As is always the case when I get rolling in a fest mode, some blog backtracking is in order. So...here's what happened when I hit Montreal Tuesday afternoon. After pushing through some rush hour traffic, I dropped the Passat off with the doorman at the Queen Elizabeth and got ready for the pub crawl planned for early arrivers by Mirella Amato. Josh Rubin, the beer columnist for the Toronto Star, had very nicely asked me to join the group, and I did, as did Glenn Payne (another seminar presenter, and a very fun guy to go crawling with). I walked up to Sherbrooke and hiked across the hill to Benelux.
I spotted a likely group and asked them if they were with the Mondial. Yes! I quickly met Mirella, Jorgen Hasselqvist (owner of Oliver Twist, the celebrated Stockholm beer bar), Ken Woods (president of Black Oak Brewing ("They don't let me brew," he lamented. "I'm just an accountant.")), and Martin Jordan (head of sales for J. Cipelli Wine & Spirits in Toronto) (Arnis, I know you were there too, but I didn't get your card!). It was a lively group.
I got a Magnum, a pilsner hopped with (you got it) Magnum hops, and it was real drinkable. Could have been a bit crisper, but brewer Ben Mercier didn't stint on the hops. (He joined us as we traipsed about, and seemed to enjoy getting away from work for a change. That's him in the picture, at our table at Benelux.) Next up was a Cuda, a west coast IPA that was stinky and sticky with Simcoe and Amarillo hops; wicked bitter but still dry enough to drink easy. Nicely done beer.
Mirella chivvied us out the door and walked on down Sherbrooke (I would end up walking about 5 and a quarter miles that night), then right on rue St. Denis to L'amere a Boire. Mirella tried bravely to explain the French pun represented by the name, but I never did get it. I'm dense, just ask Tony "Moose" Forder. Anyway, L'AaB was essentially the first lager craft brewer in Montreal, and proved it by their very nicely crafted Cerna Hora, a true-to-style Czech pils.
What sold me, though, was Projet Elephant, a series of lower alcohol beers they've been doing. The current one is a 10P version of Cerna Hora, weighing in at only 3.6%, and very tasty indeed. The Projet Elephant beers pour through a brass elephant with a tap fitted into its trunk: quite fun.
L'AaB was a nice place, conducive to hanging out -- lower light, lots of smooth wood, a nice terrace out back, cool staff -- so of course Mirella would have none of it and chased us out the door to Cheval Blanc. Cheval Blanc was cool, in a chic kind of way -- low chairs, metal trim, hip staff -- but it was too nightclubby for my tastes. I didn't really love the beer, either. The stout was watery and astringent, the "India Noire," a dark IPA, was flatly bitter, and had a vegetal character to it that was not pleasant. The Maibock was fruity -- I questioned its lagerhood -- though it did dry out nicely at the end. The Bitter was the best of the bunch, drinkable and hoppy. Not a place I'd rush back to, I'm afraid.
It was the place where I ran out of money, though. I traipsed down the street to a gas station, but found the same thing I always do in Canada: I gotta use a real bank ATM. They always work (they did later that night), the little plastic numbers in gas stations and restaurants never do. Dammit. So I may still owe Mirella $10; I'm going to settle that tomorrow. Anyway...we walked again, a lot, which was keeping me more sober than I would have been, to Reservoir.
Reservoir was tiny, with a tiny cobbled-together brewing system (Mirella explained that there was a man who put these cheap but effective systems together; his trademark was a heat exchanger made from copper tubing and a hose, and sure enough, Reservoir had one), tucked away on a side street in a quiet neighborhood (at least, it was quiet on a Tuesday evening). We settled in, sitting in old armchairs around a substantial low table. I had a big oatmeal stout that was plenty drinkable (Ken said the dunkel weizen was 'brilliant'), but it was the food that was awesome. I had a pork BBQ that was full of peppers, excellent fries; Ken raved about his grilled cheese (it did look good; raclette in crunchy-grilled bread with lots of butter); Mirella let me try her grilled octopus and it was almost perfect...very nice.
The group was pushing on to Dieu du Ciel, but I'd had enough; four hours of sleep and 8 hours of driving was finally catching up with me. I walked back, a little over a mile and a half, but mostly downhill. I slept well.
*I have total sympathy for her actions, by the way: I know exactly how she was feeling. You have the desire for everyone to have a good time, but you still know that they would really like the next place, and they should see it because it's important and wonderful and offers things other places don't...so you try to see everything. Believe me, I know about it. Nice job, Mirella. A little more walking than we suspected, maybe, but a great time.