On my last visit to Montreal, friends remarked on the proliferation of Molson products at the local bars, products which were fairly indistinguishable considering we were in town for a bachelor party. For better or worse, the conversation that weekend focused more on my buddy's bravado for wearing a Bruins hat in Canadiens territory than the beer flowing from the taps.
Before the hate mail starts, this blog is fully aware that Montreal is a culinary center and destination. Canada, of course, is a big country, with various regions and cultures churning out their own food and drink. This is not an all-encompassing review of Canadian beer, but if there's one overarching "theme" or whatever here, it's that Canadian craft beer gets a bad rap, or almost no rap at all, below the border. After Quebec's Unibroue, it's hard for the average American craft drinker to identify a Canadian brewer that has captured our imagination. No matter how much good work is being done up there, most of the beers have yet to proliferate in the U.S.
South Boston's Social Wines takes care of me in terms of bringing in beers I've yet to try, including some I've never heard of. Last week's haul produced "L'Herbe a' Detourne," a beer out of a Quebec brewpub Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel that immediately captured my attention. Some key words from the label -- "tripel", "citra", "new world", and "10.2 percent ABV" -- jumped out at me. It's not the size of the beer in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the beer. Or something.
Gathered from the label, this was a heavily-hopped, Belgian-style tripel with a twist. The beer pours a golden orange into a tulip glass. The nose is wild, equal parts sour and citrus and yeast.
The taste of this beer is bright up front before getting down and dirty. Citra is one of those en vogue hops, a high alpha variety packed with lemon and guava and stone fruit notes. Underneath is a Belgian tripel with a tinge of funk. None of that lasts too long on the palate, however. Somehow, the brewer manages to pull this all together into a smooth finish. At 10.2 percent ABV, this has a remarkable levity to it.
On most trips I make it a point to take in the local food and drink. The brewpub at Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel will surely be on the list for the next Montreal visit.