Like most students living in Montreal, my first microbrewery experience was at Brutopia. Well-known, close to campus, and serving both imported beers and microbrews on the premises, I never got around to sampling any of Montreal’s vast selection of other options. While I consume enough alcohol to warrant worry for my liver, I certainly do not claim to be a beer connoisseur. But given an opportunity to review different microbreweries with a couple of friends, it was too much of a fun excuse to drink to pass up.
Benelux, 245 Sherbrooke West
A five-minute walk away from campus, Benelux was the first stop of the night. The atmosphere was very relaxed and intimate, complete with the usual dim lighting. Their décor was modern and warm: stainless steel bar tops, exposed ductwork, and kegs lining the walls. Our waitress, Gabrielle, was very patient as we mulled over a selection that ranged from traditional Belgian-style beers to IPAs, and helpfully gave us detailed descriptions and recommendations. We ordered the Pollen, which was described as a classic cream ale, though it was a tangier than expected, with undertones of buckwheat. The Hutchison was an amber ale, not too bitter, with mild hops, and a slightly roasted flavour. This would be an ideal place to go after class to catch up with a friend.
L’Amère à Boire, 2049 St. Denis
Our second stop of the night, L’Amère à Boire, felt more casual, with brighter lighting and a crowded atmosphere different from the more intimate feel one usually gets at brewpubs. It seemed like the crowd consisted of Quebecois patrons who were looking to kick back after a hard day at work. Though it was only 7:30 p.m. and the three floors slightly more than half full, it took a while for our waitress to arrive. Once she greeted us, the service was quite prompt. Their beer list came in French only, and featured a lot of German- and Czech-style beers. I tried the Drak, a clear amber with a strong malt taste and a faint tangy aftertaste, as well as their imperial stout. The stout’s colour was as black as coffee, and matched the earthy, bitter taste, as well as the undertones of dark chocolate. It was less bitter than the other stouts we tried, and became thinner and sweeter with subsequent sips. As we were preparing to leave, we caught a whiff of a plate of fries being delivered to the table behind us, and immediately our salivary glands kicked into production. The smell was intoxicating and we will definitely be trying the food next time.
Le Saint Bock, 1749 St. Denis
Down the street from L’Amère à Boire was our next stop, Le Saint Bock. Though the outside is easy to miss, the interior is very sleek, with heavy white drapes and red moody lighting. Think of a clash between a semi-formal lounge and a sports bar. The waiter arrived quickly, but rushed through his recommendations from the extensive beer list, and was generally impatient. We had developed a taste for stouts by this point, and ordered Le Stout Cerise. It tasted strongly of coffee, laced hints of whiskey and plenty of sugar. When I asked for a red beer, the gloriously named Dunkelweisen was recommended, a malty brew with a hint of spices and fruits. The beer itself was pretty light; it felt highly carbonated, and the flavour seemed to evaporate on the tongue.
Dieu du Ciel, 29 Laurier West
Alas, we saved the last stop for perhaps the best (and certainly one of the most popular) of Montreal’s microbreweries. The pub is almost always busy and full. Luckily, a table emptied just as we arrived and we were quickly seated. The servers were efficient and friendly. Their selection spans the gamut from standard to eccentric, including a beer infused with wormwood, the herbal base of absinthe, and another one with hibiscus. We had a tasting cup of the Aphrodisiac, a stout with cocoa and vanilla undertones. Even though we enjoyed it, a full pint would probably be too sweet to finish off. It was reminiscent of a very sweet chocolate shake – in beer form, something you would buy at Starbucks, if it had a liquor license. They lacked a full kitchen, but offered appetizers and simple bar food, so we also ordered a plate of nachos that we devoured rabidly, after our four beer runs. Considering that, it was hard to judge the food fairly. However, the size was good for three people for a fair price, and the nachos were crunchy and utterly satisfying.