Friday, 20 June 2014

What I Have Learned About (Mondial de la) Bière

When I moved to Quebec, I had but a fraction of the (still limited) beer knowledge I now have, and I knew even less of the Quebec scene.  Mondial de la Bière, however, expanded my knowledge immensely, introducing me to new (to me) American, Italian, Brazilian, Belgian, and English beers (predominantly) while also expanding my palate and style evolution.

And that is just part of the charm of Mondial!  In three years of attendance, I have gone from knowing few to many in the Montreal beer scene, evolving from extensive notes with minimal conversation to minimal notes with extensive conversation, but my appreciation continues to grow: for beer, for palate evolution, for new friends to enjoy a noteworthy obscurity with.

As in years past, Mondial 2014, the 21st annual edition, brought a breadth of brews, a lively atmosphere at a great venue, and a place to learn, to share, and to continue on the voyage of great beer appreciation.  And, moreso, it brought socialization centred around beer, discussions on beer, new beer friends with different outlooks and opinions, beer presentations, and a dialogue for those who love the fermented grain!  Isn't that what beer is all about?  The social aspect?  Insofar as I find that most appealing, Mondial tops the list of can't miss Quebec events for the initiate or the connoisseur alike, as it provides the people, the breadth of diverse beer and worldwide options, and a can't miss place to be.

Though in year's past I have offered elaborate reviews by location and style, this year I will nod simply to some delights to seek in your travels or imports, or to hope for a return to next year's 22nd Mondial dela Bière.

Best Bitter:

Central City Red Racer ESB wafts a fine floral nose with some bready malt and piney hops on the tongue.  Just a strong example of a North American twist on a classic!  Availability: Canadian West Coast and potential LCBO list sometime (as they bring in beers from this brewery regularly) Grade: A-/A

Best Pilsners:

Dogfish Head/Birra del Borgo My Antonia is an imperial pilsner that presents some spicy, zesty and boldly assertive noble hops to complement the grainyness of the style and enhance it to a flavourful level.  Availability: US or Italy for sure.  Grade: A-

Local Montreal and Shawinigan superstars Le Purgatoire (the name behind Dieu du Ciel and Le Trou du Diable collaborations) offered a sneak peek of their currently available Wit Pils, La Divine Comedie  which presents some cereal grain and bread notes, but a nice palate cleansing dry, lightly grassy finish.  Though I don't often go in for a pils (nor a wit), this is a true hot summer day delight. Availability: finer Quebec depanneurs right NOW for a limited time!  Grade: A-

Best Saisons:

Nøgne Ø India Saison is exemplary of the style with a fine citrus nose, and yeasty spicy lemon rind sort of sharp dry finish in the taste that quenches the thirst while inviting another sip... perpetually. Availability: periodic LCBO list brewery - watch for it down the road Grade: A-/A

Croce di Malto Temporis is another fine representative, with a nose of rind and pepper, complemented by a spritzy lemon flavour of wonderful warm-weather, easy-drinking!  Availability: Italy only?  Europe?  US?  Grade: A-/A

Best Sours:

Oud Beersel Bzart Lambiek blends the lambic beer style with a champagne yeast process that provides the very sort of rare delightful treat Mondial excels in.  Much as I loved having the opportunity to try this excellent oddity, and truly appreciate its availability, it seems odd that Mondial received merely three bottles which sold out within one hour on the first day.  More would have been great, but I shouldn't complain since I got to drink this rare gem that offers a lightly sour tart bouquet coupled with some fruitiness, which tastes funky and dry with the best qualities of bruts complemented by the funk of a lambic.  Availability: Belgium?  Europe?  Nowhere?  Hard to come by!  Grade: A

Schneider-Weisse Aventinus Barrique 2013 surprised me as the first ever sour eisbock I have tasted!  It offered an excellent tart, lightly fruity nose with some vinous notes, while the taste had wine barrel sourness with a lengthy linger.  If you try this, you better like sour and wine barrel must, for they stick with you!  Availability: Unknown, but this is a large brewery with wide distribution, so keep your eyes peeled! Grade: A

8Wired Grand Cru 2011 fits oddly here, blending a Belgian-styled quadrupel, with Brettanomyces (wild yeast) and pediococcus (souring bacteria) through a Pinot Noir barrel-aging process.  That said, the nose presents the dark fruity sweetness of a quad, coupled with the dusty barnyard funk of Brett.  Tastewise, this evolves from a sweetness to a cherry-like tartness with some musty grape notes and just hints of the barrel.  A delightful drink, but whose sweetness and 11% ABV will keep its consumption to the slight samples it best excels at presenting. Availability: in this part of the world, you are probably stuck to private import, but definitely grab one if you get to New Zealand!  Grade: A-/A

Best Stouts:

Central City makes the cut again with their Red Racer Imperial Porter that is vanilla bourbon through and through!  Some cocoa complements it, but I had no idea it was barrel-aged until this delightful bourbon-bomb shocked my senses to great delight!  Availability: Canadian West Coast and potential LCBO list sometime (as they bring in beers from this brewery regularly) Grade: A

Hornbeer Viking Chili Stout isn't the spiciest beer, nor the roastiest I have had, but it subtly blends both offering a nose not unlike a high cocoa percentage chili chocolate with a chocolate taste that grows in spicy intensity (to, at most, a moderatelevel) as you sip further.  A fine hybrid that is easily drinkable for its 10% ABV and chili ingredient.  Availability: Denmark, US?, import? Grade: A-

New Holland Dragon's Milk Stout offers sweet shaved cocoa to the nose, while just touches of the vanilla bourbon comes through on a taste dominated by a milk chocolate sweetness.  Nice, but on the sweet side of BA stouts.  Availability: US Grade: A-

Best Strong Ales:

Though I often find Dogfish Head unique if overrated, Palo Santo Marron, this big brown ale aged on Palo Santo wood from Paraguay offers a nice maple-ish sort of sweet nose complemented by tastes of roasty and piney black IPA-esque notes with a slight woody presence.  The full body is pleasurable, though I find the carbonation a touch strong for what it is, I would gladly grab some bottles of this to both drink and age!  Availability: US Grade: A-

Nøgne Ø Red Horizon #2 and #3 are sweet barleywine/old ale-esque strongs that offer that sweet UK barleywine plum pudding essence, with some lingering sugar notes.  Both are delightful, yet the #2 is a touch drier and for me slightly tops the later variant.  Availability: Denmark?  Import?  Grade: B+

Baladin Xyauyù Oro is an oak-aged barleywine of substantial complexity with minimal carbonation, not unlike Samuel Adams Utopias or Brasseurs Illimites' Maltus.  Smelling like caramel while tasting like sweet maple syrup, this beer is sweet like few I ever mention: not beer geek sweet... cake sweet!  Coupled with a thick and chewy body, this brew is dessert - in a good way!  If you seek a dry barleywine, this is not for you, but a complex and rare delight of the sort that an ounce suffices as would a brandy or cognac.  A treat, but my pour was too large for maximal enjoyment and I came to regret it, much as I adored it for what it is.  Availability: Italy, US?, import?  Grade: A-

With that, I bid adieu to Mondial for another year, but stick around!  If you missed it this year, or missed these offerings this year, many more delights are sure to present themselves when the 22nd edition of this truly global festival comes back to Montreal in 2015.


Photos courtesy of Jean-Sebastien Roussy (of Demi-Jean) and Remi Galipeau

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