McClelland Premium Imports Brings Delicious European Beers to Montreal
Despite being the most European of all provinces, Quebec has the smallest selection of European beers. Guy McClelland, Beer Knight and European craft beer importer, is hoping to help change that.
His collection of European brews, including Erdinger Weissbier - the number one wheat beer in the world and Affligem Blond - the number one Abbey beer sold on the Champs Élysées in Paris, are now available at Le Bier Markt (1212 Rene - Lévésque Blvd. Ouest). "The beautiful thing about European beer is the wide range of styles and unique regional brewing traditions," says McClelland. "Quebecers are sophisticated beer drinkers. They love Belgian beer and have a high appreciation for the big, traditional abbey beers. It's surprising that until now Quebec, the most European of all Canadian provinces has had the smallest selection of European beers. We're thrilled Le Bier Markt is changing that."
McClelland and his team sent MP a lovely sample pack of the beers they're bringing into Quebec. Here's what we thought....
Before we get started, we should define one of the oldest Beer Laws on record since we'll be mentioning it a few times. The law we're referring to is the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot, or Bavarian Purity Law. This was one of the earliest laws to regulate production of food or drink in Western Europe and dates back to 1487, when Duke Albrecht II promulgated it. Other sources trace the law to 1516 when it became adopted by several dukes in the city of Ingolstadt in Bavaria. The purity law stipulated that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops. The law doesn't mention yeast, even though this is a necessary ingredient. At the time, brewers would add sediment from the previous fermentation to get the new fermentation going. Why was this law passed? As we'll see below, a proud Bavarian tradition was wheat beer, though brewers and bakers would often compete for the scarce wheat, which drove up prices of both beer and bread. The stipulation of "hops" might not seem like much to us today, but at the time, it was very important since medieval brewers used a variety of herbs to give flavour and to preserve their beers (such as stinging nettle, and at times, even soot). Though the Bavarian purity law is no longer part of German food law, many brewers are still proud to brew their beer according to these standards. Now, without further ado, here's our take on the delicious beers McClelland sent us.
Stiegl Goldbräu is an Austrian lager made according to the aforementioned Bavarian purity laws. The water used is from a freshwater spring in the Alps. We found it to be mild on the hops (Styrian & Saaz), with a large head and a crisp, pleasant aftertaste. The bouquet was well-balanced and it seems like it would pair nicely with a variety of foods so long as none of their flavours were too bold.
Palm Speciale Belge hails (as you might have guessed) from Belgium. If ever a beer was created to promote a harmonious vision of unity, this is it. It's a belgian amber ale made with English hops, French Barley and Belgian yeast. We found it to be mellow and smooth with a warm honey-like caramel flavour balanced out by a fruity aroma. The real specialty with Palm is that it's made with roasted Champagne malt which lends it a nice depth while still keeping the beer lively and refreshing. We found the aftertaste to be surprising since it was just a little tart. This would pair very well with a variety of cheeses, particularly something nutty like Gruyere or Oka.
Mongozo Premium Pilsener is a beer with an interesting story. It's the first beer in the world to be entirely Fairtrade, Organic AND Gluten-Free! Unlike other gluten-free beers, Mongozo is brewed using barley malt, which gives it a full lager taste. The word Mongozo means "cheers" in the language of the Cokwe people of Africa. This was the language of Henrique Kabia, one of the founders of Mongozo. This recipe was the only possession Kabia had when he arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee in 1993. We tried the original Pilsener, but Mongozo also comes in a variety of interesting exotic flavours such as Mango, Banana, Coconut, Quinoa and Palmnut. The pilsener we tasted was very clean and crisp with a light head. We could imagine these beers really doing well when served ice-cold on a terrasse in the summer months.
Next up were the Mort Subite Lambics. We tried both the Kriek (sour cherry) and Framboise (raspberry) flavours. To be labeled a Lambic, a beer must be all natural and spontaneously fermented by the airborne wild yeasts in the valley of the Zenne River in Brussels. Lambics are much sweeter than regular beers, but the sweetness is balanced out by a wonderful fruity acidity and some interesting tannins. The sweetness of these lambics would pair well with some sweet and spicy flavours such as those found in southeast asian cuisine (we envisioned a delicious Kriek lambic alongside a plate of fiery pad kee mao) or the sweet/sour/spicy flavours of southern BBQ. You could even use the Kriek lambic in a sour cherry sauce for smoky mesquite ribs. On their own, these lambics were a pleasant and refreshingly different surprise.
Now we come to one of my personal favourites, Erdinger Weissbier. This is one of the most popular wheat beers in the world. It's brewed using fine yeast according to a traditional recipe. Though some claim that Erdinger is brewed in "strict accordance" with Bavarian purity laws, this isn't entirely true (at least not according to the purity laws of 1487 and 1516). If you remember, these laws forbade the use of wheat when making beer in order to prevent a price war with the bakers. That being said, wheat beer continued to be a tradition in Bavarian culture (even if it flouted the law). It wasn't until 1906, when the purity law was applied throughout all the German states of the Kaiser's second empire, that wheat was officially permitted as an ingredient in top-fermenting ales (such as Weissbier). This same law also recognized yeast as an official ingredient (thanks to the discoveries of Louis Pasteur in the 19th century). Erdinger's brewery dates back to 1886 in the town of Erding - right before the purity laws would officially recognize the production of Weissbier.
Suffice it to say that Erdinger is delicious. The beer is bottle-fermented, like a champagne. Unlike other beers, which are left to mature in vats, Erdinger matures in kegs and bottles over three to four weeks. Erdinger Weissbier is citrusy, refreshing and tingly with a very frothy head. The hops are exclusively from the Hallertau region and the water comes from two of Erding's 106m-deep springs. The wheat beer has a depth and richness that is hard to find in crisp, light pilseners and pairs very well with a variety of foods. We thought it would be nice alongside a refreshing radicchio salad and offset the bitterness of the lettuce. Another great pairing is to do what the bavarians do and have a wheat beer alongside a slice of cake or other sweet baked treat in the late afternoon. The citrusy and crisp ale really cuts the sugar nicely, while the floral aroma helps round out the pairing.
Erdinger also comes in a darker variety, Erdinger Dunkel. The dark colour comes from the roasting of the wheat malt. This is, perhaps, my favourite beer in the world. It has all of the light and refreshing characteristics you find in its lighter cousin with the addition of a chocolatey-malty backbone. If you've never tasted a dark wheat beer, or if you only want to try one of the beers in this list, this is the one to taste!
The last beer we tasted was Früli Strawberry Beer. Like Erdinger, Früli is a wheat beer. It's produced at a craft brewery near Ghent. The beer is brewed with a blend of coriander, orange peel and pure strawberries. Like Erdinger, Früli contains all B-group vitamins (nutritional bonus!), and has a rich, frothy head. The beer packs an explosive strawberry flavour and is a touch on the sweet side (though, we should specify, this beer doesn't contain any preservatives, sugar or other additives). This is a great beer to convert those who say they don't like beer as it's refreshing, fun and accessible. There's nearly no bitterness and unlike the lambics, it's not at at all sour. We racked our brains to think of a good pairing for this beer and ended up settling with the idea of a nice salty cheese for contrast. This beer would go very nicely with something like an aged cheddar or romano cheese. We also thought it might be fun to pair it with Friulano cheese owing to its sweet and nutty flavours.
All the beers mentioned here are available at:
1221 René-Lévesque Ouest
(across from the Bell Centre in the old Queue de Cheval location)