I am not an expert on beer at all. I love to learn about it, love to talk to brewers and of course taste as much as I can. There are so many beers from so many areas and in so many styles it is hard to keep up. Festivals are a great way to learn as much as you can about beers from a certain area. Big or small festivals are the way to sample beers you do not know but maybe want to learn more about.
Gatineau's Festibiere is the perfect way to learn more about beer from the province of Quebec. The festival hosted 32 booths of breweries both big and small, Quebec food vendors and presentation area. It is also a family friendly festival which means children are welcome to attend with their parents and there was plenty for them to do.
I had planned to attend but as luck would have it the Barley's Angels were invited do a tasting presentation. I was asked to be one of the participants. I arrived Friday and my group of three Angels headed off to find three beers to sample. We took some time to chat with brewers and reps, chose our beers and made our way to the presentation area.
Once the talk was done I was free to check out all the booths at my own pace. Saturday was much the same idea and Sunday was simply a day to relax. While the ground was muddy from the rain on Friday morning the festival organizers did their best to cover the worst areas with wood or plastic stepping 'stones'.
Food vendors were great with options like thai, BBQ, sausages and smoked meat. Activities for kids included bouncy slides and climbers and a climbing wall.
The main focus though was all the great beer that was available to sample.
Dieu du Ciel had some of their staples on hand including the Rosee d'hibiscus and Peche Mortel. Stand outs for them were L'Herbe a Detourne, a belgian tripel with citra hops. Mea Culpa, a cream ale that was heavily hopped like an IPA.
Broadway Pub brought their La Don Juan. This beer was a belgian dark with a 9% abv. Big, complex flavours and a peppery note at the end.
Microbrasserie le Naufrageur brought an amazing bourbon barrel aged pale ale. This beer had amazing vanilla notes that blended well with the mild hop.
Les Brasseurs RJ had Death Valley, an imperial IPA and Apocalypse, an imperial stout. The Death Valley had warm sweetness and caramel notes that ended with a nice bitterness. The Apocalypse had all the chocolate notes you hope for in a good quality imperial stout but was not overly sweet at all.
Les Trois Mousquetaires brought a randall. This amazing contraption allows the beer to flow through chambers, in this case, filled with fresh hops and ice. It was a pale ale that was pumped over the hops and made it taste like you were eating the hops without all the plant material. Anyone that tried it and loved hops loved this beer.
Brasseurs du Monde had a number of beers to try. L'Infusee, a wit beer with tea notes. It would be perfect on a hot summer day. Saison Imperiale was a farmhouse style beer with complex start and warming boost from the 8.1% abv. It didn't carry a strong alcohol taste but would hit you hard if not shared with friends. My favourite from them was the A Table. Replace any basic red wine with this beer. Strong pepper and spice notes. Would pair amazing with a hearty red meat meal with all the fixings.
The standout brewery of the festival for me was L'Alchimiste. I first talked to Patrick Dupuis when we were searching for beers to do our presentation about. I liked their beers so much I made the trip back to their booth on all three days. Wee Heavy their scotch ale came in at an 8% abv but the caramel and light peaty-smokiness the beer carried mellowed any chance at the alcohol burn. Unlike other beers the smokiness was not overwhelming. Their Eisbock was not only my favourite of their beers but of the entire festival. It poured an amberish colour. They use a process similar to ice wine to get an intense bourbon or brandy flavour in this beer. The abv is a high 9.5% but the beer, with all the caramel taste is deceptively smooth. This beer easily replaces any brandy as an after dinner drink.
This was my second year attending Festibiere and I look forward to next year's edition. They proved once again that Quebec is a gem when it comes to new and interesting craft beer.