Biere Garden: Not So Secret Garden

Biere Garden, is a new festival incepted by Dave Roberge and two friends, its concept is to be a travelling beer show with the accompaniment of food, arts and games with a goal to showcase the best breweries in Quebec by hosting special rare release beer from specifically selected breweries. Although it would have been great to see a whole host of breweries being represented, the concept would not have been achieved had that been the case. So they curated the beer menu according to the four hours and thirty minutes allotted to each session. And with 12-14 beers per session even a proficient beer drinker like myself had a difficult time getting through them all. So I can see how the average beer drinker would find this more than sufficient. The most beautiful thing I found about the event was you were guaranteed to get every beer on the menu because the amount they had per session correlated to the amount being served to the limited number of people in attendance. There was no need to rush to get the most rare beer first in fear of missing out and this created an environment where you could spend time focusing on the many other activities present around you, as well as have longer conversations with the people who were enjoying great beer.

Biere Garden was created to also shine light on the craft beer industry as a community, to keep it authentic, and to shine light on all aspects that allow this industry to grow. From the brewers, the owners, the festival makers, the collaborators to the enthusiasts who take to social media to portray their own visions, ideologies, visuals, and opinions. Utilizing social media themselves to shoot and edit recap videos and photos, do interviews and so on they were truly able to make this an all rounded event. Specially notable was having a bus to record podcasts helmed by Paul-Andre Mailhot the host of iPApodcast. PA as most of us know him is treasure in the industry, to me he is the representation of how everyone is in the beer community, warm, welcoming, smiling, open and hard working. He was at each location to do an episode on his podcast (Click to reach his spotify page), and you can here my obviously loud shenanigan’s (I wonder why?) on the Montreal episode.

Since this was a travelling beer show, it hit the road hard by starting out in Val-Morin, oving over to Quebec City, stopping in Montreal and finally ending in Gatineau with friends Brasserie Du-Bas Canada, who were also an inspiration to create this event. Their event model aims to expose proper and quality beer content and giving festival goers the best beer experience possible. They will return for the summer of 2022! And how can you say no to attending this? Its like a travelling flee market, but for beer!

For myself and probably many others Biere Garden was a welcoming ray of sunshine during the struggles of the last eighteen months the world has endured. Right before Quebec went into a province wide stay at home order I was sipping beers (maybe a little too many) at La Cuvee in February 2020. Living it up and enjoying life but not knowing what was just around the corner a few weeks later. Funny that the saying goes Hingsight is 20/20, considering the pandemic hit steam in 2020. With panic and fear and I was locked into my house for a very long fourteen months. Of course last summer was a relief slightly with some outdoor picnics from a distance but it was not the same satisfaction as normal living. Then came the vaccines and some comfort with it, a contained third wave and the machine started rolling again. And I pray that it continues its trajectory upwards. Biere Garden was one of those feel good additions to our post vaccinated (till booster?) life which I was very happy to attend. Seeing the faces I last saw at La Cuvee at this brand new festival was a great way to end the last weeks we may have left of the summer.

The Event:

The third iteration of this festival took place in Montreal, and naturally I had to attend! The setting was amazing, taking place at Peel Bassin with the classic Farine Five Roses right behind, the Griffintown skyline in front and the canal current moving around us. The beer list was curated to be spectacular, but the most exciting thing was the smiles on everyone’s faces. To be at a beer festival was everything we all wanted! To have a taste of that freedom and normalcy back. Everyone was smiling, enjoying, and laughing. Even more, the way this festival was set up was actually pretty perfect! You bought a ticket which allowed you either 44 ounces or 88 ounces of beer in total and there were a set 13 beers on the menu. You were guaranteed to get them all so there was no stress or rush about which to get first in fear of them running out. Only catch, you had 4 hours and 30mins to drink them all. That part was definitely a challenge. As Barney from How I met Your Mother would say “Challenge accepted!” I walked in with Mike aka BeerbritMTL and Hugo aka Rbrettweisse, and we proceeded to get our drink on. Along with the scenery, the set up itself was pretty spectacular, cornhole games, benches, party buses and more!

The Beer Menu:

The list promised to be full of special beers which would be released later at their respectful breweries. And it did not disappoint! The menu was very promising, representing their beers at this festival were Brasserie Urbaine, Messorem Bracitorium, Robin Biere Naturelle, Les Grand Bois, Brasserie Du Bas Canada, Microbrasserie Le Ketch, Brasserie Sir John, Emporium Brewing, Brasserie La Ferme, EXP Artisan Brasseurs and Kahnawake Brewing Company. For myself I was super stoked to try a beer from Le Ketch, I have been seeing a lot of posts about them and my curiosity never wavered. When I saw their beer on the menu it was my first choice. And as the first beer of the afternoon it was a delight! Notable experiences for me was Natur Trouble from Le Grand Bois, Lazy Mary Bourbon from Brasserie General and Le Grand Voyage from Messorem. And the incredible Messorem bourbon stout infused cupcake. As a dude with a sugar tooth for chocolate and love for beer, this was hands down my highlight!

The Attendees:

As mentioned earlier it was such an amazing moment for me to see how happy everyone was at this festival. Some festivals you might find yourself face to face with some people that are not so uplifting. But the people I interacted with during the afternoon showed nothing but smiles, well except maybe that moment I tried to hype the Bloc 3 crowd and was met without any loud cheering, I choose to leave that out of my short Instagram recap. I guess most were just tired of waiting and ready to pounce! Especially fun was trying to keep my alcohol influenced memory sharp by remembering the names of the boys form Brasserie Urbaine, easy names, Matt, Max, and Tom, but for me whether at a festival drinking, or otherwise, I tend to forget names! I can confidently say I remembered their names till the end, although at one point I may have mixed Matt and Max up, sorry lads! Generally I spend these festivals photographing the godly liquid ether we all show up for. But seeing the expressions and emotions on peoples faces turned me instead to capturing moments of the crowd instead, and the beer became secondary. It was actually an exciting moment as a beer enthusiast and beer writer, even though I am very sociable (as you may hear in iPApodcast episode, did someone say drunk?) it was a welcoming experiencing interacting with a lot of the attendees as well as staff to take photos of them enjoying their beer! There was not one unhappy soul I encountered during the event, and that for sure was a success on its own. Enough to make the experience as pleasurable as possible.

The Staff and Organizers:

Without the staff none of this would have been possible, as is the case with all beer events. The staff and volunteers are what make this happen after the organizing has occurred. And I have to say I had a blast interact with, filming, photographing and speaking with the staff at this event. In comparison to other festivals, at Biere Garden I never felt as much welcome to take my photos and document, even when I was definitely butting in and slowing down their work flow to serve customers. The staff went as far as to stop and hold conversations where ever possible when things were a bit quieter. Really truly solid crew!

The Podcast, Other Beer Media and Brewers:

The last part of this festival that really nailed it was seeing all the fellow beer media peeps wandering about doing just like I do. Busy bees taking photos, videos and recording podcasts. I walked in with two of them and spent much of the festival along side Mike and Hugo. I was happy to get on iPApodcast in that very comfortable bean bag in a cosy bus where it seems I got very comfortable. But its always a pleasure seeing Paul Andre and even more a pleasure being on his podcast! You can catch the Montreal Biere Garden podcast here. As a Vox & Hops alumni its always a pleasure to run into and exchange words and moments with the legend Matt McGachy of Vox&Hops. And lastly seeing La Petite Biere not having met her officially was an honor. And Of course not to mention all the wonderful people who run breweries and the fantastic brewers who make their business all possible!

To wrap it up, everything feel in line at the same time with amazing precision to make this experience once for the books. And not to leave out the organizers who did an absolutely wonderful job in making the festival an absolute blast! Hope to return next year for another round!

Words + Photography by Hopcitizen

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