As the first days of school and the last days of summer are upon us, one phase of drinking slowly morphs into another. Languidly beating the heat on a terrasse with a bottle of beer in hand turns into complaining about profs and exams over pints at Biftek. The reality of student drinking is that it’s often centred more on where and why you’re drinking rather than what you’re drinking. Even more disheartening for the student beer enthusiast is watching as large, corporate beer factories are chosen first, time and again, just for their price.
However, thanks to a 25-year-in-the-making revolution in beer taste, craft beer is all around us. If you’re sitting outside at OAP reading this, chances are you’re sipping a Boréale from Les Brasseurs du Nord, a brewery that has been filling taps around the city for 21 years. They are the exclusive supplier of all SSMU functions – including Gert’s – thanks to a switch in contracts from the Coors-owned macrobrewery Molson back in 2005.
Why should you care, let alone be proud of Quebecois craft beer on campus? Because consuming locally is a more sustainable, responsible, and delicious way of eating and drinking. No one would disagree that Jean Talon market has higher-quality ingredients than the downtown IGA. Food and drink produced in Montreal and its surroundings carries with it the flavour of the region.
In a piece on local food in the current issue of The Mirror, it’s noted that in Quebec, “eating well has been moving out of the insufferable foodie preserve and into the mainstream,” citing the appeal of “avoiding long-distance imports.” As barley and hop farming in Quebec grew to supply the market, a wholly local beer became a reality. The rise of the “locavore” deserves credit for propelling the popularity of craft beer and piquing interest in bière d’ici.
Craft beer is distinctive in that it picks up attributes of the regions in which it is made. The Boathouse Brewpub in the tiny town of Ely, Minnesota, where wild rice is harvested in canoes 16 kilometres from the Canadian border, uses this local ingredient to make a beer that is spicy, bold, and unique to its surroundings. More locally, Brutopia (1215 Crescent) revived the proud Quebecois tradition of spruce beer, brewed in New France for almost 400 years.
To sample the beers of Quebec – which boasts more than 60 breweries – is to sample the regional variety from Chicoutimi to Chelsea. Provincially, the Quebec Microbrewers Association forms vital connections amid this decidedly underground community, while advocates within Montreal are found behind the numerous taps at Vices et Versa (6631 St. Laurent). And closest to home, here at All Hopped Up, local beer is the name of the game. Check back all year for everything devoted to the craft of the draught.
All Hopped Up serves up commentary on the world’s best libation every other Thursday.