The Mondial is a tasting party held every year inside Montreal’s Palais des Congres and on the esplanade outside. It’s a free-for-all in which visitors purchase tickets ($1 each) and exchange them for glasses of samples from around the world. Though it’s true that almost everybody is a fan of drinking beer, the Mondial is an event that elevates beer to its highest form. It’s one of the foremost events of its kind in the world, and is frequented by bloggers and beer critics from around the world, as well as regular people who just love tasting beer as well as drinking it.
This is the Mondial’s 20th edition: The festival is now two years older than the age of majority in this province, and thus, all grown up. So, to give it the respect it deserves, we asked a beer expert how best to enjoy it: Aaron Marchand, a Canadian beer judge certified by the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). While it does seem counterintuitive to need guidance on how to get the most out of an event that celebrates everything about drinking hops, Marchand had a thing or two to teach us.
While other events like the Great American Beerfest and its British counterpart are replete with “guys in giant foam hats throwing up in planters,” says Marchand. “In Montreal it’s a smaller, and therefore more exclusive (read: classier) event.”
But you don’t have to be a professional beer nerd to enjoy the Mondial de la biere, he says; there’s something there for everybody. Local beer drinkers go for a rare chance to sample brews from around the world that we don’t normally have a chance to sample here in Quebec. Tourists come for the love-in of local microbrews because it’s an excellent place to sample many of our brews in one location (Marchand recommends Dieu du Ciel, Benelux and Hopfenstark, for starters).
Marchand’s advice for beginners seems like something we might have figured out for ourselves: Fan out, diversify, and regroup to taste as many beers as possible. Bring a group of friends and make a day of it. Pace yourself. In general, start with lighter, less hoppy beers, and move towards more alcoholic ones. Or, try the opposite strategy, which has been known to lead to a good time as well. He also recommends hanging out with locals to find out about sideline events that happen around town the same week as the festival. Finally, he shares some advice about how to taste the rarest, most unusual and worthy finds.
“At the risk of offending people, I’d say that if you go to a booth and there are a bunch of girls in hot pants and tube tops, they are trying to disguise lack of flavor in their beer,” he says. “You want to go find the booths frequented by fat guys in beards.”
Mondial de la biere, May 29-June 2, 2013