The Road to Mondial: Being There (1).

[NOTE: We have leaped ahead here, skipping over for a moment the events which took place when we arrive at the Canadian border on Thursday afternoon. Yes, the rumors which are flooding the interwebs are true: Lew Bryson was detained by Canadian authorities, but there is much more to the story than that. And, yes, I was with him but do not believe I was, or am, a “person of interest.” I might have considered myself so had someone asked at the time “are you now or have you ever been in the company of the new international terrorist known as De Tijger van Bengalen?” or “what ees theese Richard Ruch about wheech you write?” But they did not and I remain secure in my total innocence. All will be revealed no later than tomorrow.]

I won’t be writing a linear, moment-by-moment account of our two days at Mondial de la Biere (pause for sighs of relief) but rather a series of impressions and accounts of things that happened, broken into two parts, of which this is the first. Notice how I cleverly tried to make that clear in the post header. Mrs. Curtin didn’t raise her no dummies…

The first person I saw coming in the entrance Thursday afternoon was wearing a Rt. 113 IPA t-shirt, which was a bit of a shocker (and please either email me or catch me at the pub one day, my friend, as I was pulled away by the omnipresent Tony Forder as we shook hands and your name just fled out of my brain). This was not nearly so shocking as finding Sly Fox one of 12 American beers featured at Mondial’s Petite Pub a short while later. Turns out that same Mr. Forder had asked them to send beer and they did so. You might think someone would have mentioned this to the guy who does their website content, wouldn’t you? In any case, director of brewery operations Tim Ohst told me when I inquired on arriving home, adding that “we got an email Thursday or Friday from someone in Quebec wanting to know how they could get some Saison Vos.”

Speaking of Tony, the editor and publisher of Ale Street News, he later announced that he has recently become an American citizen, to which we say congratulations and well done, sir. Whether this bodes good or ill for the nation, we leave for you to ponder among yourselves. Tony had dragged me away from the t-shirt wearing Harleysville resident to tell me that my story for the current ASN issue had not made it into print but instead was posted online. I do see he has referenced its appearance there in his editor’s column in the print edition, but online it is not as of yet. And speaking of omnipresent, Tony’s other intention to bring me over to where a Mr. Thomas Peters, a Philadelphia publican of some note, was in deep negotiations with a Montreal brewer to come do a dinner at Monk’s Cafe during Philadelphia Beer Week next year (I later came to learn that Mr. Peters made similar arrangements with 135.5 other brewers during Mondial…okay, maybe only three or four).

The brewer to whom Peters was talking was Patrice of Ferme Brasserie Schoune and Lew and I spent some time at his booth tasting his beers and learning a bit about Schoune. The farmhouse brewery is about 45 minutes from Montreal and is strictly production, no brewpub, which is shame because Patrice’s beers were among the best of Mondial. That’s him in the photo holding a bottle of his new (8% abv!) Geueze, which was, I believe, the only we tasted out of a bottle; the rest were on draught. I cannot recall nor read my handwriting for all the other beers we sipped at the Schoune booth but I do recall that the Triple Blanche, another 8% wonder, was really fine. As a public service, I did tell Patrice that he needed to be careful about signing on for a Monk’s dinner since there have been recurring reports from a small group of members on a noted beer website that, having had the temerity to ask to sample the beers there and chat up the bartenders in long conversations about said beers, they were severely beaten about the heads and shoulders and tossed bleeding into the street. He assured me that he would come visit the city beforehand to become familiar with protocol.

Having blundered this far without providing any overall impressions of Mondial, let me say that it was, like most beer festivals, one which had a mixture of a few great beers, a lot of good ones and, perhaps more so than most fests because of its size, more average or worse beers than I expected. The best beers I had came from Schoune, Unibroue, Brasserie Thiriez, Les 3 Brasseurs, Brasserie Dieu du Ciel and Brasserie Benelux. Not surprisingly, then, the last three were among the places we chose to visit as we wandered the city. I ate very little at Mondial itself but the food stands seemed varied and reasonably priced. Pricing overall was more than fair, especially with the U.S. and Canadian dollars at about one-to-one ratio, a pleasant surprise in this Bush economy. And all that stuff you hear about the beautiful women of Montreal? True and truer. Lovely ladies abounded, both in the crowds and behind the booth counters–the Unibroue lasses were breathtaking, each and every one.

Fetivaled out after a few hours, we sought company the first night at Dieu du Ciel, my favorite place in all of Montreal. We were in the company of Lew’s bestest buddies, Deuane and Carolyn Hoffman of Pub Crawlin’;that beer-drinker-of-the-year couple, Cornelia & Ray, who are honorary Philadelphians, and our only “real” Philadelphian, or so she claimed, a young resident of the city (soon to leave for law school in Oregon) named Laura who was cast out by her family as a child and had to live in a tent outside their home and was brought to Montreal by a cad who immediately dumped her. Something like that. Many beers were consumed over several hours, including the famed Peche Mortel and Double Tripel (that’s my glass of the former in the foreground of the photo at right). Our group kept growing throughout the night and we eventually moved from our original table to a mishmash of three tables pushed together. Services was exceptional and, again, prices seemed more than fair. Our ostensible reason for being there, Sam Calagione, showed up eventually to give a short address to the crowd and show the Dogfish Head parody beer commercials which are becoming, here’s that word again, omnipresent these days.

Evening’s end was a bit of a shocker for me, who lives a healthy, albeit beer-focused diet. It was, I dunno, somewhere after midnight, and everybody decides that they needs must have poutine, a dish with which I was, and if there were a god in heaven, still would be, unaware. Still, I never complain, as everybody knows, so I followed along on a several mile trek to a place where this…thing…is prepared and served. What it is, is french fries with gravy and cheese curds or, as I’d name it given the chance, Heart-freezin’, Artery-cloggin’ Death-dealin’ Mishmash. For your edification, Bryson nicely “points” to his plate in the photo below. His appears to be a bastard version with ham in it, just in case an artery is left open when the meal is finished:

And here is the purer dish served Laura, the mystery girl, in which the cheese curds are both dominant and stomach-turning:

They both finished their entire plates. Clean. Seriously.

And on that depressing note, Day One ended.

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