January 12th

This may not have been obvious so far, but I don’t drive. There were a few brief years when I had my G1 (Ontario’s equivalent to the learner’s permit), but living in downtown Toronto eroded the necessity of driving (plus, there was the small detail that I did not enjoy driving). Parents, family and the odd friend have given many reasons over the years as to why I should learn to drive (from the practical ideas that a license is good to have for identification and the convenience that driving affords, to the pragmatic idea that simply everyone should and must drive). I have listened, occasionally agreed, but mostly rebuffed their attempts. But never in any of these attempts did someone say, “Someday, you’re going to be a beer geek and want to drive to [Buffalo/Gatineau/wherever] to buy some beer. But you’re going to be fucked, because you won’t be able to get there. And if you do get there, you’re going to have to carry it with you and you won’t be able to bring back as much as you want.”

Of course, it someone had said this to me between the ages of 16 and 22, I would have laughed in their face and made some snide remark. Luckily no one did, or else they could seriously rub it in my face. But the sad truth is that when I find myself visiting Soph’s family in Ottawa, going to Gatineau to buy some fine Quebec microbrews is an epic journey. After a lot of planning, one transit day-pass and hoping that we were on the right bus, we finally made it to Marche Jovi. Compared to some of the Montreal depanneurs that I’ve been to, this one was a little mediocre. The selection was decent, but most of the beer was not refrigerated and felt really warm to the touch (meaning that all the beers purchased will be under extra-scrutiny). There was still too much to choose from and our beers were only purchased after a lot of humming and hawing.

My attempt during this trip was to try and purchase some beers that were relative unknowns to me. One brewery I had only heard about while reading the latest issue of TAPS magazine on the train ride to Ottawa (and even then, I mostly bought it for the wicked bottle design). One was a brewery that had intrigued me ever since I saw their bottles all around Montreal in August, while another was a repeat brewery from that trip. And the last two were from premier Quebec microbrasseurs which were quite familiar, but with untested seasonal beers in two of my favourite styles. There was definitely a lot of chance in my purchases, but that only left me more thrilled at what I had discovered.

I avoided the styles/types that most Quebec brewers make – blanche, rousse and noire. There’s usually nothing too exciting with these beers and I can’t understand why the province is obsessed with the mass consumption of beers based on colour. Another style avoided, though not on purpose, was anything in a Belgian style. Thanks to Unibroue, this is really what Quebec is famous for, but nothing struck my fancy. So I ended up with a Baltic porter, two imperial/double IPAs, a barley wine and a Russian imperial stout. When looking at these all together, they resemble my curiousity at how Quebec brewers would tackle different styles that are unrepresentative of their provincial beers.

After buying a modest stash of Quebec beer, it is hard not to drink some right away. The Les Trois Mousquetaires Grand Cuvée Porter Baltique was the easiest choice, as it meant the 750mL bottle didn’t have to make the trip back to Toronto (and because there were plenty of people to share it with). This was my first ever Baltic Porter, which was brewed as a lager with a robust 10% ABV. The beer poured near-black, with a deliciously frothy tan head. I’ve never had such a creamy, full head from a bottle before – this felt like it had been poured from a nitro tap. A lot of the initial tastes were of smoky malts, followed by an oak finish. As it warmed up, more of the chocolate flavours started to come out, as well as a complex fruitiness. A smooth, highly drinkable porter considering the alcohol content. I can only hope the rest of the beers are half as good as this.

Les Trois Mousquetaires Grand Cuvée Porter Baltique on Ratebeer

Today: 400mL. Year-to-date: 47.86L.

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