People often talk about their gateway beer, the one that opened them up to the world of beer beyond industrial lagers (and Guinness). That magical beer that offered a new flavour and made them seek out different experiences in their beer. But what about the beer that changes people from being craft beer drinkers to craft beer obsessives? The one that really makes you fall down the rabbit hole, never to come back to a time before you knew Ratebeer/Beer Advocate, double IPAs or Cantillon existed? This may not sound like a real thing, but I would argue that most people have an experience that made them obsessive about craft beer..
My Rabbit Hole Beer is one I had to travel for, which is already a good sign that you’ve almost fallen in. My wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) and I were going to Montreal for the day while visiting her family in Ottawa. I don’t remember how, but I had found out about this brewery called Dieu du Ciel! that apparently made pretty good beers. (It was 2007 and DdC! probably didn’t come to Ontario for another year or two.) Even though our time in Montreal was short, Sophie had agreed that we could seek out the brewpub operated by DdC! and see what the fuss was about.
The first beer I had that day is lost in the abyss of my memory. Perhaps it was a Corne du Diable, but that’s an educated guess based on the fact it likely would have been on tap. I remember not wanting to jump right into the Peche Mortel, even though it was the main reason for being there. (Even younger Mike with little beer knowledge knew not to jump straight into the imperial stout.) Perhaps it was all the anticipation – the traveling to Ottawa and then Montreal, having to drink another beer in order to get to the one I wanted – but that first taste of Peche Mortel sealed my fate as a beer geek. The big espresso aroma, the taste somewhere between a stout and cold brewed coffee, and that indefinable element that makes a great beer rise above all others. Maybe it was the fact that it came in this lovely tulip glass at a time when almost all draught beer in Toronto was still being served in pint glasses. Whatever the reasons, we left the pub and went to a nearby bottle shop to stock up on Peche Mortel to take back to Ontario, bottles that I treasured and only opened on rare occasions. Every other Peche I’ve had brings me back to that moment, sitting with my future wife in a cozy brewpub in Montreal with the late afternoon sun coming through the windows, having my first taste of a perfect beer.
Ever since this trip all of our vacations have involved some amount of beer tourism, which is partially the fault of that first glass of Peche Mortel. There was a moment of realization that the world was filled with all these incredible beers I had never seen or heard of, ones that would likely never come to Ontario. It wasn’t obvious to me what was happening at the time, but I officially became a beer geek thanks to that Peche Mortel.