When people think of craft beer in Canada, they’ve historically thought of Quebec. Breweries like Unibroue and Dieu du Ciel led the charge making excellent beer in the great white north, and it’s only blown up from there. Montreal, as Quebec’s biggest city, sees a lot of the benefits from this, and that makes it an excellent place to travel for beer fans.
If I had to describe the Montreal beer scene in 2 words, they would be “Brew Pub”. There are dozens upon dozens of them in the city. The idea of the small tasting room is non-existent there. Instead, you’re treated to places where you can sit, have your order taken, and eat. The other thing? They’re all busy! People in Montreal love their craft beer, and make it known by hitting the local spots with enthusiasm. So, let’s live like a local and check out some of the best places Montreal has to offer.
Can’t-Miss Brewery: Dieu du Ciel
Photo Credit: Tourisme Montréal
Ok, so maybe this was an obvious choice, but when you make the top rated beer in Canada (on ratebeer too, if you don’t count ice ciders), it seems wrong to pick anywhere else. To note, Dieu du Ciel has 2 locations: their newer production facility in St. Jerome, and the original location in Montreal, which is where we’re travelling in this text adventure, so we’ll stick to that.
Dieu du Ciel is a very familiar brewery for most Canadians, and we get many of their beers on the west coast. But there’s nothing quite like fresh, local beer. The Montreal brewpub is dense. Tables and chairs fill every square inch of the space, and yet it still fills up most nights. With 18 taps spanning a very wide swath of styles, you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy. Their food options are limited, as the kitchen is literally a toaster oven behind the bar, but they manage to pull off solid offerings if you’re feeling peckish.
Honourable Mention: Le Saint-Bock
Le Saint-Bock is a great little brewpub with 44 taps, with over half being guest taps (and not just local ones either). Their beers are quite fun and adventurous, and you can try a bunch in one of their… let’s say… uniquely presented flights. Be sure to check out their bottle list as well. It’s enormous.
Where to Eat While You Drink: Brasserie Harricana
Photo Credit: Tourisme Montréal/Raphaelle Daigneault
What a surprise this place was. Recommended by a friend (hat tip to Andrew), Brasserie Harricana offers a wide selection of house-made, high quality beers (many wild and farmhouse styles) along with a solid list of local guest taps. But what really got me was the food. With offerings like braised lamb shank, sturgeon croquettes, and roasted carrots with thyme & honey, you’ll forget you’re actually in a brewpub. Especially with the decor. Harricana is unlike any beer forward restaurant I’ve been to, and doesn’t look like one either, boasting beautiful interior design with lots of wood and marble. Bonus points: they do brunch, which I unfortunately didn’t get to try, but I’d bet a pint that it’s excellent.
Honourable Mention: Isle de Garde
Another brewpub that doesn’t feel like a brewpub, Isle de Garde features a combination of their own beer, guest taps, great bottles, beautiful decor, and great food. Be sure to check it out.
Where the Local Stuff Lives: Vices et Versa
Vices et Versa is the ultimate local beer bar. 35 local taps, cask offerings, and a superb bottle selection put this place firmly at the top of the list. Similar to Dieu du Ciel, Vices et Versa is jam packed with tables and seating (including a nice patio), and is quite often busy. Not to mention, the food is pretty great, should you find your appetite building. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and the staff is very attentive, and the prices are fair. The only trouble you’ll have here is picking what to drink next.
Honourable Mention: Broue Pub Brouhaha
Montreal’s got a lot of Brew Pubs, huh? Well, this one’s pretty good too. They’ve got a few house beers, but a nice selection of guest taps as well. Honestly, it’s hard to pick an honorable mention here, since local beer is so prevalent at the source.
Bring Home Some Bottles: Dépanneur Peluso
Photo Credit: CBC / Anne-Marie Provost
You’re going to want to check out Dépanneur Peluso, trust me. They easily have the biggest selection of Quebec beers I found in all of Montreal. If something was released outside of a brewery, odds are it is (or was) available at Peluso. On top of their amazing selection, the shop is also home to a cheese counter and deli, so you can build up a little pairing to enjoy.
Honourable Mention: Les Délires du Terroir
This is also a fantastic shop. Much smaller in scale than Peluso, but with awesome staff and a very well curated selection (almost all of it refrigerated). You can even grab some bourbon barrel aged maple syrup if you so desire.
Beers to Watch For:
Be on the lookout for offerings from Dieu du Ciel, Le Trou du Diable, Vox Populi, Les Trois Mousquetaires, Hopfenstark, Dunham, and Le Castor. Some of these make their way to Vancouver, but you may just find something you haven’t seen before.
If you’re very very lucky, you might find some beer from Val-d’Espoir, Quebec’s own Brasserie Auval. Most bottled releases don’t leave the brewery, though some will make it to Peluso, but the odd keg will find its way into Montreal (keep an eye out on Pub Pit Caribou). Auval is far and away my favourite Quebec brewery right now, producing some of the best IPAs, saisons, and wild ales in Canada.
Feeling like a night cap? A little something sweet? Try picking up a bottle of Ice Cider. Quebec makes some of the best ice ciders in the world, particularly those from producer La Face Cachée. These incredibly deep, complex, and smooth dessert ciders are a huge treat, and commonly available at many beer shops.
All in all, Montreal makes it easy to enjoy beer. A wide selection of offerings, food at almost every stop, and a thriving local scene, means Montreal is a can’t miss destination.