If you're looking for beer in Ontario, there are really only two choices: The Beer Store and the LCBO. I myself frequent the LCBO. I've found recently that they've been quite good with their craft beer selection and their pricing is at least palatable if not outstanding. I avoid The Beer Store like the plague for reasons that could fill an entire post so, I'll just leave that alone for now.
The above being said, there is one avenue open to all native Ottawans. Just a bridge away lies a land where beer distribution is simple. In Quebec you can buy beer from just about anywhere. This shines a light on what Ontario is greatly lacking; specialty craft beer stores.
One such location is, I'm sure, very well known to all National Capital Region beer lovers - Bières du Monde. You may remember this place was mentioned by James in his post from last fall; check it out here.
This week I had the privilege of attending a tasting at this fine establishment. The event was a tweet up put on by our good friends at Ottawa Beer Events. If you don't know them, seriously, look them up. They can be found at ottawabeerevents.ca or on twitter @OttBeerEvents.
When I arrived I was shocked to see it was located in a mall (Galeries Aylmer). As an Ontarian this is very strange to me, very foreign. Getting over my initial shock I soldiered on and headed for the shop. As I approached I was surprised at its size. The way it had been described to me, I expected an expansive warehouse of rare and exotic brews. Though it may not be the sprawling warehouse I envisioned, it certainly has a massive array of selections and carries all of Quebec's finest beers. As it is, Bières du Monde is an average sized spot in the mall with ample room to explore its varied and diverse walls of beer.
Inside the store I was awe struck by all the great craft beer that was stocked on the shelves.
There are two walls of shelved beer, cash at the front and a set of fridges at the back for those looking for something cold. The layout of the shelves is brilliant. One wall holds beer by style: Pilsner, Blonde, IPA, Brown, Stout, Red, Belgian, etc... and the other wall displays beer by brewery: Unibroue, Charlevoix, Troue du Diable, Dieu du Ciel, Trois Mousquetaires, and many others. Many of the same beers appear on both walls, but it's a great way to navigate their huge selection. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a certain type of beer and others times you're looking for your favorite brewery's latest offering. The beers are arrayed mainly as singles. I just love this. As a full blown beer snob I very seldom drink the same beer twice so singles are where it's at for me. Bières du Monde provides singles of almost everything in store. But fret not, if you’re looking for multiples, they also provide six packs of most selections. Most single bottles are 710 ml but there are plenty of 341 ml bottles as well. I was very surprised to find some of my favorite 710's broken down into smaller sizes. This is a good thing. Sometimes 710 ml of a 10% beer can be a little overwhelming for one beer lover, especially on a week night.
As I have said, the selection is great. If you're at all familiar with Quebec craft beer you will recognize many of the names on the shelves, but there is also a plethora of beer not so familiar. Along with smaller micros from Quebec, there are also a number of special selections to choose from. There are several barreled aged versions of my favorites along with special edition releases of other great beers. The stock is very up to date with many breweries' newest creations. Many of the items in stock I have never found anywhere else.
During our tasting, the store owner Ryan was incredible. It wasn't hard to see that he loves his job. He was friendly, informative and personable. He was a wealth of knowledge about Quebec craft beer and really knew his stuff. He was very helpful with making selections and I was impressed by how candid he was about the beers and his honesty when giving his opinion was refreshing.
Bières du Monde is a wonderful place, great selection, good lay out and amazing service. I know I’ll be making a trip back soon.