I am constantly talking to people everywhere about where they can go have a great beer experience. Breweries, pubs, restaurants, stores, festivals, and more. If you are just looking for a great local to enjoy a selection of suds – or if you are planning a 3 day beer trip with some buds – there are plenty of options no matter where you are. But without question, every year I tell hundreds of people that if they want a amazing and vast beer experience, then Mondial de la Biere is on the very top of my list. No joke.
This is a very different type of experience compared going to a brewery or a brewpub. Those are an intimate insight into specific beers and the people that make them. Some of the great beer highlights in my life, and in anyone’s, will be in a brewery or brewpub. A beer festival offers a very different scenario – and one that you can customize to you own preferences. I’ll discuss that in a moment, but first – why do I love Mondial so much?
The main reason is simple – it is an international festival. Seriously international to the highest degree. The Great American Beer Festival (one of the world’s largest) is solely american beers. Oktoberfest is only German beers, and a limited selection of them at that. Toronto Festival of Beer does have breweries from outside of Canada and into Europe, but when you see the lineup of beers at Mondial you will understand what I mean. Argentina, Belgium, Brasil, Canada, America, Chili, France, England, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, and many many more are all represented at Mondial in serious fashion. I don’t mean that there will be 3 or 4 beers from Italy or Brasil… There will be 30 or 40 at least. Even that must be a gross underestimate considering the current craft-brewing power that these two countries bolster. There will be over 600 different beers in total. Wow.
This is the overriding reason for me – when I am at Mondial I have access to amazing beers from across the globe that I will never see in my local market – not at the LCBO, depanneur, Premier Groumet, or Total Wine. I’ll see beers that I’ve only read about or seen pictures of on the internet. Part of the huge allure of this beyond the rarity of these beers, is the cost to enjoy them. Sometimes when you do see these beers on our soil they are nearly to expensive to enjoy. But Mondial offers you the chance to try that exotic Italian Barleywine you shell out $55 for it.
There is a plethora of beers available that are otherwise only available in their local market. For a beer geek, or even just an interested hobbyist, this is a goldmine for new beer flavours. Then there are even more amazing beers that don’t show up at speciality beer stores – so whether you are looking for something new, or your next best friend, Mondial has it all. They even have new and classic brands from the largest macro breweries in the world – whether or not that’s your thing, they are there for your consideration and/or judgement. It’s an even playing field at Mondial – all the beer its out there for you to enjoy – now its up to you to build your own experience.
Montreal is also a city in love with flavour and could be one of the best destinations for a festival of this sort. The local restaurants, gastropubs, breweries, and bars create an endless array of evening filling entertainment – either filled with beer, food, wine, music, history or art. Almost anything you could ever want will be found in Montreal. Including real smoked meat sandwiches and poutine.
Mondial is also a 5 day festival, not just a Friday and Saturday event. This allows 100,000 people to enjoy the festival in a slightly less congested way than would be possible in less time. And this is where you can really begin to build your own beer experience at Mondial.
For example: Mondial de la Biere 2013 is from Wednesday May 29 to Sunday June 2nd, and every day will offer a different experience. On Wednesday the building will only be at 20% capacity, max. This means that there wont be lots of crowds, there wont be mass partying, and there wont be wild music and spastic energy. Some booths will have a crowd around them, but getting beer is generally very easy. The girls at the Keith’s and Saporro will be very bored watching the serious beer folk ignore them while in search of their favourite flavours. Wednesday is best for you if you are there to focus on the beers, talk to some of the people serving them, and have some quality time with your companions.
Thursday wont be much different, but it will see a small lunch crowd, and a decent evening ‘pub’ crowd flow in around 5pm. Thursday is a good alternative to Wednesday if the idea of a quite beer festival doesn’t make sense to you, but you wont want to deal with the lines on the weekend.
Friday will start off pretty civilized with a moderate crowd in the day – but by 4pm the crowd will get heavy, is young and excited, the music gets louder, and the girls paid to look good while telling you barely rehearsed schpiels on beer will get a bit more flirtatious. Now the whole building is a buzz and the energy is electric. Lines fill up at the most popular booths, both craft and not, and you shouldn’t expect to wait for less than 3 to 5 minutes to get a beer. As the day moves along the building is a full on party, and by 8 its hard to know what you are drinking. Saturday wont be much different, but the party will begin earlier. These are good days for you if you are going with a big crowd of friends intending to party, or if you are seeking out the bar-like experience and want to meet new people and drink with many, many, many more.
Sunday is definitely more chill than Friday or Saturday, but it will still get a big weekend crowd – but one a bit more civilized. Knowing that you have to work the next day will force people to calm themselves, and the staff at the show has been working by now for 4 or more days. The overall atmosphere is more relaxed, but people are definitely still there to enjoy some great beer. Generally if you are coming for beer, Sunday is not the best day, as many popular beers will be gone. Sunday is a great day to come with a group who want the middle of the road – a good party atmosphere, but without the tidal wave of insanity that ensues on Friday and Saturday.
The long and short of it is that every year I got to Mondial, and every year I have an amazing time. I always see local beers that I’ve missed enjoying during the year, and I always find many more that I’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying before. I’ve been on each day of the fest at some point, and all are a great time.
I will be at Mondial on Wednesday, and am seriously looking forward to it. The festival is at a new location this year, Palais des Congres de Montreal, which does have an indoor and outdoor section. The outdoor venue was definitely missed last year – so it will be interesting to see how the dynamic plays out this year. More importantly, it means I’ll get a great cigar or two in. If you are going on Wednesday feel free to tweet at me if you want to meet us over a beer to chat (@DefinitionAle). Cheers!