Category Archives: Canada

How to Take a Road Trip (Montréal)

Montreal Sign

I’ll bet you think you know how to take a road trip. Get in the car, enter the destination in your device, drive. Right?

Wrong! I mean, yes that will get you somewhere. But to really have an adventure- to make the trip part of the reason for going- I have a few suggestions.

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It helps if you like to drive. And if you have access to a fun car with a stick shift to zoom around in. This is not required, but trust me, it can make or break the fun factor. I love to drive, and while I may appear to be calm, my inner golden retriever wags her tail and hangs her tongue out enthusiastically hoping for an open window every time I get in my car. Word.

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Take the most interesting route, not the fastest. I was heading to a Québécois corn roast called an épluchette de blé d’Inde (say that out loud because it’s fun!) and wanted to bring a really good beer gift. My friends put this thing on every year. It’s a lot of work, they let me stay over, they tolerate my laughable French, and it’s always a blast. I wanted my gift to say, “You guys rock! Please invite me next year!”

So I decided to pop in the Alchemist in Waterbury, Vermont to pick up some Heady Topper. That day they also had Crusher and Focal Banger. Score.

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Know your border rules. Unlike me. Growing up in New York, I have been crossing this border since I learned how to drive- well before we needed passports to do it- yet I did not know I wasn’t supposed to bring more than two cases of beer. I had (ahem) more. At first the border guard said I would have to leave the beer behind (ever see a Golden Retriever cry?) but then she just sort of …. forgot about it. Maybe because I told her I was going to an épluchette- in French? Because I told her I was bringing Heady Topper? Because I might have actually cried? (Not really! At least, I don’t think so…) Whatever it was, after I paid the duty she said I could go. I tried not to run back to the car. I controlled my squeal of glee until I was out sight. And then- sunroof open and French blaring on the radio- WOOOHOOOO! Some of the best thrills are the ones we don’t see coming.


Your journey should continue once you reach the city you were aiming for. Explore your surroundings even when you’re at a party. My hosts live in Montréal beer central. Sure they can walk to Dieu du Ciel, but they are just a few blocks from the innovative cooperative brewery called MaBrasserie. Several different breweries share this space, the tanks, and the tap room. It’s a great way to try super-fresh beer from a variety of approaches and styles- all in one place. I sampled some scintillating brews from Isle de Garde (an IPA “allemande” which I assume means they use German hops), Grendel (Cream APA with a head like a proper Guinness in Dublin), and Boswell (a “Pale ale américain” which I was initially dubious of but which, as my menu margin notes indicate, they nailed).

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I headed back to the maize roast via Brouhaha, another friendly gem for craft beer seekers, for a ridiculous Saison Voatsiperifery. A sandalwood dream. If you’re into that. And I am.

Plan your route back with the advice of your hosts.

I had originally meant to hit Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier because it’s a one-stop best of Vermont showcase, but my hosts alerted me to a place I did not know about. It would not add any driving time yet would add to my new beer experiences. I drove east from Montreal along the northern side of the US border and first stopped at Dunham Brewery to see if my old friend Eloi was there (he was not, but I did get to try the Cyclope Dzeta) and then found, after the prettiest 9 miles of the entire trip through canopies of trees like this one:

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the new Sutton Brouërie. It was full but not frazzled. I sat at the bar, which also overlooks the kitchen, and enjoyed the show while getting inside information from the bartender.

I would have missed these worthy ports of call if I’d had rigid plans. Of course, this meant using a map. Yes- remember those paper things? Phone service is too expensive north of the border, and using a map is a great exercise in truly experiencing your surroundings instead of taking commands from a box. For once in a long time, I felt like I was the boss of my car. And they still have free maps at most rest areas!

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It was time to head home, but I still had a bit of the explorer in me. I knew that Notch Brewing’s new tap room had opened in Salem, Massachusetts but hadn’t had a chance to try it yet. Check!

Information

Alchemist
100 Cottage Club Road, Stowe, VT USA

MaBrasserie
2300, rue Holt, Montréal

Brouhaha
5860, Avenue de Lorimier, Rosemont, Mtl

Brasserie Dunham
3809 rue Principal, Dunham, Quebec

Sutton Brouërie
(You can stay there,too!)
27 principale SUD, Sutton, Quebec

Notch Brewery & Tap Room
283R Derby Street, Salem, MA USA

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Dîner Butiné (Quebec)

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I drove to Quebec from Cambridge to have dinner- about a six hour drive, unless you plan beer detours (see forthcoming post about crossing Vermont). But this wasn’t just any dinner. It’s a once-a-day seating at Les Jardins Sauvages, where François Brouillard forages the ingredients and chef Nancy Hinton works her magic.

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At the border the passport agent was skeptical. “You’re coming to Canada for a meal”? I described the meal I anticipated with passionate enthusiasm- which no doubt came out sounding ridiculous.

Finally he crossed his arms. “What?” I asked. “Is it really so hard to believe?” Then he sat back and laughed. “Bienvenue”

And that warm welcome en français après les dernière trente kilometre dans les États-Unis ont les signes avec les deux: exit et sortie, et avec française sur la radio- la langue de Proust était sur moi encore. Le prochain obstacle était chercher un chambre pour la nuit. J’ai eu un invitation à une fête à Montréal et à rester avec les amis que j’ai rencontré à Tampa à Cigar City Brewery (voir Long Bridges and Super-Hero Mermaids, Oct ’12) mais peut-être trop loin après des heures de boir et de manger. Donc- j’ai cru que je prendre une chambre a près de la restaurant et leur voir le prochaine jour.

Le seulement hôtel que j’ai vu a eu un signe avec une grande version néon de cette femme couchée qu’on voir sur des rabats de camions. J’ai arrêté de toute façon. il y avait un vieil homme qui avait besoin de se laver sur le porche extérieur.

«Avez-vous une chambre pour moi?»

(homme sale rire) «Les chambres sont pour les hommes et les danseures!»

Mildly offended that I couldn’t pass for une danseuse and nearing the reservation time I went to the restaurant knowing I’d be drinking a lot of water in between the beers I brought (LJS is BYOB) as I’d be driving into the city afterwards to stay with my friends.

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When I arrived, the late summer sun was still warming. I sat by the water that flows by the restaurant and opened Fritz Briem’s 1809 Berliner Weisse. Perfect. The menu is posted online, so all the pairings can be done ahead of time. (see below, and note that the date is really for the entire month) I was the only one drinking beer, and the only one dining solo. All ten tables were taken, which is usual.

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I was shown the location of my table (with my name on it) and encouraged to hike around the property until the 7pm dinner hour. They put me at the perfect corner location where I could see (and listen to) the river going by and also view the entire dining room. As a solo diner who prefers eating at the bar it was the next best thing.

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Everything, except for the meat, is foraged near the restaurant. In between courses the staff describes where the flavors are coming from- including the cattail broth. (See plate below, which refuses to remain rotated.) There are clever signs around the property next to edible plants explaining how they’re used in cooking in French only, so I didn’t learn much- but I appreciated the idea.

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The other beers I brought, a soft-sour from Trois Dames Brewery in Ste Croix Switzerland called L’Amoureuse and a special bitter from Mont Saleve in France (Hand carried from my visit to the brewery- see Hop Maestro in October ’12), were perfect. As I left I made a reservation for the nearly-sold-out mushroom menu in November. It was that good- so I can’t even imagine what they’ll do with one of my top-five foods. I asked them to speak French with me next time to help me practice- I will be studying mes deux tomes Mots de Cuisine.

I really hope I get the same guy at the border.

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