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The Québec City Beer Scene

Posted September 13, 2011 | 1:37 am, by nadine

It’s no secret that Québec City is a great place to visit. It is rich in history, being one of the oldest cities in North America, and its historic centre is the only remaining walled city in Canada and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city itself is beautiful; teeming with life and culture. It is packed with great restaurants and fashionable little art galleries and shops. It is also home to two contrasting but equally delightful breweries, who for the better part of a decade, were the only ones brewing in the area. The past four years, however, have seen the addition of three new breweries just outside the city, and it appears that there is one more brewpub on the way… 

The longest running craft brewery in Québec City is L’Inox (from ‘acier inoxidable’, French for stainless steel: a reference to the look of brewing equipment.) L’Inox opened its doors in 1987, after receiving the second brewing permit in the province. Co-owner, Pierre Turgeon, who has been at L’Inox since the beginning, explains that the brewery has come a long way in the past twenty-two years. He chuckles as he remembers that in the early days, customers would come in and ask if he brewed Molson beers. Although the concept of a craft beer was completely revolutionary at the time, Turgeon was glad to find that Québec city residents were curious and open to the idea and L’Inox quickly developed a solid clientele. L’Inox beer has also evolved over the years. At the beginning, it was brewed from extract. As Turgeon explains: “Everyone was learning at the same time.” As L’Inox was brewing better and better beers, the customers were developing increasingly sophisticated palates. L’Inox is an ale brewery. The three regular beers served at the brewpub: Trois de Pique English-style amber, Transat blonde and Trouble-Fête wheat beer, have been on tap for seventeen years and regular customers have become quite attached to them. There are another three taps at the brewery that dispense a selection of L’Inox seasonals. As a general rule, the brews at L’Inox are session beers; they are full-flavoured but have a relatively low alcohol content, allowing customers to linger over pints. As of this spring, L’Inox has moved into a new, beautiful, two-storey location on Québec City’s bustling La Grande Allée. The new location has proven to be a smashing success and, with the addition of two bright tanks in June, the L’Inox team is now able to keep up with the demand and keep a selection of tasty brews on tap at all times.

La Barberie, Québec City’s other brewery, opened its doors in 1997. It was the first brewery in the province to be a co-op and all employees have the option to become members.  La Barberie is located on rue St. Roch, in the industrial area of Québec city, and produces bottles and draught for distribution. There is also a tasting room. The brewery’s location has changed quite a bit since the co-op moved in over ten years ago. As Bruno Blais, general director and one of the founding members explains, “it used to be quite rough and La Barberie’s location is not where one might stumble upon it by accident.” As a result, in the early years, La Barberie developed a bit of a cult following among those in the know. The tasting room at the brewery has 17 taps and the Barberie team makes it their policy to change the beer lineup as much as possible. If a keg runs out, they will always try to replace it with a different beer so that when customers come by, they’re always sure to discover something new. La Barberie has also created wooden ‘carrousels’ that can carry up to eight different beer samples to encourage customers to try new beers. The brewery produces a wide range of brands under the supervision of head brewer Bastien Têtu, who has been with the co-op since 1998. Apart from brewing traditional styles, Têtu loves to play with new ingredients (fruit in particular) leading to a number of unique products. Most recently, La Barberie released Sangri-Bière (2009) and Blonde au Chardonnay (2008) Têtu’s ode to red and white wine. Both are brewed with wine must, Shiraz and Chardonnay respectively, and packaged in 750ml bottles. These are two of the seven La Barberie bottled brands, all of which are bottle-conditioned. The five other brands, packaged in 500ml bottles, provide a wide array of flavours and styles and are just a glimpse of the fun to be had at the brewery’s tasting room.


The Québec city beer scene – Surrounding Area

2005 saw Microbrasserie Archibald Brewpub join the roster of Québec area breweries. The brewpub is located in Lac-Beauport, 15 minutes North of the City. Brewmaster Yves Bergeron, who has been with the brewery since 2006, likes to keep close contact with the clientele and always thinks of the customers first when he is developing a new beer.  “My first thought is: will they enjoy drinking it?” he explains. Bergeron has added six beers to the Archibald lineup since he took over the reins: La Valkyrie Bock, La Tite ’Kriss Irish Red, La Veuve Noire Dry Stout, La Weissbier and Bière aux bleuets (blueberry beer). These last two beers were first brewed as seasonals but have been so popular that they are now served year-round. The other Archibald brands are La Matante Blonde Ale, La Chipie American Pale Ale, La Ciboire English Style IPA, La Brise du Lac Pilsner, La Joufflue Wit, and La Choutte Porter. Bergeron tries to make sure that as many of these beers as possible are available at the pub at any given time. He explains that, as a precaution, he has devised the beer lineup in pairs that can act as ‘backups’ for each other should one of the brands run out. Stout lovers, for example, may settle for the Porter in a pinch, and Pale Ale lovers for the I.P.A.  In general when designing beers, Bergeron likes to respect style guidelines as closely as possible. In 2008, he was given an interesting challenge when the residents of a local Wendat reserve asked him to brew a beer that reflected their heritage. Using the “three sister” crops (corn, red bean and squash) as his inspiration, Bergeron brewed a beer called Kwé, using corn as an adjunct and has dubbed it a “Wendat-style” blonde ale. As of this past summer, Kwé, along with four other Archibald brands are now available in cans. After a successful summer, the Archibald team is thinking of expanding distribution beyond the greater Québec City area and is contemplating which brand to package next.

