Most beer-savvy souls have by now heard of Unibroue (80 Des Carrières, Chambly, tel. 450-658-7658), the Belgium-inspired brewery located on Montréal’s south shore. But if you have only come across the brewery’s ‘Big Three’—the Belgian-style wheat, Blanche de Chambly; Maudite, their excellent coriander-spiced strong ale; and Fin du Monde, the fruity, over-the-top tripel—then you have only begun to explore their vast range.
True, such gems as La Terrible, the strong black ale that offers notes of Asian spice within its complex character, and Don de Dieu, the brewery’s super-charged white beer, are available sporadically outside of Québec, but what of Eau Bénite, Unibroue’s deliciously understated tripel, and the four non-apple flavors of Éphémère—black currant, peach, cranberry and fruit-free? To taste those, you must travel to la belle province, period.
Unibroue’s Belgium-influenced success seems to have inspired other Montréal breweries, not least of which is the production version of Cheval Blanc, now a part of the brewing group Brasseurs RJ (5585 rue de la Roche, tel. 514-274-4941). Like the brewpub, the bottling Cheval Blanc produces a wide range of sometimes quirky ales, including Coup de Grisou, a buckwheat ale that appears to have lost some of its spiciness through the years; Blonde d’Achouffe, a strong golden ale fermented with the La Chouffe yeast under an agreement with the southern Belgian Brasserie d’Achouffe; and a sweet and tart cranberry winter ale called Snoreau. RJ supplements these more eccentric brews with a flagship line of ales that include the clove-accented Cheval Blanc Ambrée and the plummy, spicy Cheval Blanc Rousse.
Still, it would be disingenuous to suggest that all Montréal beers stand to the left of stylistic standards. Indeed, many of the city’s finest and most easily located beers are very fine interpretations of conventional styles, such as the pale ale and oatmeal stout of the McAuslan Brewing Company (5080 St-Ambroise, tel. 514-939-3060).