Take Five: Montreal's Brewpubs

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Take Five: Montreal's Brewpubs

Photo by Alain Quevillon/Flickr

Montreal has a reputation for being a party town because it’s a metropolis with a lower drinking age, and a city full of creative snowflakes who can build a treehouse on a Tuesday because they pay ridiculously cheap rent. While that may be partially true, it’s also a place where people can get pretty serious about what they’re into.

As is in the rest of North America, pretty much, the craft beer wave has crashed down hard on Montreal. While some brew pubs were doing it a decade ago, before the boozy frenzy, many have sprung up in the the last year, and there can only be more on the way. If you’re heading to Quebec’s biggest city, you best get thirsty.

1. Isle de Garde

The fall of 2014 saw this beer bar take over Petite Patrie with its carefully crafted beverages, as well as those of other microbreweries. Over the last few years, Beaubien Street has certainly become one of the go-to party streets in Montreal, in part because of Isle de Garde’s (pictured at top) clean, modern design and killer beverage list. What’s on tap changes often, but you’ll always find a few top-notch house brews, like their hefty brown porter, along with beers from renowned Canadian names like Trou du Diable, Brasseurs du Monde and Beau’s. Beers are always served in the proper glass and temperature. There’s also a solid comfort food menu with a boozy twist on the root beer float. Think a little less root and a lot more beer.

2. Dieu du Ciel!

Photo by lauren/Flickr

This brewery was an early bird in the local microbrewery game, and you can now find their beers in the province’s deps (local lingo for corner stores), as well as at their hyper-popular brasserie in Mile End. They’ve been at it for over 15 years and, in that time, amassed a crowd of devout drinkers who always come back to see what’s on the chalkboard for the day. On a cold January evening, cross your fingers and hope that the Charbonnière malt ale so smoky it almost tastes like bacon made the cut. In hot July, their famous tart and slightly acidic Rosé d’Hibiscus wheat beer is the perfect addition to their sidewalk patio, if you manage to get a seat. If it’s too packed, grab a six pack and head to the closest park. Public drinking laws in Montreal are forgiving to say the least.

3. Brasserie Harricana

While they’re only a year old, this brasserie on Jean-Talon Street has an old soul. That’s because co-owner Marie-Pierre Veilleux immortalized her parents’ defunct establishment of the same name, and happened to use that bar’s original furniture. If you like sentimentality and history with your libations, Harricana has got some stories. The beers here are either named after jersey numbers belonging to the people who work there or someone who’s had a big influence on the place. If you’re looking for something light and easy-drinking, the 21 is a blonde ale dedicated to Veilleux’s dad and his hockey jersey. Beer is serious business here too, so make sure you ask one of the waiters for pairing recommendations; the staff is super friendly and will talk your ear off about what ales them (har har) if you let them.

4. L’Espace Public

Montreal’s east end has exploded with trendy bars and eateries in the last few years, and this watering hole pouring out some of the best beers in town, while remaining pretension-free. They might be devoted to quality brews, but their noses have remained firmly out of the air, which is made obvious by their naming process. They’re not afraid to name their pints after the city’s shitty weather or subtly call their clients alcoholics with their oatmeal stout “La Ptit Dej,” which means breakfast in French. The menu reflects their sense of humor as well; you won’t be served something cured with a side of something confit and a little something reduced or emulsified on top. While they do showcase art exhibits and host events, this neighborhood bar is 100 percent beer all the time. They’re there to quench local thirsts in a high-quality way, nothing more, nothing less.

5. Benelux

Photo by Alain Quevillon/Flickr

While this microbrewery’s Downtown location has been around for longer, their newer off-the-beaten-path spot in Verdun is a way more enjoyable place to sit with a pint. That’s especially the case during the warm months when they set up their gigantic back patio like an outdoor living room. During those times, you might want to venture into the menu’s crisp, floral white beers or go for a light, sour ale. Save the hefty concoctions like the Fumata Bianca—a smoked imperial stout—for the frigid days of winter. Let’s face it, it’s Montreal, those aren’t few and far between. When it’s -20 out (I’m talking Celsius here, people), you’ll be happy to sit in their wood-clad interior laid out like an adult jungle gym with super high ceilings. In that case, grab a pint so rich it feels like a wool blanket. Mixed metaphor? Certainly, but you get the idea.

Caitlin Stall-Paquet is a Montreal-based writer who’s been published in Vice, She Does the City, enRoute Magazine and Matrix. She loves books, booze and all things cheese.