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Quebec beer is the beer brewed in Quebec, Canada, often with ingredients from Quebec itself and generally following the recipes of the French, Belgian and British brewing traditions. Generally, the beers brewed in Quebec differ from those in the rest of North America because of the relative importance of the French and Belgian traditions alongside that of Great Britain. German-type beers are also brewed, but the production is not very important compared to the others.
The history of beer in Quebec goes all the way back to the early days of French colonization. Industrial production truly begins in the 19th century under British rule. A microbrewery industry appeared in the 1980s, with small productions to be found all over the province today.
In the 17th and 18th century, the colonists of Quebec made an alcoholic beverage which was characteristic of the region for a long period of time: spruce beer. Although spruce beer today generally refers to a soft drink of the same name, it was in fact an actual beer in which spruce replaced hops. Sometimes roots or other "spices" were used. This gave root beer.
According to historian Benjamin Sulte, the first colonists of Quebec, were from the parts of France where the production of beer and cider is important than that of wine. They must have brought with them the bouillon, an alcoholic beverage from Picardy and Upper Normandy. Pierre Boucher, Governor of Trois-Rivières, was questioned about the colony during a trip to France. He reported: "Wine is served to rich families, beer is left to those who are less wealthy, while others are content with a drink called the bouillon. The poorer ones drink only water, which is of excellent quality."
The Relations des Jésuites for the year 1646 mention that Brother Ambroise prepared beer for the inhabitants.
A marriage contract dated October 22, 1650, mentions the existence of a brewery in Montréal. It is written that the Governor of Montreal Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve offered "a land adjacent to the property of the brewery" to the newly wed.
In 1690, the Sieur de Longueuil built a brewery on his lands. It was in ruin by 1735. From 1704 to 1744, the Charron brothers, founders of the Hôpital général de Montréal, added a brewery to their building. In all cases, the distribution remained localized.
The first recorded commercial brewery was that founded by Intendant Jean Talon in 1671. Located in Québec City, it produced up to 4,000 barrels of beer a year. The beer was entirely made with Quebec products and half the volume was exported to the Caribbean and Europe. It was however short-lived.
The first large industrial-scale breweries were founded by Englishmen like John Molson in 1786. O'Keefe, from Toronto, Ontario, established itself in Montreal by the purchase of some 20 breweries including Molson's main competitors in Quebec, Dawes and Dow.
During the 1960s all the way to the early 1980s, there were but three breweries, Molson, Labatt and Carling-O'Keefe, together monopolizing the market.
In 1982, Brasserie Massawippi located in North Hatley produced the first craft beer meant for commercial distribution. La Massawippi, a 5% ale, brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 is no longer bottled, but can still be tried in a bar in North Hatley.
In the mid 1980s, the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux started issuing new permits authorizing commercial establishments to brew their own beer and sell it on site. This started the phenomenon of brewpubs in Quebec, shortly after British Columbia.
On July 1, 1986, the Golden Lion Brewing Company served its first pint of beer at the Golden Lion Pub in Lennoxville. One of the first pubs to serve its own beer was Le Cheval Blanc on Ontario Street in Montreal, founded in 1986.
Other breweries and microbreweries have also arisen since then, such as Les Brasseurs RJ, La Barberie, Hopfenstark (L'Assomption), La Gueule de bois (Saguenay), Brasseur et Frères, Brasserie du Ham, À la fût (Brewpub in St-Tite), Le trou du Diable (Brewpub in Shawinigan), and Belgh'Brasse.
In March 2008, Quebec had some 59 active breweries producing some 402 different beers.
- Émile Vaillancourt, The history of the brewing industry in the province of Quebec (Montreal: G. Ducharme, 1940)
- "Brasserie Massawippi", in the site Bier@Net, retrieved August 8, 2008
- "Ça brasse dans les micro-brasseries!", in Les Archives de Radio-Canada, retrieved August 8, 2008
- Bières et Plaisirs Webzine, retrieved March 30, 2008
- Sylvain Daignault (2006). Histoire de la bière au Québec, Saint-Constant: Broquet, 182 pages ISBN 2-89000-773-1 (first ed.: Montréal: Trait d'union, 2004)
- Raymond Beauchemin (2003). Salut! The Quebec Microbrewery Beer Cookbook, Montréal: Véhicule Press, 192 pages ISBN 1-55065-155-2
- Allen Winn Sneath (2001) Brewed in Canada. The Untold Story of Canada's 350-year-old Brewing Industry, Dundurn Press Ltd, 432 pages ISBN 1-55002-364-0 (online excerpt)
- Nick Hamilton and Daniel Bilodeau (1997) The Quebec Beer Guide, Cheneliere/McGraw-Hill 176 pages ISBN 2-89461-162-5
- Émile Vaillancourt (1940). The history of the brewing industry in the province of Quebec, Montreal: G. Ducharme, 46 pages
- L'Institut de la bière - The most important association of francophone beer lovers in North America (French)
- Bières et plaisirs - Quebec beer webzine. (French)
- BièreMAG - Quebec Encyclopedia of beer (French)