A short walk from the tram station and the Interactive Center at the piers lies Quebec City's version of a brewpub, La Barberie. The license allows a microbrewery with a tasting room that sells only house beers and occupies less than 15 percent of the total space. An "off sale" license allows for keg sales. 20-ounce "pint" Mason jars with handles are also sold "to go." As told by one of the three bearded owners, the name comes from a derivation of the French words that mean beard and barbarian. The later offers the theme for the interior decor. A front sampling room features a small U-shaped light-wood bar and its dozen light wood bar stools on a hand-painted black tiled floor. On the wall behind the bar stands the large beer menu chalkboard with the sequentially numbered selections listed by style, description and alcohol content, and ordered by number. Black and white framed photos of insects dot the yellow painted walls. From the blue ceiling, covered with postcards mailed from customers, dangle strings of low-voltage DC lamps. At the red bar back the eight taps and their unique wooden handles are supported by a carved wooden support. CD sounds bathe the room and its dozen light wood tables and chairs. Potted plants line the window along St. Roch street, with a view of the nearby municipal parking lot and freeway overpass. A small wooden patio clings to the building's exterior brick wall and features a dozen wooden tables and chairs. For sampling, the "Galopin" offers a spinning wooden sampler holder with numbered slots that hold six-ounce fluted glasses whose contents match the numbered menu selections above the bar.
#1 is a Blanche Weiss that is clear dark straw in color, with a light body, strong wheaty flavor that is balanced toward the dry side throughout. #2 is the Cuvée Houblinée that is an amber color with a light malty flavor with noticeable hops. #3 is the opaque Noire Cream Ale. This light-bodied brew offers a slightly sharp roasted character that is mellowed by the smooth mouthfeel that results from the nitrogen used in dispensing. #4 is the deeply red Rousse Bitter. With a medium body and rich, malty flavor, the "bitter" seems to be more of a dryness from the malt than the flavors from the hops. #5 is the Noire Ligère et Fruitée. Light in body but opaque, it offers a dry, black malt flavor. #6 is the Blonde aux Pomme. This one is a hazy straw color with a light body and effervescent mouthfeel. The apple character is actually refreshing, slightly acetic, but not like a green apple off-flavor. #7 is the hazy gold India Pale Ale. This light-bodied brew has its mellow pale malt flavor dominated by a pronounced hoppiness, but unlike the forceful IPAs found south of the border. The #8 Scotch Ale is a clear dark amber with a smooth mouthfeel and rich malty flavor.
The back room contains the brewhouse where 120 formal house recipes are brewed 200 liters at a time, three to four batches per day. 14 standard house beers rotate through the production cycle, with private label brews done as required. Some recipes call for non-traditional ingredients such as candi sugar and seven varieties of honey. Joining the 24 varieties of pellet hops and 18 malts are nine specialty adjuncts. The treatment of the brewing water includes charcoal filtering and UV sterilization. The boil kettle shows its touches of customization from the ring of electric water heater elements protruding through the base. The heat exchanger is also homemade. Plans call for moving the small enclosed mill room to the second floor and augering the grain to the mash tun. Draught accounts have their beers run through a cartridge filter before meeting the Marvel keg filler. Space in the brewhouse and cold room is tight but manageable. There's even room for some Seagrams oak barrels for aging some of the bigger beers.
Beers run $3 CDN ($2 USD) for a 10-ounce glass, $4 a pint and $12.50 for the "carrusel" sampler. A snack dispenser releases almonds or peanuts for 25¢, perfect accompaniment when using the house cribbage boards or decks of cards. Although the surroundings are simple and basic, the bar can accept both credit and debit cards. Whether brewer or bartender, everyone is friendly and knowledgable. The business is organized as a "cooperativa de travail" or coop, with the three cofounders joined by the nine employees in holding various levels of ownership. The expenses associated with participation in the Mondial de la bière are too great for La Barberie so your best bet is to visit the brewery in person and experience the wide variety of great styles and flavors from this "hands-on" micro.
Vocabulary: Orge = barley, Avoine = oatmeal, É pautre - old style (white wheat), Chanvre = hemp
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - June