On the Banks of the Richelieu

Montreal, Canada has been described to me as the poor-man’s Paris, a francophonic, North American alternative to the City of Light, complete with tree-lined canals and wide boulevards.  And one can easily see the Gothic similarities between the Old Montreal’s Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica and Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral.

Yet language and architecture aren’t the only examples of similarity between the two cities.  Look also to Montreal’s cuisine, which layers a thick helping of Québécois attitude over traditional French dishes such as fois gras and brioche.  And more importantly, look to its beer, especially those made just outside Montreal, in a small suburb on the Richelieu River.

Unibroue – located in Chambly, Quebec, just twenty miles east of Montreal where the Richelieu flows through the Bassin de Chambly – is a Canadian brewery with deep European roots; such, according to it’s website, that it “made history by becoming the first North American beer maker to use a brewing method inspired by the two-centuries-old tradition developed by Trappist monks in Europe—particularly in Belgium.”

But before we get to the beer, let’s take a short detour down Grammar Lane.  I first learned of Unibroue from a colleague far more knowledgeable and better traveled than myself.  He pronounced its name you-nee-BREW.  After a little casual research, I found others pronouncing it oo-nee-BREW, you-nee-BROW, or oo-nee-BROW.  Now, I will readily admit, I have found no authoritative or definitive pronunciation and do not presently know which, if any, of these options are correct.  So, I ask you, dear readers: if there are any French-speaking Canadians amongst you, please provide a comment below – I am very eager to end my likely mispronunciation.

After speaking with my colleague, I was able to easily track down several of Unibroue’s varieties, specifically: Blanche de Chambly; La Fin du Monde (The End of the World); Maudite (The Damned); Trois Pistoles (Three Coins); Don de Dieu (Gift of God); and Éphémère Apple.  The six ales were universally and highly delicious, covering the spectrum of tastes; from a solid, full bodied white (La Fin du Monde), to several complex ambers (Maudite and Don de Dieu), and a dark, full mouthed, and highly alcoholic abbey-style (Tres Pistoles).

Each brew was extremely distinctive – not only for its taste, but also for its label artwork, which I found particularly unique.  Aside from the beautiful women adorning several of Unibroue’s bottles, my favorite label appears on the Maudite bottle, a surreal and atmospheric picture from Honoré Beaugrand’s 19th Century story, La Chasse-Galerie (The Flying Canoe), which begins appropriately enough with heavy drinking.

So in addition to the architecture, culture, and food I’ve only read of, I’m certain Montreal is home to excellent European-inspired beer.  Reason enough to place it on my short list of vacation destinations.


I’ve included a few of my favorite label pictures below.  Pictures courtesy of Unibroue (and Unibroue for my French-speaking friends).

Published in: on July 12, 2011 at 9:44 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. Yo THF!

    Been curious to try these beers, but for whatever reason, I have yet to do so. I’ve only been to Montreal once (back in 1995 for some F1 action. Great place to see a car race!). I really liked it. Good mix of old and new world. Hope to get back there one day. As far as how to pronounce the brewery’s name, how bout this…


    • That’s better than anything else I’ve found. SEND IN THE FEMBOTS!!

      • I haven’t seen an Austin Powers flick in a long long time, but when you mentioned your pronunciation dilemma, this clip immediately popped into my head.

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