That Magic Moment

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.

IMG_0207The 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.

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7 responses to “That Magic Moment

  1. Nice nostalgic piece. My gateway was upper Canada rebellion (APA not the later rebranded lager) c. 1994/5. Rabbit hole = DFH 90 minute IPA c. 2008 at Beer Bistro. Always passionate about good beer. Was educated in Montreal and frequented DDC then, when it opened, I think 1998. Cheers.

  2. PM is truly a glorious beer. It’s a shame Dieu du Ciel is so deafening and crowded these days – the cozy brewpub of 2007 is now quite a bit cozier than it sounds in your story.

  3. I’m shocked that I can’t really remember. I ruefully remember living in London in 1998 and mostly drinking macro lagers and at some point along the continuum it happened and by 2005 I’m buying dusty 6 packs of Yazoo Brewery beer in a gas station in Nashville as it was the only thing I was interested in. ( I remember as I was soundly mocked for not buying larger/cheaper quantities of Bud.)

    I had become a ticker throughout Asia/NZ/Australia before 2005 but again, that was mostly lagers that were available so I think the Granite Brew pub was the gateway drug to different craft beer, probably pints of old peculiar.

    I think my most favorite beer moments don’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s in the glass but rather friends that were there and the setting. As a weird bench mark, pints of Tiger at a bar called the Golden Cock in Hanoi are the best pints i have ever drunk in terms of perfectly they were received by my body.

  4. First beer: Moosehead
    First meh beer: Leffe
    First truly good beer: Rochefort 10
    Beer that changed everything: Upright #6

    Come a long way from “ugh beer is disgusting, just give me scotch.”

  5. The first beers I tried that I remember as showing me something really different were Big Rock’s Grasshopper and Moosehead. At the time they tasted sweet as candy beside the Canadians and Pabst that I was used to drinking. And like the other commenters I have good memories tied to them that make them stand out. After turning 19 a bunch of my friends and I started renting a cottage in Grand Bend and we’d drink at a bar called Gordie’s on the strip. We had some great times there and the same night I had the ‘Hopper was when I made my first jump shot in pool. These beers really got me interested in trying new brews. Another standout from those early days was Carlsberg Red which they had on tap at a local bar in London Ontario called The Poacher’s Arms; sadly I don’t think it exists anymore. But the memories attached to a gateway beer definitely help it take on mythic status. I’m thinking of going back and trying a lot of those beers I’ve left behind again so I can look at them with my new beer geek eyes. Should be a fun reunion!

    • Carlsberg Red and something called Tobys was available. My wife to be ordered a Tobys on our first date and I thought it was a good sign.

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