deVine Thoughts

July 16, 2014

Québécois Beer

Filed under: deVine's Daily Blog Article — Dirk @ 3:59 pm

quebec_beer_blogAuthor: Jim Phelan

One of the most common questions the deVine staff has encountered when conversing with fellow beer aficionados and customers (or both at the same time!) has been simple and direct: What is your favourite beer in the store?

Obviously one’s favourite beer can depend on many things, including pairing, palate and style. But regardless on these factors, I’ve found myself drifting slightly more often to the full bodied and uniquely styled beers offered today by Quebec’s craft brewing scene. Though brewing in Quebec dates back centuries, the current market is driven by youthful dedication and has forged out its own niche in the world of craft beer.

Given the nature of this blogger’s academic interests, I hope our readers will forgive the following foray into Quebec’s brewing history. The early roots of Quebec brewing tradition date back to the 16th century in early colonial New France. In fact, beer was considered a dietary staple of North American colonialists. Malted ales helped prevent survey, were cleaner than most water sources, and of course were popular for morale-boosting recreational purposes. The founder of New France, Jacques Cartier, certainly had beer on board during his historical 1534 voyage. Further, his journals describe a spruce-based “concoction” brewed by the Aboriginal population which the French favoured and quickly adopted themselves. This was spruce beer, known most often as a non-alcoholic soda today, but its contemporary alcoholic variety made use of readily available spruce tree needles or buds in place of more difficult to find hops. Spruce beer, along with the odd alcoholic root beers (using the same concept) characterised Quebec brewing for two centuries. Even The Jesuit Relations, one of Canada’s earliest and most important ethnographic documents, known (in)famously to anyone who has taken a course in Canadian history, mentions a brother Ambroise preparing beer for the habitants in 1646. The region’s first brewery in written history also dates back to 1650, and the first commercial brewery, located in Quebec City, enjoyed a short lifespan in the 1870s.

Any Québécois artisanal brewing markets disappeared during 19th century, when at the height of industrialisation Englishmen and entrepreneur John Molson, founder of the Molson Brewing Company, established Quebec’s first industrial-scale brewery. They were followed by Labatt in 1847 and O’Keefe shortly after. These breweries essentially monopolised the Quebec and Canadian market until the 1980s, and were in fact the only three breweries in the province between 1960 and the early 1980s.

However, across North America during the 1980s a renaissance in craft brewing began. Specifically to Quebec, the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ), Quebec’s equivalent to Alberta’s AGLC, began issuing new commercial brewing and sales permits for the first time in a generation. An abundance of brew-pubs and microbreweries began popping up across the province, starting with the Montreal’s famed Le Cheval Blanc on Ontario Street, founded in 1986. Today, there are well over 100 active breweries in Quebec producing over 3,000 different beers. deVine currently offers twenty of our favourite selections available in the province.

The brewing style of Quebec’s new generation is unquestionably defined by full-flavoured, complex and layered beers, blending elements of French, Belgian, and Canadian brew traditions. This approach, combined with the freedom to experiment and perfect batches quickly in brew-pub and micro-brew environments, has quickly created a stellar reputation for the Quebec brewing milieu. According to Beer Advocate, 26 of the 50 top crowd-source rated beers in Canada, judged by a crowd sourced ratings system, are brewed in Quebec.

These high rankings stem from a number of factors. The Québécois craft market is still quite young, with most active breweries opening in the mid 1990s or later. This youth movement is highly active, and carries a significant online presence, supported on beer websites and even dedicated magazines. In addition, we think you’ll find the beer coming out of Quebec today to be delicious and worthy of their strong reputation. But don’t feel the need to take our word for it, feel free to grab some of these Quebec brews the next time you stop into deVine:

Brasserie Dunham American Pale Ale (6 Bottles) – $19.49

Le Trou du Diable L’impératrice Brassin Spécial – 750mL – $18.99

Dieu du Ciel Blanche du Paradis (6 Bottles) – $18.49

2009 Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Hibernus 750mL – $17.99

2009 Charlevoix La Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus 750mL – $17.99

Dieu du Ciel La Divine Comédie Wit Pils (4 Bottles) – $12.49

St. Ambroise Maple Beer (4 Bottles) – $10.49

Brasserie Dunham IPA Belge 750mL – $8.99

Le Trou du Diable La Morsure IPA 600mL – $8.49

Unibroue Éphémère – Cranberry 650mL – $8.49

Le Trou du Diable Punkrauch 650mL – $7.99

Le Trou du Diable Saison du Tracteur 600mL – $7.49

Enjoy the summer!


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