Microbrasserie À la Fût sales representative Simon Bellerose and his co-workers were struggling to keep up with all the orders. During my visit the brewery was teeming with cowboys, musicians, rodeo enthusiasts, thrill seekers and beer lovers from all over the world.
That’s what you get for running a successful brewery during Festival Western St-Tite, one of Canada’s most popular rodeos in the heart of Quebec’s Mauricie region. The festival wraps up this weekend.
À la Fût can be found in the town of Saint-Tite, a 2 ½ hour drive north of Montréal. By outside appearances this town may look like any other but once a year it transforms into an economic juggernaut with the arrival of the rodeo and thousands of visitors. It was an extraordinary experience to see Saint-Tite in full swing during the rodeo as the huge numbers of people, trailers, campers, horses and minivans filled every inch of Saint-Tite. Hang out long enough at À la Fût and you are bound to see a few entertainers and rodeo pros stroll in.
Bellerose admits it can be a wild ride running a brewery in Saint-Tite but admits everyone on the team loves the challenge.
“Yeah, it’s crazy. Let’s see, we are less than 4,000 people here in this city for the entire year and then for ten days, we explode to around 600,000 people,” said Bellerose who explained that the brewery celebrated its 11th anniversary this year. “Statistically it’s like the entire population of the United States visiting Montreal for ten days.”
Explosion is a proper analogy for this rodeo extravaganza and À la Fût has the privilege of being at ground zero when the bucking starts. Festival Western St-Tite is recognized for its breathtaking professional rodeos, major country western shows, music and food. The festival has been delighting fans for over 50 years and consistently attracts visitors from Canada, the United States, Mexico and South America.
It’s no secret that Canadians love beer and it’s clear that Quebec is a fertile province to run a microbrewery, even in areas outside of major urban centres. According to BeerCanada.Com the number of operational brewing facilities across Canada increased by 17.6% from 695 in 2016 to an all-time high of 817 in 2017, with over half of the 817 brewing facilities located in either Ontario or Québec.
In 2017, per capita consumption of beer in Canada stood at 75.5 litres, down 2.1% from 2016. Newfoundland has the highest per capita consumption rate at 93.4 litres, followed by Quebec and PEI with 82.4 litres and 79.7 litres respectively. And there is more good news – demand for beer in Quebec is only getting better. The province had 190 breweries in 2017; up from 163 in 2016 and 120 in 2013. In fact, Statistca.com said sales of beer in Quebec amounted to approximately 527,660 hectoliters in June 2018, an increase from around 468,690 hectoliters the previous month.
The brewery is hopping all year round, but Bellerose said much of the production is focused on meeting demand for the rodeo. Without question, the Western Festival helps drive numbers but it isn’t just about horses and spurs – the fact is À la Fût makes good beer. In 2016 they won a bronze medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards with their Tripe à Trois Brett – Bruxellensis, which won in the “Belgian-Style Brett Beer” category. They also won two awards at the World’s Beer Awards in the same year.
“We start brewing at the beginning of the summer to get the beers done for those ten days,” said Bellerose, adding that in 2018 the brewery sold over 2,600 HectoLiters of beer. Bellerose explained that the new brewery is capable of brewing 4,000 HectoLiters per year when the equipment is running at optimal capacity.
Visitors to À la Fût can enjoy several original and unique beers. Their P’tite series beers, including Kapi, Cocotte and Brett are IPA’s that are really popular at the pub.
“We started with the British. It made us famous because nobody was doing that kind of beer around here when we first started and we were playing with oak-aged barrels,” said Bellerose. “We made a few trips to Belgium and visited different breweries to get more knowledge about brewing Belgian beer and then we started brewing our Mékinoise. We are constantly transforming. Then we slowly got into the sour beer and we always have some very good hoppy beer. So that’s the type of beer we are brewing now.
“The one thing that we have in pretty much all our beer is that it’s dry because we don’t like sweet stuff,” said Bellerose. “So it’s dry and sour most of the time. We get different levels of sourness and always very good hop and we strive to create a good blend. Our brewers are very talented in creating recipes with a good hoppy taste.”
MORE ABOUT MCROBRASSERIE À LA FUT
Address: 670 Rue Notre Dame
Festival Western St-Tite website: www.festivalwestern.com/en/
Learn more about Quebec’s Mauricie region at www.quebecauthentique.com