With craft beer sales booming, Quebec sees “beer Renaissance”

MONTREAL – It’s Canada’s drink of choice, and although beer sales are down this year, there is one sector of the market that is booming: craft beer, which is brewed and distributed locally.

In Quebec, the number of brew pubs and microbreweries has exploded, jumping from 31 in 2002 to 102 in 2013, according to the Quebec Association of Microbrewers.

Nowhere is this boom in business more apparent than in Montreal. The city is home to Canada’s biggest beer festival, the Mondiale de la Biere, which launches Wednesday and will last until June 15th. In Montreal, one can also find brewpubs and microbreweries at every corner, and there’s even a beer walking tour, the Brewpub Tour, that’s almost always sold out.

“It’s to allow people to discover Montreal though one of the most local products you can get here, craft beer,” said Ismael Peladeau, who started the tour a couple of years ago.

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“Locals produce it, and you can only get it on location,” Peladeau added.

The tour stops at three different brew pubs: L’Amere a Boire, Le Saint-Bock and Benelux. At the latter, beer is brewed right on premises, in a back room of the bar.

The craft beer movement is the result of the population’s growing interest in quality and taste, said Benelux owner Benoit Mercier, who has witnessed the boom in business first hand.

“People are more interested in what they eat and drink,” said Mercier. “They’re curious about new flavours.”

Craft beer sales in Quebec have almost doubled in the last decade, leaving some of the bigger beer companies scrambling to keep up.

Molson recently invested in the craft beer market by purchasing microbreweries in B.C. and Ontario. Labatt has done the same, yet the beer giants have said that they’re not threatened by craft brewers’ success.

“I think the fact that there are many breweries and people getting involved in craft just signals that there’s a larger beer Renaissance going on,” said Jennifer Davidson, spokesperson for Molson’s craft beer division Six Pint.

“I think that’s good for all of us,” Davidson added.

Beer enthusiasts say the craft beer movement is here to stay. Whether it’s Earl-Gray infused or chocolate-flavoured, there’s already hundreds of different Quebec beers to choose from.

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