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The Montreal Beer Festival

Summertime in Montreal is a magical time when the snowbanks have melted and the city’s memory of the harsh and cold winter has instead been replaced by the unadulterated joys of easy summer living.

Taking advantage of the excellent weather, Montreal hosts a series of festivals throughout the summer season and its city center is home to vibrant and lively festivals almost every week from the beginning of June to the end of July.

Some of the big events during festival season include the Just for Laughs comedy festival, which sees two weeks of French and English-language comedians try their best to make the city laugh, and the Jazz Festival, which sees visitors travel to Montreal from across North America to take in free concerts on the Place des Arts.

The first festival of the season, however, is the Montreal Beer Festival (as seen in photos 1 – 4), which, for five days from May 29th to June 2nd, is the literal toast of the town and one of the city’s most beloved events.

Taking place inside downtown’s Palais de Congres Convention Center and outside on the esplanade, the festival welcomes more than a hundred brewers from across Quebec and even some from Europe who come to showcase their best microbrews to the drink enthusiasts of Montreal.

Admission is free, but visitors must purchase a plastic cup ($5) and coupons ($1), of which it takes 2-6 to purchase a beer sampler. Don’t expect to try all of the beers the festival has to offer, though, as there will be more than 550 beers and ciders on offer at this year’s festival, a full 229 of which have never been presented before in the festival’s 20-year history.

If visitors aren’t already salivating at the mouth thinking of all the different beers on tap, there are a host of other events in the festival hall as well. Throughout the day culinary demonstrations are given on cooking with beer, brewers give talks on their creative processes and DJs take the stage to provide relaxing background music.

Food wise the festival has 11 kiosks, most of which will be serving the festival’s official 20th anniversary sandwich: duck with onion in a pepper and onion bread. Foodies, however, would be especially interested in the festival’s gastronomic evening on May 30th, which sees the event hall filled with chefs who present expertly paired beer and food combinations.

As an additional treat, the festival has arranged “Flaveurs Evenings” at ten local restaurants throughout the duration of the festival. Each participating restaurant is renowned on the local culinary scene and will be presenting an expanded microbrew selection to accompany a host of dishes that have been cooked with the beer from the festival.

Those who are unable to attend the Montreal Beer Festival in 2013 will be happy to know that it has been an annual feature on the city’s landscape since 1993 and it will be returning in 2014 in an event that promises to be even better.

All photos courtesy of Olivier Bourget.