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Mondial Rocks Montreal
By Tom Dalldorf

Multilingual Montreal spoke one language fluently during this summer's Mondial de la Bière — the language of beer! The 12th edition of this seminal beer event for North America took place June 1–5, 2005, and the attendance was reported to be over 80,000 people — up some 6 percent from 2004. The majority of attendees come from Québec and environs, but increasingly there is a truly international feel to the turnout. Americans and Europeans have discovered the malty mother lode in Montreal.

Held in the beautiful old downtown train station Garr Windsor, the festival uses both indoor and outdoor areas to maximum effect. Tented booths line the expansive halls, offering tastes of exotic beers, foods, ciders and distilled products, with several areas dedicated to seminars and educational presentations. Harried commuters stop to see the odd gathering of beer lovers, and many stop to join in. They were amply rewarded for their curiosity.

The mission of the Mondial de la Bière is "to return beer to its place of honour among the pleasures of the table, offering to local and international consumers the chance to discover beer from around the world, and at all times promoting its responsible and moderate use." To this end, the festival allocates considerable resources to education and beer appreciation. The Celebrator's own Stephen Beaumont hosted a Beer and Food Pairing, Fred Eckhardt talked about craft brewing, and Portland's Beer Goddess Lisa Morrison discussed beer for women. Charlie Papazian from the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo., presented a seminar on Old Traditions and New Trends in Beer Styles. Tony Forder of Ale Street News did a seminar on the Belgian Influence. Several other speakers conducted presentations in French.

A bilingual "debate" was, shall we say, contrived to generate some discussion and audience participation. The subject, "Is there a truly craft-brewed beer, and is it better than mass-produced beer?" was batted about by a stellar panel of beer experts, including authors Ray Beauchemin and Claude Bolvin and publishers Ben Vinken (Beer Passion), Julie Bradford (All About Beer), Bill Metzger (Brewing News Publications) and yours truly (Celebrator Beer News). Panel director Mario D'Eer made sure no blood was shed.

Americans and Europeans have discovered the malty mother lode in Montreal.

Canada’s largest beer festival has gained a reputation for celebrating food and drink with panache and flair. Among products featured at this year's festival were some 360 different beers from over 90 international breweries, delicious Québec ciders, a few distilled products and a variety of food selections, including some credible frites. The winners of the Mondial de la Bière festival’s prestigious beer contest were announced on the last day of the beer festival. A complete list is available on the fest Web site, festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca.

Among the winners were the incredible Blanche du Cheval Blanc in the Belgian-style beer category and Amourette (a raspberry flavoured wheat beer) from craft brewers Dieu du Ciel! in the Fruit/Honey-style beer category. Another beer by Dieu du Ciel!, an ale called Tordeuse, received a special mention. The awards are chosen by popular vote of the attendees.

“At this festival, people can tell the brewers about their beer,” said Jeannine Marois, president of Mondial de la Bière. “This is how new tastes get on to store shelves.”

The nightlife in Montreal is compelling. Within walking distance of the Mondial or a short cab ride away are many fine pubs, superb restaurants and some excellent brewpubs.

My favorite for inventive beer has to be Dieu du Ciel! (God in Heaven!). Brewmaster Jean-Francois Gravel is as talented as he is inventive.

I was most impressed with his Northwest-style IPA — a beer that nailed the genre. I found him at his booth the next day and congratulated him on it. "Would you like to try it cask-conditioned?" he asked nonchalantly. That draught, poured fresh and pure from cask, turned out to be my "best of the fest!"

I also enjoyed revisiting Le Cheval Blanc and retasting its Blanche. The first time I tried it, I was with fellow publisher Bill Metzger, and we both agreed that this might be the best Belgian-style wit beer in the world. No small praise, indeed. And the beer is still that good!

Other brewpubs in the inner city include Brutopia, Les 3 Brasseurs, L'Amère à Boire, Le Réservoir and Le Sergent Recruteur. There are more if you have the time.

You can spend a lot of time and much cab fare exploring all of Montreal, but a day at the Mondial de la Bière gives you a comprehensive overview of most of the beers of eastern Canada and some of the best from around the world. Perhaps I'll see you next year for the 13th edition.

Tom Dalldorf is publisher and editor of the Celebrator Beer News.


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