A bit further east, on the Island of Orléans, is Microbrasserie d’Orléans, which has been open since 2006. The brewery bottles six brands and also stocks the upstairs bar: Pub Le Mitan. Le Mitan has a varied menu that includes traditional French-Canadian dishes, pasta, fajitas and a plate of locally made sausages. The patio out back, with a gorgeous view of the river, is worth the drive to the Microbrasserie. Brewer, Jean Lampron, was brewing at L’Inox for a number of years before joining the Microbrasserie d’Orléans team in opening this new brewery. He designed the beer lineup for variety, making sure that it provides a range of colours, styles and alcohol contents. The Microbrasserie d’Orléans’ lineup includes a Blonde Ale: Anne Baillargeon, a Wit: Marie Barbier, an English Red: Éléonore Degrandmaison, a Maple Beer: Suzanne Marceau, a Scotch Ale: Abel Turcault, and an Extra Stout: Monseigneur D’Esgly. There are also four rotating seasonals: Françoise Bourgeois Tripel is available in the summer months; Joseph Bellarnin, a dry-hopped double IPA, is available in the fall; this coming winter Microbrasserie Orléans will release Jean-Guy Laforge Chocolate-Vanilla Strong Porter (10% abv); and in the spring, Louis Gaborit Strong Maple beer will be available on the shelves. The Microbrasserie d’Orléans team just finished re-branding their beers, naming them after people who lived on the island, and telling the story of each of these characters on their beer labels. Of course, all of these brands are available on draught at Pub Le Mitan, which is open year-round.

A quick 15-minute ferry ride away from Québec in the city of Lévis, is the area’s newest brewery, Corsaire, which opened its doors in 2008. Housed in a former post office, a few steps away from the dock, Corsaire is co-owned by brewer Martin Vaillancourt. Vaillancourt also brewed at L’Inox for a time, after Lampron left to start Microbrasserie d’Orléans. Vaillancourt has a penchant for English-style ales, having trained in Bristol for a number of years. Consequently, Corsaire has the distinction of being the only pub in the Québec area to serve cask-conditioned ales. These are only available on the weekend however, when Vaillancourt will tap one or two casks. Corsaire has five regular draught brands: Gallère Pale ale, Bristol ESB, Davy Jones Extra Stout, Tanaka spiced wheat beer and Seerauber Pilsner. The pub has nine beer lines in all. Vaillancourt likes to keep the beer lineup fresh and interesting, brewing a combination of traditional styles, like La Tombe Tripel and St-Laurent Dunkel Weizen, and more fanciful creations brewed with herbs and spices, like rosemary-lavender beer, and an elderberry-bee balm beer. When asked how he designs his beers, Vaillancourt stresses the fact that when he brews in a traditional style, he respects the style parameters and is scrupulous about using appropriate and authentic ingredients. In terms of his more playful beers, Vaillancourt prefers not to use fruit flavours, explaining “fruit is for juice”. He will usually pick a blend of spices or herbs that he likes and then build a beer around them. Although there is no kitchen at Corsaire, Vaillancourt and his team have devised a simple yet tasty menu that highlights local ingredients as much as possible. As of this summer, there are four Corsaire brands available in cans, but Vaillancourt has already picked the next two beers that the brewpub will be releasing. Canned Corsaire beers are available in the greater Québec City area as well as in specialty stores around the province.

Québec city can certainly add beer to its long list of tourist attractions. Embarking on a tour of Québec area breweries will lead to an exploration of a wide range of characters and flavours, and a discovery of various areas of this wonderful city.  Whether building a trip around a brewery tour, or simply looking for the occasional refreshment while sight seeing, Québec city will not disappoint.

Bringing home a taste of La Belle Province

There are two great stores in Québec City where one can stock up on a variety of bottled Québec beers…

La Duchesse d’Aiguillon

601, rue d’Aiguillon

(418) 655-9005


Le Monde des bières

230, rue Marie-de-l’Incarnation

(418) 686-2437


Publication: TAPS Magazine

Date Published: Winter 2009/10

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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