a delightfully creamy mouthfeel.  If you ever have the chance to drink this on draught... do so.  Grade: A

1) It's a tough call for 1st or 2nd place here and, really, my winner isn't a revisitation, but rather my first take at the newest iteration.  Though I may have preferred the 2013 DIPA, Les Trois Mousquetaires' Double IPA 2015 easily tops 2014 for me, wafting a fruitier nose with some of the grassy earthiness of increased Simcoe hops (as mentioned to me by their brewmaster, Alex).  Tastewise, it is more bitter than sweet and yet, the balance is ideal, while this keg was also at optimal freshness.  Another hit - I only wish I could get these bottles more than once a year.  A few days later, Beerism's Noah and I side by sided this with Lawson's phenomenal Sip of Sunshine and this 2015 version stood up, even after SOS.  Wow!  Grade: A

Top Hops:

I have to caveat this category and critique the ridiculous import system here (much like Ontario's) where SAQ testing holds back products for months before their appearance.  Thus, I avoided several American IPAs I wished to try due to 2014... yes 2014... bottling dates.  I also avoided those with no date. I believe this system needs serious correction, and that fault lies with government.  However, within such constraints I hope that Mondial will perhaps try to ensure these (IPAs, DIPAs) are the very last beers tested and brought in or else the category could almost be left to lo
cal brewers as hops fades and tastes moldy so quickly.

That said, I was stoked about the highly-rated hop-forward beers from Wormtown in Massachusetts and, fortunately, they were all canned or bottled two months back.  This still isn't optimally fresh, but neither was it a disaster.  And, I am pleased to say that Hopulence (DIPA), Buddha's Juice (DIPA), and Be Hoppy (IPA) all stood up!  I am not sure they tasted as great as their ratings, but that could be due to age, so it feels disingenuous to fully rate on that presentation.  However, my intrigue remains and I will seek out fresher versions to report back in greater detail.

And on the local front, check out Benelux Verdun's Short-shorts for a lightly sour, well-hopped session IPA!  (Grade: A-)

Top Tarts:

Yes, again, not a true beer style category, and in many ways I could include La Simonne and Blanche du Mur here - and with these others they belong - but I chose the above category to present their wonders and here we move to more usual suspects!

3) Limes from Italian brewer Birrificio Bruton is a super drinkable fruit beer (6.5% ABV), so categorized for the addition of vermentino grape must.  It pours yellow and lightly hazy with a decent white head.  The bouquet presents traditional sweaty and fruity saison yeast, coupled with some rind and a hint of the grape must to come.  Flavourwise, it has a nice mild lime character which seems to present as a fairly complex interplay between the yeast and the must, with just a mild sourness.  Very well carbonated and light bodied, the feel strongly spreads the flavours, while never becoming heavy on the palate,with well hidden warmth, making this a wonderful hot summer day delight.  Grade: B+/A-

2) Brasserie Dunham tops out the best two in the category (not counting the surprises above!), but begins with a collaboration brewed in conjunction with Rigaud's Le Castor.  Chevalier du Funk (a 6.5% wild ale or sour saison, in this case) brings hints of barnyard and moderate tartness to the nose, while the taste is mildly yeasty, with some leather, dust, and moderate sourness.  It is light-bodied and, personally, a touch undercarbonated - though live Brett may increase that some with a bit of bottle age.  Another hit from both of these masterful breweries!  Grade: B+/A-

1) Dunham once again hits a homerun, this time with Assemblage Numero 4 (6.3% ABV wild ale blend of barrel-aged Brett beers).  I have to note, however, that this brew has divided the Quebec beer community - some feeling the quality was lacking and others loving it.  Yet, I have now spoken with two different people who each opened two bottles and found one to be delightful and one to be off.  I am never one to speak ill of Dunham, but I hope this inconsistency is hearsay and that my bottle is as good as this one I tasted (and that such problems are addressed if there is any accuracy to these reports); for this offered a masterfully complex nose of dust, must, funk, cobwebs, and light tartness with just a trace of fruit.  Taste-wise, the complexity continued with a gueuze-resembling presentation of musty, vinous notes spread across the palate by high carbonation and a fairly light body.  I found this to be a touch under the stronger examples of traditional gueuze and some high-end American (and Quebec) sours, but it belongs in the conversation.  I cannot stress enough that dislike of this bottle either portends a dislike of the style or of bottle variance, for this is a wonderfully complex animal (complete with inherent critters).  Grade: A

Personal Best(s) of Fest:

This may not have been the top beer I tasted, though it was assuredly amongst them, but it was the genuine and solid token that stood outside of my intentionally odd categorizations.

Double Black IPA (8% ABV), from Providence, Rhode Island's Revival Brewing captures much of what I love in a Black IPA (or Cascadian Dark Ale).  That is, if there is no trace of the roast, make an IPA, and if the hops is secondary, brew a stout, but when done well, these flavours complement, rather than compete with each other.  That is what this offered, presenting an equal parts pine and roast nose, with a coffee forward quality.  The taste likewise began with espresso up front, but completed with a resinous, hop forward earthiness that went hand-in-hand with the roast.  For an imbalanced beer style, the balance between the notes was remarkable, and I could have consumed this all day long - except I had it towards the end (perhaps skewing my notes - though I had two) and limiting the remaining consumption capacity (not to mention breadth of choice!)  Grade: A

Well folks... until next year, that ends the Mondial coverage, but keep seeking these promising local delights, brewers keep stepping up the game, and stay tuned for a review of a pending Imperial Chili Stout tasting complete with Hunahpu, Double Barrel Hunahpu, Mexican Cake, BA Cake Tequila barrel, Double Barrel Cake, and more!



  1. The host of this show is a big fan of bugs as food

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