Paige Latham Didora
Reservoir Brasserie Artisanale
When it comes to vacation I typically plan moderately. I read travel blogs, scour maps, and ask friends for all kinds of obscure suggestions. I am no stranger to Couchsurfing, AirBnB, and half a dozen other travel sites. The bulk of my research time is spent (this should be obvious by now) on finding breweries, deciding what beer stops are a priority, and determining which bottles to bring for trading.
This trip was different, as I was traveling to visit a local, and a beer lover at that. I offered some suggestions but generally let him play tour guide. I was especially looking forward to our visit to Réservoir Brasserie Artisanale. Affectionately dubbed “Res” by staff and regulars, the smal brewpub boasts an impressive tap turnover that reflects the seasons, as well as special 750ml bottles to be enjoyed on-site. It has been open since 2002.
Rick and I visited Résevoir more than once during my visit, as I was very excited to learn from the brewer, Nathan McNutt, in person after first learning about Res. I had so many questions about the challenges of brewpub brewing, the Quebec bottling laws, and I was determined to find out what the heck “cream ale” means to Canadians.
I tried several of the crowd favorites, including the ESB and the Stout, both of which were classic and solid. I especially liked the dry nature and deep roasted character of the stout.
My first pint and favorite of the evening, however, was nothing other than the excellent Berliner Weisse. Pungent tart aroma and very low hopping let the acidic nature of the beer shine. A nice cracker-sourdough malt profile underscored and unified the package.
Other must-try beers are the Blanche – a common Québecois style, French for Belgian Wit – and the Cream Ale.
On Tuesday while the Pilsner was mid-boil, I asked Nathan what, exactly, the term cream ale means in Canada, as I found many cream ales to be higher in hop content than some pale ales, leaving me entirely confused. According to him, a cream ale is typically a pale-ale-like beer served on nitro (or “azotée”), making it creamy in texture. It has nothing to do with what Americans think of: a sweet, light beer typically brewed with adjunct grains.
Despite the nomenclature, I found the Réservoir Cream Ale to be very pleasant, drinkable, and – mais oui! – creamy.
After his long day of brewing, Nathan ordered a bottle of the Double Blanche for Corin, Rick, and I to share with him. It wasn’t the end result that he was intending, displaying more phenolic smokiness and near Brett-like notes, possibly as a result of too-hot fermentation. While none of us were entirely turned off, I could tell that Nathan was very disappointed.
Nathan is a very skilled and experienced brewer, with 8 years of brewing under his belt at Réservoir. We chatted about the challenges of brewing on a second story with limited temperature control in most of the tanks; it is clear that he has learned how to brew very well with a fairly simple system. He takes extensive notes on his recipes and always seeks to make things better each and every time. I appreciated his candor and honesty about the brewing process.
Bottling special edition brews leaves more room on tap for new and regular beers that turn over quickly. The 750s are all bottled by hand and can only be consumed on-site according to licensing law (the opposite of what Minnesotans can expect).
Visit Réservoir on a Sunday evening to experience a restrained but hip corner of Montréal night life, or for a weekday lunch on the upstairs terrasse. Try a variety of their beer and give one special bottle a taste, too, as some of their more unique beers are contained there.
Oh, and, try the churros. Thank me later.
Corin, Rick, Nathan, Eric