Depanneurs are peculiar stages for the drama of life. If you’ve been in one, you’ve been in 20, but everyone has a favourite. There is a cozy familiarity one has with the dep closest to their apartment. Maybe the old man behind the counter smiles when you come in, but it’s a shame that beer in Montreal is sold almost exclusively in deps, which are little more than glorified newsstands peddling cigarettes, forties of Molson dry, and overpriced groceries despite such minor charms.
Where to buy good beer is the question I’m asked the most. It seems that people are interested in drinking quality brew but reluctant to shell out $7 a pint at a bar. But never fear! There are deps that suit your purpose if you’re after something more than a Molson Ex. Well, actually, some aren’t deps – in fact they may scoff at the stereotype that beer needs be sold next to bottles of Porte d’Enfer. Nevertheless, these four establishments are the best purveyors of local, craft-brewed beer in the city. Along with a description, each review has the manager’s pick, my own, and a reason to go more than once.
Okay, it’s a cheese shop, but they’re serious about their beer. With 20 new styles in since Christmas, they’re constantly updating their supply with the freshest, most current offerings from Quebec’s micro breweries. The best part is that you can shop for the best cheese to pair with your beer in the same store. Just ask any of the knowledgeable staff who will gladly tell you what complements what.
Selection: 125 styles total, 95 from Quebec brewers
Manager’s Pick: Au Maitre Brasseur – Noire de Fromagerie Atwater
All Hopped Up’s Pick: Buy a bottle of Maudite from Unibroue and a cheese called Le Fêtard which spent its formative years being washed in the aforementioned stuff
Reason to come back: Lots of beer, lots of cheese, lots of tasty combo possibilities.
Super Marché Rahman
151 Laurier O.
The ultimate beer dep, “Le Paradis de la Bière” has been a purveyor of Quebec microbrews for 18 years. Its massive selection places forties of Black Label next to magnums of nobler stuff, but the shining stars are the five kinds of house beer. Rahman himself formulated the recipes for the Paradisiac beers – traditional styles brewed with Indian spices, all bottled at local breweries.
Selection: around 500 styles, 250-300 of which are from Quebec
Manager’s Pick: Paradisiac Scotch Ale
All Hopped Up’s Pick: Paradisiac Cuivrée – a strong, hoppy beer
Reason to come back: Trying a different beer each time you come in will keep you busy for years.
Épicerie José inc.
470 Duluth E.
The “most like a classic dep” dep. You can stop pick up a loaf of bread or cigarettes on your way home and get lost amid a staggering beer selection, or roped into one of their weekly beer, cider, or wine tastings. Épicerie José gets brownie points for having the best prices of the bunch with lots of deals on 12 packs and 6 packs you can make yourself.
Selection: 350 styles total, about 200 from Quebec brewers
Manager’s Pick: Les Trois Mousquetaires – Signature Series
All Hopped Up’s Pick: Something from the brand new Brasseurs de Montreal
Reason to come back: Tastings. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 5-9 p.m.
Les Délires du Terroir
This small shop in Rosemont is big on beer, as long as it’s from Quebec. Owner Sylfranc Côté orders beers with age in mind so that two or three years from now that strong beer will be at its best. Côté is also passionate about pairing beer with food. They have a fine working relationship with sausages from Le Queue de Cochon, the artesian butcher next door.
Selection: 195 styles, all from Quebec
Manager’s Pick: La Barbarie – India Pale Ale
All Hopped Up’s Pick: À l’Abri de la Tempête – Corne de Brume an aged scotch ale
Reason to come back: When the Saint Reserve beers from Microbrasserie Charlevoix arrive, you’ll have a chance to taste what Côté considers to be Quebec’s best beer.