It was sometime in March when the idea for Tabernac Quebec Craft Beer Throwdownapolooza (Here after known as #tabernac) started to percolate. Many of the online beer community had started to meet up locally, but some of us felt a larger calling to travel and discover even more of what this amazing country has to offer. We bandied several dates back and forth before settling on August 3rd to 6th in Quebec City, as it was about equal distance for the 6 people who could eventually make it.
Coming from Sept Iles in Northern Quebec was Craft Beer Pam, better known as, well, Pam. Nova Scotia's finest were led by the Keltic Devil, Phil Church and his pal, Rob, The Gardack. Riding in with The Polkaroo were the Big Canuck 1975 (Glen) and Mrs. Polkaroo (Kathryn). Nervous, excited and a little apprehensive, off we went.
The three of us from Ontario left the confines of home at 8:30 in the morning on August 2nd so we could make a few stops on the way. Smooth sailing thanks to using the toll road 407 highway, we decided to stop at Stone City Ales in downtown Kingston for a flight and some snacks. Its a really great space that was hopping, even on an early Tuesday afternoon. Our service was impeccable and friendly. The beer was spot on and I left with 4 bottles for further "research".
Beauty flights with The Big Canuck
Next up was a brewery that I've been wanting to go to since I started trying craft beer. Beau's All Natural Brewing in VanKleek, Ontario has often been the recipient of all my fan boy love for a good reason. Their recent employee ownership plan, 10th anniversary celebrations, cross Canada expansion of sales and general quality and innovation in brewing are just a few of the reasons I am always going to try anything they make. The people at the brewery were not only welcoming, they made you feel excited to try everything on tap. I settled on the barley wine, but once again bought one of everything I hadn't tried and off we went to our finally destination of the day in St. Jerome, Quebec.
#beerbucketlist item checked off.
After dropping off our beer and luggage at the hotel, we drove on down the road to famed Quebec brewer Dieu de Ciel. We have tried their Aphrodisiac (Aphrodite here in puritanical Ontario) before and loved it enough to buy it regularly. Entering yet another busy place, we were greeted in French and after some fumbled attempts on our part, mercifully the staff took care of us in English for the rest of our visit. If I would have known I'd be searching for Craft Beer in Quebec 30 years later, I would have paid more attention in French class. Needless to say the food was super tasty and I will profess my love for their Moralite IPA, it was a citrusy bitter beauty. But we were now wiped out from our half completed journey and headed back for a swim and some shuteye before the final leg of our journey.
That sunset and my IPA make me smile.
Our Ontario (and a little US) contribution for #tabernac
Waking up in the morning, I could barely contain my excitement that it was finally the day for #tabernac. We set off and after an emotional stop for Kat at her Papa's gravesite in Montreal, we headed north to Quebec city and our friends in beer.
On a side note, I must tell you about how courteous and kindly we were treated through all of our travels. From their calm driving skills to their tolerance of my fractured attempts at speaking French, the Quebecois people were not at all what I had been led to believe. I loved every interaction I had and will encourage you to visit La Belle Province if you ever get the chance.
Arriving at our hotel, we dealt with a small booking error (our fault) and settled into our room. Being a few hours ahead of the others, we went for a short walk to a little hole in the wall bar near the hotel called Red Lounge and downed a pint of local beer to kill a little time. While not a huge spot, it was perfect for a hot afternoon and the Red Ale from Boreale was decent.
Drank a little before I remembered to take a pic!
Getting back to the Nord, I grabbed a Ceres Gose from Nickel Brook Brewing in B
urlington and headed out for a little review time in the back of the hotel. This was the beer I had been waiting for with its refreshingly sour and crisp lime, cucumber combination. I brought some of these to share and was glad I did.
Repping Ontario Craft Beer in the QC
When Pam arrived and we knew Phil and Rob would still be a while, we headed out to Brasserie Griendel for some dinner and of course a pint or two. Located about 15 minutes walk from the hotel, this Qubec microbrewer had a respectable 20 + beers on tap and I started with a Double IPA that was juicy, dank and had a whole lotta citrus.
Food, Craft Beer and good company
Happy Polkaroo with a wheat beer.
The picture at the top of this post is the six #tabernac OG's settling in for the first time. It was taken after Rob and Phil finally joined us just after 7 p.m. I was nervous and excited to finally raise pints with these folks, but quickly found that their online personas were not a façade and we fell into easy conversation. The rest of the evening found us sitting in the breakfast room at the hotel, sharing the fresh growlers of beer we had brought from some of our favourite local brewers and even more conversation, beer, as well as life related.
Waking up Thursday morning was like opening my eyes after a great dream. I was pinching myself that this was really happening and when I saw that Phil was having a breakfast beer, I just had to join in. Stranger than Fiction Porter from Collective Arts is a staple for me and a wonderful way to start my day that involved 10 kilometers of walking, beer and some of the most beautiful views in Canada.
Breakfast of Champions
We decided to walk to the Old City of Quebec and while I am not known for my love of physical activity, I was actually looking forward to seeing the neighbourhoods and shops that dot the trip to Historic Quebec City. After climbing a lot of stairs, hills and what seemed like a never ending vista of old buildings, we found ourselves sitting at Saint-Alexandre Pub with an $18 bottle of Golden Draak 9000, a Belgian Quadrapel that was among the best beers I've ever had in my life. Caramel, candied fruits, dark plums and a warming alcohol punch made me glad I plunked down that much cash on this one of a kind brew.
