Since my first experience going to Bieres Et Saveurs Chambly last year in 2017, the festival has settled in my mind as the best beer festival in Quebec. Regardless of a new festival joining the ranks this year by Dunham, called Foudres, Chambly is still at the top. Even though Foudres Unis was an absolutely spectacular festival, it was a different set up overall, and a completely different category of festivals. So really they both are a top their own categories of festivals.
Chambly festival represents the vast variety of local Quebec breweries hosted over a four day weekend. Its scale is massive and the selection is very large. Where as Foudres Unis was more of a gathering of brewery friends from all over the world to showcase few of their beers, and for a specific amount of time. To be able to experience beer from various parts of the world locally here in Quebec at Foudres Unis was a huge highlight for the craft beer scene in 2018. But Chambly was an opportunity for me to expand my horizons with a wider selection of Quebec breweries, which I can get my hands on with ease at local stores. And for these reasons, I say that Chambly is still the best local craft beer festival in Quebec and Foudres Unis is the best International festival in Quebec.
This time around, I decided to bring my friend with me, to assist with taking some snaps, he is not a professional photographer, but is very talented with art. Having him around focused on photos gave me the opportunity to really communicate with some brewers, and try to make some newer connections to be able to cover a more diverse palate of breweries from Quebec. He did an absolutely amazing job covering this event, however did not really survive the slamming of loads of beer over the course of the day. Nooob!
The local scene in Quebec continues to grow, diversify, and solidify in terms of taste, distribution, beer releases and more. I recall the first few beer releases I attended were a bit messy, and some areas need improvements. Now having explored the Quebec craft beer scene for four or five years, it is very apparent that a lot has changed. From a larger number of breweries reaching shelves, to finding craft beer in grocery stores, to craft beer hitting the bar scene (rather than just at specific craft beer bars), to craft beer available in more and more restaurants and so on. The model in Quebec is a little different, as most craft beers make it to distribution and local shelves, even someone as small as Auval. We have yet to have a brewery in Quebec that has a similar model to on-site only sales, such as the likes of Hill Farmstead, Side Project etc. Quebec craft beer drinkers need not to travel to the brewery to get the beer they want. They can simply take a trip to their local craft beer store. Maybe a brewery will come along in Quebec, and we will have our own Quebec beer pilgrimage like people make in the USA to Hill Farmstead.
USA has had craft beer in most restaurants, grocery stores, bars and even music venues for a very long time, and it seems Quebec is now trying to adopt that model. It was alien for me to not see craft beer at any bar I walked into, or on the list at a restaurant and it was a huge change for me in terms of getting the beer that I love. But to see these new developments implemented in Quebec which are still improving and growing, continues to amaze me at just how rapidly, steadily, and consistently the craft beer scene has really climbed. It was only a matter of time and the standard progression of industry to make it to the next level because Canada’s brewing scene was a bit slower at exponential growth. Most likely contributed by the fact that there are significantly fewer people living in Canada, and specialty brew furthermore is a small market. So the current progression seems like its been on track considering certain factors.
It is for this reason I will attend Chambly Festival every year. It shows the full spectrum of Quebec’s growth in craft beer and gives me the opportunity to communicate how good the breweries are, get some news about what is to come, and also to meet and introduce myself to new breweries, whether new to the scene or new to myself. All the while periodically having few words with friends from the scene.
The festival started on a very solid note, my mate and I sipped down some A Tout Le Monde from Unibroue, and then began our journey to the stars. With my busy schedule with work and family, although a four day festival is very appealing, especially due to its large scale, I only am really able to get one day in. So this was essentially like a nine hour session for the two of us. We had to smash through a lot of beers, and hit up a lot of different breweries, familiar and unfamiliar. There was loads of beer consumed, drunken stupor, lots of nicotine breaks, and many highlights.
