Mondial de la Biere 2011 – June 8-12, 2011

In its 18th year the Mondial de la Biere decided to change venue.  Rather than a sudden move; it was well thought out.  It moved from an smallish outdoor/indoor venue at Cours Windsor (right beside the Bell Centre) to the indoor venue of Place Bonaventure.  The move was necessitated due to its popularity and an influx of new breweries coming to attend the festivals.

The move is a positive one as the new venue is a bigger more spacious locale that allowed people to move around more freely.  Being twice as big it provided room for 2,000 seated.  When I went on Saturday afternoon the place was jam packed and it stayed that way until I left around 9:00 p.m.  The room had a loud buzz going the whole time and every 5 minutes or so it got even louder when a group toast was made.  On a Saturday night on F1 weekend in Montreal it seemed like the Mondial de la Biere was the place to be.

While it is primarily a beer festival food also has a big part to play at the festival.  What foods go best with what type of beer was there to be learned.  It wasn’t just your typical bar fare like peanuts or pretzels either. You could get anything from a sausage sandwich to a giant shrimp cocktail.  Or from turtle or alligator soup to 40 different flavours of fudge.  Decadent! Wise idea to put something in the stomach if you were thinking of partaking in a healthy sampling of the beers and other products available.

A whole separate category of the food section is cheese.  You could have many different varieties from those made right here in Quebec to those produced elsewhere.  Cheese tapas, brie, goat cheese, and sharp cheddar.  These can all be found around the site as well as in the Cheese Dome.  Inside the Dome over the course of the 5 days there were 26 workshops that took place.  Most interesting were the 10 workshops given on the pairing of beer with cheese.

The earthy, fruity, earthy, and herbal flavours found in beer are often also found in cheese, so the pairing of the two makes complete sense. To make the perfect match you just have to identify the strongest element of the beer you are drinking and find a cheese with the same quality.  If you are drinking a stout which has accents of chocolate and coffee then pair it with something that won’t battle against it like a triple crème brie or ricotta. If you are drinking a lighter beer then match it with something light like a mild, fresh goat cheese.

You can carefully pick a type of cheese to match with a type of beer or buy one of the types of cheese that are generally beer friendly.  We learnt that cheddar (orange, white, sharp, mild), it doesn’t really matter what kind, is great with most beers.  So is aged gouda, pecorino, and gruyere.

Besides the usual kiosks (which were all laid out differently – some with buffalo heads or some that look like a bar complete with taps) there were two pubs: the Bistro Petit Pub Europeen which featured beers from Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and the U.K. and the Petit Pub Oktoberfest with beers from Canada, the U.S. and Brazil.  To make us feel like we were still outdoors there was the Plage des Biertrotters that hosted limbo competitions, mini-disc golfing, beach (complete with sand) volleyball, chaise lounges, parasols, and massages. The Silent Dance Esplanade and Stage featured live music.

As there were 609 different beers (266 new products) and 41 different ciders and other products to be discovered and sampled the extra space also came in handy that way.

It was truly an international festival.  More than 146 breweries have brought their beers and ciders.  There were beers from traditional beer countries like the United States, Canada, Holland, England, Germany, and Belgium.  What was fun and interesting to discover were the beers from non-traditional countries like Italy, Japan, Haiti, France, Brazil, Czech Republic, and Denmark.  The variety was enough to make one’s head spin. A beer lover’s delight!

Stayed tuned to tomorrow’s article which will run through a list of the beers we sampled and how we rated them.

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