Friday, 17 June 2016

Quebec and/at the World: Mondial Let's the Locals Shine

Mondial de la Bière, which wrapped up this past weekend, offered countless beers of worldwide origins alongside the best of the local scene.  The differences have slimmed and, overall, the local has blossomed to become my go-to at this world festival.

This was my fifth Mondial, and each time the increasing strengths of the local scene seem to shine brighter.  In ways, this too is a testament to Mondial and more, as this festival's contribution to our broadened local exposure to global trends and historical styles has pushed the brewing envelope of the province as the number of breweries, quality of product, and level of innovation continue to soar.  This isn't to say that all local beers were great or that all imports were bad - in fact they broadly evened out - but rather is stated to claim that the local has improved regularly over the years I have lived here, and here's to that!  I mean, the tops, DDC/TDD/etc were always great, but many of the rest have made huge strides, and that is a great thing for Quebec beer lovers.

However, in that First World Problem sort of way, aside from the cask event, many local brewers brought less in the way of previously unavailable offerings.  For instance, Dunham's spread was truly excellent, but made up almost entirely of great offerings available at the last bottle release.  Dieu du Ciel! brought AMAZING treats such as Péché Mortel Bourbon and Isseki Nicho Pinot Noir, and I imbibed even if several bottles of each rest in my cellar.  Le Trou du Diable poured the always amazing Dulcis Succubus (and many more), and yet this also abounds in my home, while Les Trois Mousquetaires offered their excellent Tenth Anniversary Imperial Dark Kriek Dixieme (and others).  But, such are the woes of committed beer geekery: I had tried most of these delightful treats beforehand!  I know... it's a tough life when great beer is widely available!  And, to that, this post sends its praise despite this tempered lamentation!  In fact, broadening exposure to such time-tested products is the very purpose of this event for many breweries and, geek-problems aside, this also serves only to enhance the local palate and scene, which can only result in a stronger local industry.  Thus, despite wanting to try more new things, the superb quality of barrel-aged and uniquely strong offerings is actually a bigger blessing than a curse.

Yet, in the way of the new delights I seek out, Les Trois Mousquetaires' new IPA came with a sneak preview and dominated.  Let me reiterate: it DOMINATED.  Every year there seems to be one beer I have a few times - this was that beer.  In fact, I had two samples of draught and one from the cask at the Thursday Benelux on-site cask event.  It was quite floral and citrusy in bold aromatics, while flavourful if not aggressively bitter according to the newer (North-East USA) trend of late addition hopping, and it captures the essence of this sub-style.  I am glad this has started to hit shelves and that a few bottles line my fridge.  If you see some, buy some... or at least let me know where it remains.

L'Espace Public and Vox Populi brought their first releases to some anticipation.

Vox's Double Fruit Punch IPA was tasty, but paled in both nose and flavour to the LTM I had just tasted.  It holds promise though and I maintain the faith that this will improve as VP smooths out the kinks, as these local "gypsy" brewers have substance behind their popular acclaim.

L'Espace brought three sours: Bière de Coin d'Rue (Sour Blond), Bière de Balcon (Raspberry sour), and Bière de Ruelle (Dry-hopped Sour).  While all were nice, and all canned and sessionable (at 4.5, 3, and 6.5% ABVs respectively), they seemed a bit restrained.  That is, I felt like all could use a bit more: fruit and sour in the Balcon (to compete with the delightful Solstice d'été), tartness for the Coin d'Rue, and hops for the Ruelle.  In a way though, their delight was their moderate subtlety.  They were all on point, all refreshing and crushable, but somewhat targeting the beginning sour drinker, while offering styles that often attract the more committed beer geek.  This is probably a good strategy, to offer such crushable versions, but I hope this portends the pursuit of bolder offerings in the future.  Nonetheless, canned and solid sessionable sours are a very welcome addition to the Quebec beer scene.

Rounding out the local, with some interesting options, were Kruhnen's (collab with the Atman Brothers) New-World Hops variant on their popular King Cogne, and Brasserie Harricana's 77 (barrel-aged sour porter).  I may personally enjoy the original King Cogne more, and slightly found an odd clash between the sour and the roast as sometimes occurs in beers of the sour porter style, but both were still quite enjoyable and pushed the envelope in ways that inspire a growing scene.

Once 'leaving the province,' Nøgne Ø was the shining light in a sea awash with a variety of global options, ranging in quality with a few hidden gems scattered therein.

The Norwegian's of Nøgne brought a marvellous spread including Kriek of Telemark, Imperial Rye Porter (collab with Terrapin), Imperial Stout, Porter, God Paske, Sunturnbrew, Horizon Tokyo Black, Aurora Australis II (collab with Bridge Road), Imperial Aquavit Rye Porter, Dragonwort Stout, Saison Reserve, and more!

Of these, I offer a special nod to the Bretted Saison Reserve which offered decent funk in both bouquet and flavour, the Imperial Aquavit Porter (despite never having tasted Aquavit for reference) which offered fruity, woody, and chocolatey notes, Kriek of Telemark (showing a solid example of a fruited sour all around), and the Horizon Black Tokyo which proves a 16% beer need not be a boozy mess!

New Italian AB-InBev acquisition, Birra del Borgo, has always had strong products and, macro-owned or not, this acquisition hasn't changed that.  Duchessic (their saison blended with Cantillon Gueuze) offers a marvellous mix of funk and tartness, alongside a brilliantly dry finish.  Likewise, in their sour area of strength, their Prunus likewise holds its own, though the fruit is very tempered (compared to Nøgne's) but the tartness and drinkability were bang on.

New York State brewery, Captain Lawrence regularly impresses, and their strong sour red/brown Rosso e Marrone probably stole the show for me (aside from LTM's excellent new IPA).  This 10% twist on Flanders style beers smelled maltier than it tasted, with decent oak and fruit aspects, while the taste finished with a remarkable dryness beyond what you get in the classic Belgian examples, proving the perks of a unique American take on the style.

Once again, some of the stronger Brazilian breweries also brought tasty offerings, with Bodebrown offering the same Imperial Stout in different barrels (Cacau Wood Aged and Cherry Wood Aged Atomga), while 3Cariocas' Saison de Leblon (with mango, vanilla, and pepper) offered easy drinking  with a nice blend of adjuncts, despite a fairly sweet finish for what should be a fairly dry style.

Beyond the beer, it seems to me that local food vendors had improved as well, as food diversity had increased, and there were far more makers of great local sausage who were more than willing to hand out a sample to entice purchase.

My biggest gripe was really only with the weather.  This was easily the coldest and wettest Mondial of the five I have attended.  Obviously, this cannot be controlled, but that warm patio drinking will have to wait for another year (at least at the fest!)

Overall, Mondial was once again a resounding success and a great time!  I cannot wait for 2017!

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