Mondial de la Biere is a very unique beer festival. Beer drinkers in Canada often hear it mentioned with love and adoration, which always caused me to think, “Is it really that good?” Of course, that was before experiencing the joys of Mondial in 2010, a glorious three days of daytime drinking. That was the last year that Mondial was held at the majestic Windsor Station, moving last year to the bleaker, yet more spacious (or so I’ve been told), Place Bonaventure.
For those who may be embarking to Mondial for the first time, here are my tips for surviving one of Canada’s best beer festivals.
Pack water and snacks. Yes, plenty of delicious food is available, from kangaroo to cheese, but it is only smart to take advantage of a beer festival that allows you to bring in food. Go cheese shopping at Marche Jean-Talon or Atwater first and conduct your own beer pairing session. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to score some drink tickets by letting others join in.
Arrive early. This was especially true at the old location, but probably still good advice. The big crowds start to arrive around 4 or 5pm, so showing up before noon and getting a good three to four hours of drinking in before everyone else is key. By then your food supplies will have run dry and it’s time for a nap (or poutine, then nap).
Do your research. Beer geeks love Mondial because they tell you what beers will be served in advance of the actual festival in a handy PDF. This saves you from wasting money on a lot of bad beers. It also allows you to make a game plan of what you must try before heading home.
Use RateBeer or BeerAdvocate smartly. Research will probably involve one of these two sites, checking ratings and eliminating the lesser breweries. But remember that the ratings for Quebec beers and those from Latin America are often only a handful, making it harder to get an accurate score for percentile or style. Read some of the comments, which give a much better picture. Also remember that certain styles (IPAs and anything imperial) are often rated higher than saisons, lagers or fruit beers. If a fruit beer and imperial stout are in the same percentile, chances are the fruit beer is the better beer. (And in case you were wonder, the relatively unknown Quebec brewery I am looking forward to trying beers from is La Succursale.)
Don’t overplan. Not all beers will be available at all times. The Quebec brewers rotate their offerings on tap, so don’t expect the full list at their stands. Rare bottles are spread out through the festival to avoid all the first-day beer geeks from drinking everything up. If the beer you want isn’t available, chat up the server and try to find out when it will be put on tap/when the fridge will be restocked (but in a nice way, not an anal beer geek way).
Start light. This should be obvious advice that applies to any beer festival – begin with the 4-5% beers and work up to the heavy stuff. Think of it as a marathon, not a race, which means saving your liver for a final sprint at the end.
Bring/buy a glass. Yes, you can buy a glass for $9 (or a plastic cup for $4), but the long glasses aren’t ideal for your beer. To remedy to this is bringing your own glass (as long as it holds less than twelve ounces) or buying one. You’re going to be drinking lots of beer and you really want the right glass for the job.
Take notes of what you like. The samples come fast and furious, so it helps to keep track of what you liked and what you pour out in the grass, especially if you’re stocking up at a depanneur for beers to take home. It’s impossible to remember everything, even before you factor in all the alcohol.
Pour out the bad beers. Doesn’t matter if it cost one dollar or five. Save your liver for the good beers.
Love the nightlife. Montreal’s brewpubs are still open and serving delicious beers, so enjoy Dieu du Ciel!, Benelux, Le Cheval Blanc or another fine establishment in the evening. And remember there are night events, which get very crowded as well (ie. show up at 8pm for a nine o’clock event).
Be responsible. Take transit. Know when to leave.
Make friends. The charm of going in the day is that you will likely see the same people over and over. Enjoy some conversation about beers and scout out what beers to try/avoid.