Provincial Potations: Beers from Quebec

The French are notorious for many things, including baguettes, escargot, and of course, a love of alcohol.
Although French-Canadians may not share the same passion for snail as their Parisian counterparts, the spirit of alcohol is living strong throughout the old French colony of Quebec.  

And while France is famous for its wine, Quebec has consistently earned some serious fame for its beer. So if you’re preparing a move to Canada, and if you’re a lover of all things beer, then prepare your palette for an otherworldly experience.

A MULTI-CULTURAL BEER INFLUENCE

Quebec was first discovered in the mid-16th century by French explorers; however, in the early 18th century, Quebec fell into an ongoing tug-of-war ownership battle between France and Great Britain. Over the years that followed, battles were raged, treaties were signed, and eventually, the province of Quebec was officially established under British rule.

While this might make for an interesting Grade 8 history class, the fascinating part of the story is how the centuries of trading possession between the two colonial empires morphed Quebec into a kind of cultural melting pot. And the perfect example of this cultural osmosis? Quebec Beer.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF QUEBEC BEER

In the 17th and 18th century, Quebec was home to a series of locally-operated production houses making a beverage called Spruce Beer. Unlike the hoppy British beer, Spruce Beer was sweeter and often contained spices and roots. These small producers would be known as “microbreweries” by current standards—although they likely didn’t have the same funky logos and names that we see in beer stores today.

Over those centuries, beer quickly took cultural precedence and thrived over French wine. According to historians, wine was the drink of the wealthy, while beer was reserved for the middle and lower class. Since many Quebec colonists moved to the new land due to poverty in their home land, beer became the official beverage of choice, much like university fraternity parties.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the English to plant their sudsy flag in French soil. In 1786, Englishman John Molson created the first industrial-scale brewery in Montreal, known as Molson Breweries (which is, to this day, the oldest brewery in North America). More Englishmen followed suit shortly thereafter, giving birth to the beer behemoths Labatt and Carling-O’Keefe. From the 19th to 20th century, microbreweries crumbled under the pressure from these conglomerates, and Quebec beer became decidedly British: a malty ale that lacked much diversity. Fortunately, as the 20th century came to an end and the 21st century turned the corner, Quebec beer would undergo a significant renaissance.

THE REVIVAL OF QUEBEC BEER

In the late 1980’s, microbreweries began popping up all over Quebec in defiance of beer monotony. Each brewer carved a unique name in the market with a distinct beer style and flavour. There were Bavarian-style brewers, Belgian brewers, and even brewers that channeled their French spruce root roots (get it?).  By March 2008, Quebec was host to almost 60 breweries that churned out more than 400 kinds of beers.

And what better way to celebrate all this alcoholic joy than a beer festival. Since 1994, Montreal has been host to the annual Mondial de la Biére, a giant festival attracting nearly 100,000 visitors each year.

A GUIDE TO THE BEST QUEBEC BEER

Trying to list all the incredible breweries in Quebec would be like trying to count stars in the sky. Instead, here we’ll list the best of the best, and what kind of delicious beer you can enjoy from each:

La Korrigane: Inspired by an old sailboat called the Korrigane, this brewery produces artisanal ales ranging from a Honey Pale Ale to an Oatmeal Stout “Cream” Ale. Try the house-inspired Korrigane Red Ale, an earthy, fruity and butterscotch-flavoured beer that will blow you away.

La Souche: Here you’ll find a warm and inviting microbrewery that aims to please with a wide selection of beer and food that could impress even the toughest of “foodies”. If you’re thirsty for a Belgian Blonde, get the Stadacona, a light and fruity wheat beer that, at 4.2%, will go down perfectly with your dish.

La Barberie: Home to over 200 beer innovative and indescribably delicious recipes, you could say La Barberie brewers are experts in the field. They use charcoal-filtered water to create a rich and aromatic beer, and their highly stylized bottles make for excellent collectibles. The fan favourite IPA New England will introduce you to British flavouring with a foresty nose and fruity taste from Vermont yeast.

Archibald Microbrasserie: Built by Scottish explorer Archibald Simons, each beer this brewery represents a woman from his storied life. The Valkyrie is a caramel and spicy beer with hops aromas that is brewed according to German beer purity law. At 7.0%, you know this Bock Beer will be the start of a good night.

Le Corsaire Microbrasserie: Award-winning. That’s the perfect way to describe this brewery located in the heart of Lévis. The Bristol is an Extra Special Bitter (ESP) beer that has recently won the 2017 World Beer Awards in the amber category. Need we say more?  

L’Inox Maîtres Brasseurs: Inox is French for “stainless steel”, the heart and soul of this modern brewery. Using such precise elements, you can expect perfect, untainted beer every time you visit. Try the La Brosse or the La Trouble Fête for some aromatic beers that will leave you smiling.

Microbrasserie Le Castor: This brewery takes inspirational notes from the flat, malty ale that’s famed in the UK. After a rough start that had the brewery delayed amidst the 2008 recession, Le Castor is thriving today with over 39 incredible beers, including the Yakima IPA, a hoppy and lemony powerhouse that’s been a fan favourite for years.

Dieu du Ciel!: Daring. Innovative. Delicious. Dieu du Ciel! puts human achievement first, encouraging microbreweries across the province to continually expand their selection. From its humble beginnings in 1991, today the brewery produces over 13,000 HL annually. Go for the 6.5% Aphrodisiaque, a cocoa and vanilla stout, for a truly unique and flavourful experience.

Microbrasserie St-Arnould: This brewery is famous in the Mont-Tremblant area, and for good reason. It has thrived for over 20 years, serving up tasty and tasteful beers that stay true to Quebec roots. The L’Eveque is a dark beer that is brewed with Quebec honey. And at 8.5%, it’s both sweet and potent.

Tête d’Allumette: What makes this brewery unique is how they brew their beer: boiled over a wood fire. This allows them to create a caramelized taste that is beautifully eccentric. The Blanche tête et les 7 grains is a 7.5% wheat beer that will change the beer world as you know it.

Can’t wait to try all these incredible breweries? Take a step forward in your move to Canada with our comprehensive Online Relocation Guides. They’re loaded with valuable information that will help anyone moving to Canada make a smooth and successful transition, and avoid stumbling through a new and unfamiliar city.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

About the Author:

Josh Gladstone is a Canadian copywriter, blogger and storyteller. He’s been obsessed with travel since Columbus first set sail—“Columbus” being the name of his bathtub sailboat as a toddler. He’s lived in Hong Kong, Germany, Spain and France, so when it comes to travel stories, Josh lets his passport do most of the talking.

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