$18? Worth every penny.
Having reached the Hotel Frontenac, St. Lawrence seaway and the battlegrounds of the Plains of Abraham, I was taken aback at the sheer size of everything. The beauty of this area of Quebec cannot be captured, but we tried and as I walked around, I was a little overwhelmed at being smack in the centre of where this country all began. Of course I brought an Ontario Craft beer to celebrate with and even drank my Canuck pale ale from Great Lakes brewing on top of the hill while we took a break from all the walking. It might not be 100% legal to drink a beer at a national historic place, but it was just what I needed to make my day complete. As the afternoon headed to evening, some of us headed back to hotel for a swim and a rest while others stayed and perused the shops and artisans. Beauty day and it got better after dinner.
Gordie and I at the top of Quebec City
When we reconvened in the breakfast room later that night, we shared even more growlers and squealers of fresh beer and met a new friend from the Netherlands, Michel, who quickly became part of #tabernac and spent the next 4 hours swapping life stories and sharing in our love of great beer. We even brought some of our home made Amber ale with us and it was a hit with all our beer friends. It is fun to share not only your favourite provincial beer, but something you've created with other people who've never had it before, it's like opening a part of your soul to the world. I enjoyed all the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick beer Phil brought out and was happy to share a few of our mutual favourite IPAs fresh from the source. Headstock from Nickel Brook and Ransack the Universe were well received by everyone at our rowdy little table. Late bedtime and I was smiling as the day faded into my memory.
Growlers of our faves meant a late night and lots of laughs.
Awaking on Friday was a little foggy, but the smile never left my face. After a light breakfast, Kat and Pam went off for a little retail therapy, Rob had some work to accomplish and Phil settled in for a little refresher nap. Glen and I decided to take advantage of both the free time and my new found love of walking to hit up one or two microbrewers for flights while we had the chance. First up was Koriganne and yet another great experience with the Quebecois people. We were always a little apologetic about our lack of French, but the staff embraced us like locals and extolled the virtue of their many great beers. My standout in this one was the oak aged strong ale with a smooth warming punch to it. I almost ordered a pint and stayed the rest of the day, that is how awesome they made us feel. but we had more things to see and do and once again, my feet hit the floor in search of beer,.
Flight at Koriganne
Up next was perhaps my most surreal moment on the entire trip. Walking into Noctem, we were again greeted happily in English but this time it came with a question...
"Don't I know you?" the bartender asked.
"I don't think so, we're not from around here."
"You're the Drunk Polkaroo, I follow you on Instagram! Love your stories and pictures!"
Seriously, it was pretty funny a we gladly enjoyed one of everything they had with a promise to return for dinner if we could. But there was one more stop to make and it was one of the older places that makes craft beer in the province and a must see according to everywhere we had visited.
Beauty brews at a young Noctem
La Barberie was another klick and a half walk, which now meant we had traversed a little under 5 kilometers in search of beer, but we felt awesome. They brought each of us a wheel of 5 oz. flights with one of each of their 8 beers. The hit for me was the sour. It was mouth puckering and I was so impressed, I grabbed a pint to slow sip while Glen finished his samples. The terrace was beautiful with a bring your own food policy that I think would be nice to see at those breweries here in Ontario that don't serve food in their tap rooms.
Wheel of beer at La Barberie
Pints with Polk on the Patio.
After taking an Uber back to the hotel, because it seemed prudent to not test our balance after so many flights, we grabbed Kat and headed to the underground pool for a swim. I brought along a little Ontario treat in my Cameron's brewing One Eyed Grouse to savour while I floated around the warm, salt water pool. All that walking and "beer research" made me a little tired, so off for a nap and then our last night in QC.
Always a fave in my house.
Heading back out to reconnect with our #tabernac pals, we first enetered La Bateau de Nuit, a craft beer bar in the Old City. Dark, a little dank and wholly full of characters, including the brewer from the Noctem brewery we had visited earlier in the day. We enjoyed some fine Quebec beers and even more laughs at our mutual and separate adventures the week had brought us. It was then time to once again walk back to the lower city and a wonderful final dinner at Noctem. The food was divine, the beer young, but with great potential and the company was the stuff that makes my heart happy. Getting back to the hotel, I had nothing left to give and had to say goodnight. It had been the kind of day I dreamed of having when I planned this trip and I drifted off to sleep with a smile that stayed till I awoke in the morning.
Championship of the world at bateau De Nuit
When we got up Saturday, we began to gather our things and prepare for the journey home. But first we had to distribute our treasures to our friends. I was proud to be able to send some of my favourite Ontario Craft beers on their way to Northern Quebec and Nova Scotia and even more excited to receive the gift of beer from my Beer Saint compatriots. It was bittersweet and we made one last stop at a bottle shop called Le Monde de Bieres for a few more Quebec craft beers to take home and enjoy.
#beersaint done right.
We have decided to continue with #tabernac and next year it will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mark your calenders with the dates August 9th to 12th and stay tuned for more details in the coming months on our plans to take this craft beer meetup into the stratosphere in the next few years. Nothing would make me happier than to see more of those people I already know and those of you I haven't met yet joining us on Canada's East coast next year to raise our glasses to celebrate all things Craft beer! What a great time to be alive!
See you all next year!
Travels with Mrs. Polkaroo are always the highlight of anything I do
One last photo of an amazing group of people. Until Next year!