Montreal’s Reservoir [guest post]
No need to beat around the bush. To call myself eager to help Nathan McNutt brew at Reservoir today would be the understatement of the century. I could hardly sleep. Reservoir is a place I’ve worked, albeit sweating in the kitchen and not the brewery. Reservoir, before I moved out of the neighborhood, used to be my neighborhood bar. My neighborhood micro-brasserie. The place I went to have incredible and consistent beer. Funny how I still find myself there many nights a week despite the forty-minute bike commute. And funny how I’m considering moving back to the neighborhood just to be closer to this delicious beer.
But I digress.
I arrive early and drink my coffee while waiting on the cobblestone street I know better than my brother. People pass by on the morning commute, take out a Bixi [the Canadian bike rental like MN’s Nice Ride], pass quickly. I’m an ocean of excitement. The day goes by so fast I feel like at this moment I’m still sitting on that street waiting for the day to start.
When Nathan shows up, we get right to work. He says we are brewing a Pilsner, one of my favourite beers, and a specialty of Reservoir. Specifically at this time of year the water is a bit easier to control. We start the day fast, filling the mash-ton and getting our wort ready. The smell is unbearable. We laugh for a moment about people who refer to “that brewery smell” with disgust. Nathan describes the smell as “freshly baked cookies.” I call it, “morning.”
As we wait for the sugars to come out of hiding we mill some grain for tomorrow’s brew. A Weizen, the last of the season before the stranglehold of temperature and climate force us to make the similar, and easier, Blanche Ale. Nathan describes making a Weizen in hot summer months by simply shaking his head in exhaustion. It will not work.
We make our wort, sparge it out to clear, and start running into the kettle. This takes a long time. While we wait we rant and rave about “the big three” and “the man.” What is wrong with the world, the greedy corporations, and the government letting everything slide along. We step out onto the terrace for a cigarette and in the street below see a Budweiser truck with a crane unloading beer into the second-floor bar across the street. Oh, the world.
Back to our wort, now fully into the kettle and gradually rising in temperature. We add the first hops around 95 degrees Celsius. “Shouldn’t it be boiling by now?” I ask, and Nathan laughs, waving his hand as if to say, “I’ve been doing this for years, it’s gonna be fine, trust me.”
Before we know it, we’ve boiled for an hour and it’s time to chill, aerate, and get into the fermenter. The process is hectic, as it always seems to be, but once the flow starts, we find a moment to relax. We chill using a counter-flow chiller, and pump the hot spent water into the kettle for tomorrow morning. Within minutes we have 20 C wort. Yeast is then pitched. It’s so different from my home-brews, yet so similar. The sense of control is astonishing and refreshing. I want this set-up in my apartment. My mind wanders off. Nathan is starting the clean up.
I’m left in absorption mode. Everything that happened all day has me enveloped with fascination. I want to spend an entire week here, a month, a year. I want to make a stout, a sour, a rousse, an IPA. I want to make the Saison for the bottle. The delicious Reservoir Saison, only ever available in a bottle and modeled after Dupont Saison. An eight hour day is not enough to do this.
credit: une parisienne a montreal
As Nathan and I finish up, and eventually head out to the bar we are left with the hardest decision of the day. What beer to have. So many options. Nathan loves his Weizen, but opts for his Berliner-Weiss, which just came to perfect carbonation a day or two ago. Since I have a soft spot for Pilsners, and we had just brewed a Pilsner, my choice was simple.
After the Pilsner I take a Berliner. I had sampled this beer a week before, when they couldn’t get the carbonation down. It was ready now and truly a taste of summer. Immediately sour, not overly. Sweet malt and a crisp finish. The kind of beer that makes you keep going back for more and more. And at only 3.8%, you can safely have a pint or two and still be fine to bike home.
All in all the day was beautiful and only left me with one thought: why don’t I do this more often? What is stopping me from coming by this brewery where i am always welcome to help out a great brewer and learn a few things along the way? So for that, at the end of this day I raise my final beer (a marvelous Extra Special Bitter) to a healthy relationship with brewing and with beer. Santé!
Follow Rick Didora on Twitter: @_Raddish and visit Reservoir in Montreal