Since we were making the trek to Montreal for the Mondiale
de la Biere, we figured maybe we could get a tour of the famous Unibroue
Brewery in Chambly, about 20 miles from the capital. Our friend, Rick Suarez,
known far and wide as one of the best beer reps anywhere, helped set up
Rick did not think that he was coming to the fest, but, at the last minute, decided to fly up and take us himself. Two totally full vehicles made their way from downtown to this quaint suburb. Our group was a who's who of beer in the Northeast: Tom Peters and Bernadette from Monk's Cafe, Dave Brodrick from Blind Tiger and The Collins, Greg Somers from the State College Microbrewers Expo, Tom & Peggy from Heavyweight, Bill, Nancy and Dean and his wife, Tracy from Yards.
The first thing that shocked us was that the brewery is in the middle of a residential neighborhood! Its neighbor is an elementary school! They have received many concessions from the town to remain in Chambly. Their meteoric growth has presented them with expansion problems as space is limited, but they have gotten around them through careful planning and efficient use of space.
We enjoyed tasting whatever we wanted at their well-appointed tasting room prior to donning all the Health Department required garb for the tour. The tour was quite comprehensive visiting every department.
The history of Unibroue is a very interesting story. Started in 1990 by Andre Dion and his partner Serge Racine who felt that a brewery would be an interesting investment. Purchasing an old brewery to obtain the license, he set up a small brewing system and distributed their products. After further acquisition and corporate dealings, Unibroue became the entity we know today in 1993.
In that same year, the brewing facilities were moved to Chambly and the rest is history. Major investments of time and money have made this one of the biggest and best Belgian beer breweries in North America. Recently acquired by Sleeman Breweries, all the trepidation over what would happen to their products has been allayed. It seems they greatly respected Unibroue for the steady growth of its export business and wanted to get in on it with their own products.
Their brewmaster, Paul Arnott, got his Brewing Degree from the famous Scottish Heriot Watt University International Centre of Brewing and Distilling and worked at the Abbaye de Scourmont known for their Chimay brand of beers for 10 years. Wanting to venture out on his own, he hooked up with Unibroue in 1992 and formulated their first offering, Blanche de Chambly, still their best seller. In the years since, a number of world-class beers have come out of this still-expanding brewery: Maudite, Trois Pistoles, Don de Dieu, Raftman, Eau Benite, Fin du Monde, Terrible, Ephemere, 10, 11, Edition 2004, Edition 2005, etc. Not a mediocre beer in the bunch! So much more to come also!
They have, also, expanded into the restaurant business with several pubs in the region. We got to visit the one in Chambly and enjoyed a beer on the terrace overlooking the Chambly River. What a stupendous sight! I plan on having my 60th birthday party here, if I live that long!! The pub is in the colonial style and serves simple food and, of course, Unibroue's beers. They also have a store with products made from their beers and various souvenirs. (We picked up some jellies made from the beers.)
Look for their beers just about everywhere in the world. You certainly won't be disappointed with any of them:
Blanche de Chambly-their spin on the traditional Belgian wit beer only better! Their first and still largest seller.
Don de Dieu-a triple wheat ale, 9%abv
Eau Benite-a golden ale, tripel style, 7.7%abv
La Fin Du Monde-a triple fermented golden ale, 9%abv
Maudite-a strong red ale, 8%abv
Trois Pistoles- a dark strong ale, 9%abv
Terrible-an abbey style ale, 10.5%abv
Raftman-a specialty ale made with whisky malt, 5.5%abv
Ephemere-green apple, cranberry and cassis
There were also several anniversary beers brewed in the years of the anniversaries: 10, 11, Edition 2004, Edition 2005, and 15(soon to be released)
In addition, some of the beers they brew are not released into the American market and stay in Canada....just another reason to travel to the Great White North!
If you don't see them at your favorite liquor store or pub, ask for them.