Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Reviewing the World of Beer: Mondial 2017 in a Province of Booming Craft

For the sixth straight year, I put in a full day at Mondial de la Biere, arriving at noon and departing around 10 pm.  Yes, I had a long time to drink, but I tried to pace myself, to drink water, and to get to some fairly reliable assessments.

My first assessment concerns the lack of GlobeTrotter food (and the insects they usually bring).  I even mentioned them in the preview as they are always present it had seemed - even another year when they weren't mentioned in the program.  But alas, I had to eat "normal" food with my beers and I, sadly, cannot tell you which would pair best with crickets.

I arrived early to try Three Floyds' infamous Dark Lord 2016 (having previously had a 2014 and wanting to see if it was any better), but alas it smelled identically of soy sauce and tasted of sweetened, high quality, soy sauce once again.  I'd love to try the BA versions, but I just cannot get behind this beer.  While there, and with limited offerings, I also hit all of the Three Floyds IPAs and DIPAs, but they were all too oxidized from the lengthy importation process for optimal assessment (as expected).

However, another extremely limited bottle on my must-try-list was available at open and this one did not disappoint: Central City's Sour No. II (Sour Kriek) was boldly assertive with a bright oaky nose not unlike the Flanders style sours, and drank delightfully with a decent body and complex interactions between the balsamic qualities alongside the oak, the funk, and the fruit.  This was a standout beer, for sure and I would gladly seek it, or any other sours in that line, out again.

On the international front, I found a few more deserved of mention.  Of limited Lost Abbey products available, there was oddly the widest availability for what I felt was the best beer: Carnevale, a funky American saison of stellar depth and quality, of which I returned for a second pour.  Also, the Brazilian beers served onsite by OverHop were noteworthy (in particular, I enjoyed their HopGoddess IPA the most, with honourable mentions to OverLab Nelson Sauvin and Hazy).

On return to the Quebec front, like others, I was disappointed by the absence of some of Quebec's strongest breweries (*cough* Dunham *cough*, not to mention Benelux, Hopfenstark, Pit Caribou) and smaller strong newcomers like Maltstrom and Auval, but there were some solid local delights.

Though I was surprised by the strengths of Les Trois Brasseurs' Milkshake IPA, I was excited to try the newly praised Shelton NEIPA brewed at Oshlag.  Though the Shelton wafted a great nose, I found it a bit thin and not quite of the complexity early reviews had me hoping for, if nonetheless solid.

Yet, in closing, I was wowed by the evolution of the beers at Brasserie Harricana.  New(ish) brewmaster Francis Richer has been killing it!  Though their Saison des Allergies is still fantastic and not of his original making, several strong new offerings (17 Brune Celeste, 14 Double Gose, and 720 Strong Ale) were all noteworthy, unique, and delightful.  Yet, the highlight there, and perhaps of the festival for me was the creamy, smooth, nitro-served bourbon-barrel aged B52 imperial porter with coffee, vanilla, and lactose. Man, is that beer a remarkable treat.  Sweet, but complex, coffee-forward, yet not one-dimensional.  I'll line up for bottles of this!

With another year down, I am reminded again of the need to revise the SAQ system, at least for American IPAs.  I mean, they are all tested and approved within the USA - they are not going to kill us!  We buy them anyway on every vacation down South!

I am also reminded of the many varied and growing strengths of our local beer scene.  With each passing year of Mondial, it seems Quebec stands up taller against the trends and imports on offer and this year managed to do so with a diminished number of the high end of Quebec craft breweries.  This only bodes well for our local consumption down the road - now for Mondial to entice the newer brewers and the old ones back!

Until next year, cheers!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Another Year of Mondial de la Biere! (Another Year It Must Cope With Paternalistic Prohibition-Inspired Legal Limitations!)

As another year has passed, we once again find ourselves on the verge of the forthcoming Mondial de la Bière which runs from this Wednesday, June 14 through Sunday June 18 at Montreal's Palais des Congrès.

In year's past, I have given advice on arriving early if you wish to try rarities or to avoid the weekend party atmosphere (or late if you seek the party atmosphere!), on which specific beers to seek out, and on strategies for finding your specific beers of interest.

This year, I will be briefer, but will - in a somewhat different vein - push a bit of a political agenda (or two).

For example, one of the most sought-after beers on the list: Three Floyds nearly-IPA level APA "Zombie Dust" is on offer, but once again promises to be far too old for optimal enjoyment.  Oh, us geeks will still buy samples, "tap it," and lament the stale aged hops, but why don't we instead (or in addition) contact our local MNA and demand a change to regulations, or engage in a discussion over these sub-optimal beers as to how best to lobby for progressively amending outdated alcohol laws?  It isn't Mondial's fault that these beers must spend many months being 'tested' by the SAQ (despite the fact that no known pathogens can exist in a fermented beer below 4.5% ph or above 2% ABV), and I applaud Mondial for bringing in these diverse offerings  These regressive laws don't only baby us, they cost taxpayers needlessly and ensure that we are shielded from many great products in the global market.

Sure, some beer styles withstand this trip (and for those, I encourage you to check out Belgium's Brasserie de Bastogne, Brasserie de la Senne, Brussels Beer Project, Vliegende Paard Brouwers, Brazil's Cervejaria Colorado, America's The Lost Abbey, Three Floyds, and Weyerbacher, Norway's Haandbryggeriet and Nøgne Ø), but many are either not at their best or hindered by this delay.  (Typically IPA, APA, and other well-hopped styles are most adversely affected, while Scotch Ales, Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, sour beers, and saisons - mostly saved by higher ABVs - are better respresented after the wait).  Alternatively, stick to the many excellent local brewers (at least for the IPA/APA style).

I, alone, will not boycott the international booth, but perhaps this is a strategy discussion the beer community may want to have for future years, or at least to plan for as it may bring Mondial around to join us in pushing for change.  Their lobbying weight cannot be underestimated and it is surely in their interests to provide the best and freshest beer as well as the diversity for which we applaud them.

In an unrelated, but likewise politically motivated suggestion, consider that as starvation both threatens the stability of many and as climate change alongside a growing population means diminished access to food in the future, many have argued that insects should provide a more sustainable and healthy alternative to other protein sources.  Thus, my penultimate Mondial tip is to seek out Globe Trotter and to begin adjusting your palates to this delicious and nutritious food oddity.

Finally, remember the most important things: step outside of your comfort zone, try new beers and styles that you may never get to otherwise, but don't bud in line, don't be a jerk, and do not, under any circumstances drive drunk.  Having fun in such a way ensures that we all can.  Cheers and see you at Mondial!