We started the day at Boreale for the cask event, which last year was a real success in my opinion. Of course we also had to consume some other beers from them on tap. The Nord Est Citra version wasn’t what I expected, the standard Nord Est still for me reigns as far as hops go. However I recently had the Galaxy version, and it was too die for! Super solid hop juice.
I had a quick chance to have a chat with Leonardo from Baron Mag to discuss some future opportunities. The location of our conversation was in itself spectacular, sitting in the Boreale tent sipping on some Nord Est hop juice and discuss aspects of beer and possibilities of what we may be able to accomplish working together.
We had to make a stop over to Vox Populi to have a chat with Etienne and to try out their new Zizen Pils. Although I am predominately into IPAs, wild/sours, saisons, porters and stouts, after so many years of having these bolder styles I have been craving diving into the world of Pils. Just to enjoy something that maintains great taste but with simplicity and easy drink ability. You will be hearing more about the Zizen Pils and a line of their stouts really soon!
There has been a new brewery that has reached the stores of Montreal this year, and I have not yet covered them. But it is coming soon! I was very eager to have a taste of some of their offerings and Chambly was the perfect stage to do so. The new brewery I am speaking of is of course Champ Libre. At the helm is Alex, former brew master for Les Trois Mousquetaires. I expected his IPA to blow me away but what really satisfied my taste buds was his stout Dejenuner En Paix! It had the perfect creamy texture and mouthfeel with a solid coffee attack.
A little surprise for me was stopping by Brasserie La Korrigane I didn’t go in with much expectations, and although their beers were not mind blowing, I was impressed with their Maia, a session IPA with mint and cucumber. It was almost like having a refreshing cucumber infused water but with hops, it did tend to have a strange kind of bitterness coming from the hops, cucumbers and mint combination. But it wasn’t so bothersome that I was unable to enjoy the beer itself.
Naturally I had to swing by the Oshlag and Avant-Garde tent to say hi to Shawn and Renaud. As you may have heard they are finally moving forward with opening a brewery and tap room hopefully to be opening sometime next year, keep an eye out for an announcement for the opening event, its sure to be a blast!
Whilst I was chatting it up with Renaud and Shawn, I got a chance to chat with Francis. I hadn’t had much from Oshlag but I was able to taste few things, and the beer that really stood out for me and shined was their Stout Caramel Sale, holy demons man, that beer really hit the spot for me.
Le Prospecteur has always had some solid offerings. I have only had the honor to taste a few of their beers, but this was definitely an opportunity I could not pass up. Tete De Pioche 118, was a solid juicy, hazy IPA. I was trying to accomplish too much to handle in just one day, so I was not able to taste anything else. It was a very fast paced morning, afternoon and evening. Next stop, La Memphre.
David is the perfect character, I find, to be the face behind La Memphre. He is always warm, welcoming and a pleasure to chat with. He always has his typical David smile across his face, and well the beers he brews are down right delicious. The Sour avec Ananas, not only was a winner during this festival, it was a delicious blend of fruits and sour kicks. usually I prefer sours that shocase raspberry, cherry and so on, but this sour combined the pineapple notes in perfect harmony.
Lion Bleu has not really gotten the hype I feel it deserves, I mentioned it last year at Chambly as well, and I will again this year. Their IPA, and NEIPA are delicious and if you are able I would go buy some! Please take note of the bottled date, I did find their stuff does fall off fast, so optimal to have fresh. They are highly underrated in my opinion. More on this soon!
Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel Islay, not much to say here but it was a beast. Coffee and barrel forward with a crazy creamy texture.
Dunham and their Berliner Blackberry. If I can I would want to buy a sixer of this one. It was a major highlight of the evening. And after this things got a bit messy as they always do. Kendrick? Shit. I lost Kendrick.
It is always a pleasure to take the journey to Quebec’s craft beer mecca, and I am fairly certain I will return next year. Thanks to all the people that make Chambly work so smoothly, cheers!
Words by Hopcitizen X Photography by Kendrick Khoo