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2006 Mondiale de la Bière, Montréal

Darren Nightingale writes

May 31 through June 4, 2006 saw Montréal host the 13th Mondiale de la Bière. I flew from LAX to JFK, arriving at midnight, and drove through upstate New York State to Montréal to get there in the morning hours. I knew it would be fun when I got a wry smile at the Canadian border guard when replying that “attending a Beer Festival” was my official reason for visiting Canada!!

Situated in the Centreville (downtown) part of Montréal, the festival is partially held inside the sumptuous Windsor Station and partially outside in the adjoining Courtyard at 1160, De la Gauchetière Street West (Between Peel and De la Montagne). Walking around Montréal was a pleasure and preferred, but Montréal also has an efficient Subway that makes its very easy to get around when you tire. It runs quiet and smooth thanks to its pneumatic tyres, something I have not seen before!! Bonaventure, or better still, Peel are the nearest stations to the Festival.

Entrance to the event was free; in fact the whole Festival is open to anyone that wants to walk around it, including children. You could sample the beers in free plastic cups, but Can$8 would get you a rather cool looking Festival Glass. Beer Tickets were Can$1 per coupon, with beer prices ranging between 1 to 5 coupons for a 4 ounce sample, though often you got more. The atmosphere here is excellent; having the half indoor and half outdoor set-up really benefits the Festival’s ambience. The outdoor courtyard hosts a series of Brewery tents which proved popular during the hot sunny Friday afternoon and this is where most of the food places are. Despite being open to the passing Public without manic ID and age checkers, the indoor covered section proved popular too for the times when it rains, as it did on the Saturday!! Range was something in excess of 300 different beers from all over the World with a solid spotlight on the Canadian offerings. Brewery booths made the beers easy to track down and often gave one the chance to speak to the Brewery personnel and occasionally the Brewers themselves. Some Importers provided a chance to try beers of the World in one place but the prices for the imports were high. Food was excellent and equally eclectic; Belgian waffles and frites, Korean grilled food, Sushi, BBQ, Smoke Meats, Stag, Sausage, Bison, Wild Boar and even Beavertails!! Crêpes and other sweet things made for a great range of tasty treats to accompany the brews throughout the day.

After the Festival there are a host of great Beer Bars, something that surprised me. This is all backed up by an incredible dozen, or so, Brew Pubs, worthy of an article in themselves. The pride of the Brew Pubs is the World Class Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, and the recent Public Area Smoking Ban (invoked some 24 hours before I arrived on the 2nd June) made for a great atmosphere to enjoy all their brews.

Montréal seems to combine the best of the U S, easily laid out streets, efficient subways and cabs, yet at the same time spices all of this up with the best bits of a Cosmopolitan Euro-Francophile culture. Prices are very good also in Montréal. The Mondiale de la Bière takes all this a step further and combines great beer with great food in a very welcoming and relaxed manner, with a healthy attitude to alcohol, something the USA could do well to learn from.

I will surely be doing my best to get to the Montréal Mondiale de la Bière in 2007, and if cheap flights afford you the chance, you should do the same. Darren Nightingale

DODGY LINK TO DARREN'S PHOTOS, WHICH WILL BE RECTIFIED SOON, WE HOPE http://www.imagestation.com/album/pictures.html?id=2102184360