At Your convenience

Todd Coleman

Finding myself thirsty on a trip to Montreal last year, I stepped into a convenience store on Rue Rachel, expecting standard-issue sodas and Molson beer. But past the Coke-crammed coolers in the small corner shop, called Depanneur Peluso, I found a rear room containing more than 300 Quebec-brewed beers, neatly shelved by style. It was like peeking beyond the 7-Eleven Slurpee machine and discovering a treasure chest of rare and varied gems. Quebec's beer-making culture, I discovered, is a mash-up of traditions from France, Belgium, and Great Britain, the legacy of the province's diverse European colonists. I filled my cart with staff suggestions and returned to my hotel room for an impromptu tasting. Most of Quebec's 75-plus breweries don't sell beyond the border, but among the beers that I tried, a few favorites are available in the States: ** L'abri De La Tempete Corps Mort**, a potent barleywine with a sticky-sweet caramel flavor, made with smoked barley that gives it a peaty, Scotch-like aroma; hazy, foam-capped Unibroue Éphemere Apple, a Belgian-style white ale brewed with apple must for a quenching sourness that's cut by a bit of malt sweetness; Microbrasserie Dieu Du Ciel! Rosee d'Hibiscus, a wheat beer that gets its rosy hue from an infusion of tangy, fragrant hibiscus flowers; L'abri De La Tempete Corne de Brume, a silky Scottish ale with a salt-kissed toffee taste; smooth, golden Brasserie McAuslan St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, with a fruity, bready perfume, apricot and honey flavors, and a slight bitter finish; Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique, a pitch-black porter that smells intensely of fudge and dark fruit and tastes like bittersweet chocolate cake.