Thursday 12 September 2013

Oktoberfest des Quebecois: Standouts and Observations

This past weekend, I attended the Oktoberfest des Quebecois in Repentigny.  (Everyone always says, "what is with the Oktoberfests in September?"  Well, not only does the original Oktoberfest happen mostly in September only ending in October, but Canada seems to have a climate more conducive to outdoor festivals occurring in September than October.)

As this event occurred a week after the Chambly Festival, Bières et Saveurs, and a week before Zwanze Day, I had to choose between the two festivals and I don't regret my choice!

Free buses from Montreal's metro stations Honoré-Beaugrand and Radisson helped get us safely to and from the site.  The festival grounds was the Parc de l'Île-Lebel which is a gorgeous peninsula jutting out into the St. Lawrence River.  Though warm enough the day was overcast, limiting our enjoyment of the sun, but helping prevent the bouts of sunstroke often seen when the sun aligns with copious booze consumption.

Though we missed the bands, a solid lineup of Tequila Gang Band, A Beatles Tribute, Seven Bags of Bricks (Flogging Molly tribute), Bernard Adamus,  and Nicolas Pellerin et les Grands Hurleurs assured good times for drinkers and non-drinkers alike.  Similarly, the festival tone was family-friendly complete with a family zone comprised of rides and games.

But, this time, the family stayed home freeing me from such obligations and allowing me to focus on my other love... good beer.

As always, I shared far too many samples to comment entirely, but I will simply point out that which amazed, inspired, or was otherwise noteworthy.

Top beers of the day (for me and my crew) follow, before my surprise discovery of note:

Boquébière's Rouge à l'Érable (8.5% Flanders Red Style Ale with Maple): this beer was a marvellous delight as a fantastic Quebec interpretation of the style offering a great acidic and woody nose, with a nice puckeringly tart flavour that is spread across the tongue by an ample carbonation allowing a fully sour, lingering experience!  There is but a trace of the maple sweetness, making this beer a surprising delight as I was worried the maple would overpower the tartness, and I am pleased to say that it doesn't!  Grade: A/A+

Les Trois Mousquetaires' Double IPA (Draught version at 8.3% ABV).  Yeah, yeah, I reviewed this here.  But I still had to note how great this draught version was, what with it being cloudier and a bit earthier, while still fucking fantastic!  Grade: A

Le Trou du Diable's l'Apocalypse (7.5% White IPA): I have heard a few folks say this isn't as good once it warms a little and some flaws become discernible, I didn't let mine get warm enough to speak with certainty, since I devoured its delectable citrus and passion-fruit flavours coupled with the like nose.  This beer is unfiltered and cloudy, and more amber-coloured than the name would suggest, with a nice bold effervescence.  I hope this gets bottled so I can devour it cold and also try it warmed a touch!  Grade: A-/A

Les Trois Mousquetaires' Randall-Infused American Barleywine (11% ABV).  This beer, originally, is a delight with an excellent dry-hopped nose adding piney-earthy complexity to the malty fruity aromas.  Though quite sweet throughout, bordering on Scotch Ale territory, it begins with a port-like sweetness evolving towards a dryness supplied by warmth.  Quite creamy, quite substantially-bodied, quite hoppy, and simultaneously quite sweet and, hence, quite unique and enjoyable!  The un-replicable Randall the Enamel Animal version tapped here, however, brings a freshness and even hoppier grassy aroma, while the taste becomes earthier and a bit drier, but simultaneously a bit wheat-grassy.  This was my first Randall experience and, though I can't say I liked the beer more (liking the taste less and the nose more), I appreciated the evolution and I look forward to imbibing more Randall infusions in the future!  Grade: A-/A (Though I'd give the original an A)

La Succursale's Angus IP<<AAA>> (7% ABV).  Yes, I have reviewed this before, but am reminded of how pleasurable it truly is to drink when consumed alongside other marvels once again and still holding its own!

Lagabière's brewing brothers, Francis and Sébastien Laganière
Finally, when our day was drawing to a close, we discovered Lagabière, a 6-month old brewpub in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.  Named as a play on words from the surname of the brewing brothers, Francis and Sébastien Laganière, this new brewery surprised!  I can't say I adored any of their beers, but all were very solid (B+/A- range mostly for me, with none below that)!  I tried seven of their products and cannot wait to get to their location to try more!  Of note, I most enjoyed their Bomb IPA (probably close to an A), their Evel Knievel American Pale Ale, and their Spout-Nic Russian Imperial Stout, while one of my company adored their l'Alegonquienne (Spruce Ale).

By way of critique, I'd say they haven't stepped out of the bounds of the norm yet, but they have taken a strong route assuring that they can brew the standards which makes a strong base for any good brewpub.  Their beers are well-crafted, if a slight bit on the lighter-bodied side at times, while their (beer, and I guess personal) names are great and their promise is high!  Check them out!  Seriously!

In conclusion, this festival truly showcased much of what is great in the Quebec beer scene, and yet that was just the beginning of a wider festival celebrating culture and prolonging the end of a great summer festival season!  Though with limitations on my time, I chose Beau's Oktoberfest last year and Oktoberfest des Quebecois this year, next year I must plan for Chambly instead.  However, I mention this not to critique this wonderful event, which would be difficult indeed, but rather to note why I will try all that the region has to offer in beer and, so far, the more I discover, the more I admire!  If you haven't attended these events, you won't regret any of their delights and I strongly encourage you to support your local beer scene.

'Til next time... Santé!

PS: Thanks to Beerism for the pictures (as their phone/camera is MUCH better than mine).  Watch for their pending Oktoberfest review as well!

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