Our exchange person had suggested we might like a beer tasting walking tour. After checking it out, we booked it for Friday afternoon. The scheduled times to begin at 2 pm and end three hours later were approximations. Though we were asked to be 15 minutes early to ensure we did begin on time.
We left the apartment early in order to explore more of the city, while making our way to the district where the initial pub was located. Ron had read that some of the public buildings were either historic or had incredible interior design, so we were going to hunt some down prior to the tour.
The public art is expansive and impressive. There is such a rich variety; it is like walking around an outdoor museum. However, when we passed the Centre de Commerce Mondial Montreal, we were curious enough to take an inside look. Half expecting a stodgy office building, a pleasant surprise awaited us. Though the floor where we entered did initially seem like a regular office building, there was a pharmacy on one side. What caught our attention was the Santa Claus displayed directly ahead of us.
As we approached Santa, the beauty of the décor of the lower level struck us. There, lined up, are a series of elegant streetlamps, lit up and decorated with green boughs and lights. Along one wall, there are other lamps attached to the wall. An extra wide marble staircase leads to a swimming pool sized fountain, giving the entire are a sense of being a royal banquet hall.
On the other side of this expansive hallway, the rest of the building was dotted with high-end shopping opportunities, but another hallway intersects with the great one. Back in this hall is a food court with about 15 different dining options, none of them recognizable chains like McD’s, BK, or the others that blight neighborhoods.
Decorating the main hallway are different Santas from different regions of the world. Each has a bit of his history underneath to give some cultural understanding. There were eight total. The last being a 21st century Santa; he uses all the modern technology to get himself around the world in one night.
Continuing on our way, different architecture frequently diverted our attention, including the Holiday Inn with a pagoda on the top of the building or the homes reminiscent of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, though not a vibrant.
The tour started at Le St. Bock’s pub. This is where we met our guide, Steven. Steven is a young and vivacious fellow with an interesting heritage. His father is Australian, his mother is Brazilian and he was born in Montreal. He speaks English, French, and Portuguese as well as having citizenship in three countries. Steven was immediately engaging and is quite knowledgeable about all aspects of beer.
We had a comprehensive overview of what to look for when holding the beer up to the light, how to judge clarity, determine protein levels, how to sniff the bouquet, and finally assessing the differing qualities and flavors of an IPA, stout, ale, or pilsner with attention to mouth feel and finish.
Our tour beer buddies included four women from the Washington, DC area. Two were sisters, but they were all friends. They were great fun, sharing laughs over the beers.
During the course of visiting three bars including Le Saint-Bock, L’Amère À Boire, and finally Benelux, we tasted six beers specially selected. Small snacks accompanied the beers to enhance the beer taste experience. Walking from one bar to the next, Steven provided a history of the neighborhoods as well as pointing out the extensive amount murals displayed on building walls. He explained that originally, locals would paint the buildings to cover up the ugly wall. Then graffiti artists moved in.
Now, every year, there is a competition. Every wall is painted over with white covering the last year’s work. Different artists receive a wall to decorate with their work. It will last until the next year’s competition.