It’s been over a week since Mondial, but I had to wait before writing this to collect my thoughts. This wasn’t my first time at Montreal’s biggest beer festival (it was my third Mondial in the past four years) and the changes that have taken place have been significant enough over the years that a reappraisal was necessary. I knew this post wasn’t going to be very positive, but wanted to make sure that there was enough time to sit down and think about the festival rather than slapping together a quick post.
Not only was this my third Mondial but it was also the third venue that has hosted the festival in the past four years. While it was better than last year’s concrete bunker, it was not without flaws. There was once again an outdoor area (hurray!) but it was down a long hall from the main hall (boo!). You couldn’t take beer between the outdoor and inside areas. Beer outside was only served in plastic cups. It felt like I was at a beer festival in Ontario, which was not a good thing. It didn’t help that the weather was extremely hot during my two days in Montreal (felt like 37 and 38° C, respectively) and didn’t exactly make me want to stand outside drinking from a plastic cup (especially if you had a stronger beer that was meant for slower consumption). Luckily inside was air conditioned, had most beer vendors and was quieter than last year. I appreciated the fact that they tried to bring back an outdoor component, but it was a far from perfect system.
The venue quirks could be forgiven, but it was hard not to notice that many breweries were absent from the festival this year. Unibroue and Charlevoix were two bigger names that decided not to attend, which was disappointing and somewhat surprising. Most of the Quebec breweries were ones that operated in or near Montreal, so it would have been just as easy to visit Montreal on a different weekend and try a lot of the same beers. Breweries also seemed to be charging more. All craft breweries started at $3 for a 5oz sample, but there seemed to be more $4 and $5 beers than in previous years. Sometimes the cost seemed warranted by the beer, but other times it seemed to be gouging.
The bottle list from other countries and provinces was also a little disappointing this year. The American bottles weren’t interesting, the Belgians were just boring and I can’t get excited for South American breweries. That pretty much left some interesting Italian beers, though I opted not to spend $10 to drink the barrel aged Xyauyu in the scorching heat from a plastic cup.
My advice to bring your own glass was especially true this year as Mondial replaced the long Mondial glass with a short and stout thimble of a glass. The long glass wasn’t perfect, but it had a handle and allowed for double samples or generous pours (plus it was a saving grace for those beers with massive heads). The thimble only fit one sample, had no room for head and would have been rather awkward to hold throughout the festival.
While the bones of Mondial are still in tact, the 20th Anniversary edition seemed like a rather sad year. Yes, the festival was still enjoyable and fun, but the overall quality is slipping and it is hard for me to endorse going next year. It would make more sense to go to Montreal on any other week of the year and enjoy many of the same beers while the brewpubs and bars are a little quieter. Anyone that hasn’t gone to Mondial should still go once, but repeat visits may no longer be necessary.