MONTREAL — For the thirsty traveller with a hankering for hops and a soft spot for the little guy, there may be no better place to visit than Montreal.
Brew pubs and microbreweries abound and most are within stumbling distance of major hotels, bed and breakfasts and hostels.
The city is also home to one of the biggest beer festivals in North America.
The June 3-7 Mondial de la biere will showcase some 300 different brands of beer made by upwards of 100 brew pubs as well as large and small-scale breweries — the majority of them from Quebec.
Festival spokeswoman Marie-Josee Lefebvre said there are more than 70 brew pubs and microbreweries in the province with three or four new ones opening every year.
“They call us little Belgium because of the growing (number) of microbreweries,” she said.
“I think Quebec people love and enjoy tasting and discovering beer because it’s in our roots to share good moments with friends around a good beer.”
The popular festival, which will mark its 16th year, is free and visitors need only purchase beer tickets at a buck apiece to begin sampling.
Lineups, however, could be long, especially on weekends, and a four-ounce sampler could cost as many as five tickets.
Lefebvre said the festival, which last year attracted some 80,000 people, is becoming increasingly popular among tourists. “We have a lot of people coming up from the U.S. and Europe,” she said.
“I receive many emails during the year from people who say, ’I want to plan my vacation in Montreal and I want to attend the Mondial de la biere.”’
For those seeking a more low-key brew experience any time of the year, Montreal has more than a dozen pubs featuring a variety of home brews. Among the most revered for its innovation is Dieu du Ciel in the city’s trendy Plateau-Mont-Royal area.
The 10-year-old pub doesn’t look like much with its hand-scribbled chalkboard signs and run-of-the-mill finger foods but that’s just because at Dieu du Ciel, it’s all about the beer.
“The goal here is always to brew the best beer possible and to also brew a lot of different beers,” says co-owner Stephane Ostiguy.
“We like to play with spices and stuff like this. We always like to bring something new to the beer scene.”
The pub, which has nine on-site fermenters, has experimented with some 60 recipes over the years and offers a large rotation of beers.
Ostiguy said there are between 14 and 17 beers available on tap at any given time including favourites like the popular Imperial coffee stout.
All are made with quality ingredients, be it coffee, peppercorns or hibiscus flowers and, as such, prices may be higher than they are for the average pint.
Students and young professionals between 25 and 35 make up the bulk of its clientele but American beer enthusiasts have been known to stop by for a pint.
Another popular brew pub is Brutopia — a three-floor downtown hangout where regulars mingle with tourists and live music and tapas are always on special.
In business since March 1997, the pub offers a variety of seasonal beers as well as tried and true staples that are all brewed on site by its brewmaster.