THE STATE OF THE NATION: QUEBEC

Rob Symes

This week we caught up with Mathieu Brochu of À la Fût to find out what’s hot in Quebec right now. Located in St-Tite, a 25 minute drive from Jean Chretien’s birthplace of Shawinigan, À la Fût erupted on to the scene in 2007 and has gained a reputation for innovation. They were amongst the provincial pioneers in the use of brett, barrel-aging, sours and canning, and have received no shortage of recognition and accolades, including a bronze, two silvers and a gold at the 2019 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Who better to gauge where things are going than this kind of brewer? If you were expecting something off the wall, get back in your seats, because the answer is IPA. While the craft classic has been a staple for decades, recent years have seen the grand old dame of beer don new clothes, as experimentation with new yeasts and hop varieties has exploded the definition of the style.

“Sour IPAs,  double IPAs, New England IPAs… people go crazy for those things these days”, says Brochu. “In the last two years our IPAs have gone so fast off the shelves and at the bar. People here are in the countryside and they’re never used to drinking IPAs, so at the beginning we didn’t sell them at the bar, but these past two years have just been crazy! We mostly specialize in sour IPAs, so we’ve been brewing them for a year now. For the regular IPAs we’re trying to do new recipes all the time, which is why we have a beer called Urubu with interchanging hops.”

As with many of the latest trends to hit Canada, we’re a mirror, or at least an echo of our neighbour to the South. Quebec’s long established beer scene and appreciation for local means that it’s not playing catch up like some smaller provinces – allowing its brewers to push the envelope at the same time as their counterparts in the States. Still, the rise of the IPA is welcome considering how limited the market was only a few years ago.

À la Fût’s current lineup shows the dynamism and maturity of the IPA market in the province. “We’ve got a big influence from Vermont, and we really feel that”, says Brochu. We’ve been making every type of IPA, and our session IPA is our best seller. We used to make some very bitter IPAs, but right now people are looking for some more fruit forward, as well as very easy drinking IPAs.”

Along with the explosion of IPA styles, Mathieu Brochu is delighted to celebrate the arrival of spontaneous beer, which was a no-go area until the agricultural body governing these things loosened the laws. His brewery has dipped its (figurative) toes into the water and have been joined by Pit Caribou, with the two breweries launching a collaborative blend. As for those barrels, À la Fût has over 550 on hand, so while IPA may have the sunny headlines, perhaps the future will be more sour than we think. Brochu doesn’t mind. When thinking about this considerable collection, he only has three words to say: “A nice playground!”