Out on the Town, Student Life

Dispensaire Microbrasserie: Brilliant beer by locals for locals

Microbreweries have exploded in popularity in recent years. Not literally exploded, of course, that’d be horrific—we’d all be covered in yeast. According to the Association des microbreweries du Quebec, there’s been a 50 per cent increase in the number of microbreweries in the last four years. And so it follows: Our new generation is driven by experiences and sustainability. Thrifts are the new Abercrombie, dirty Docs are the new Air Jordans, healthy is the new sexy, drugs come in doses, not surfeits, and in this new era, microbreweries are pouring the drinks. 

I skipped class to go for a midday pint at the Dispensaire Microbrasserie, a microbrewery at the intersection of Prince Arthur and Coloniale. “Beer instead of school, Harry! Is this really the path you want to go down?” Hey, I’m on research, I’m on research! I’m Louis Theroux, I’m Louis Theroux! Who knows, maybe a midday pint stimulates productivity!

It’s all happening on Prince Arthur these days: Vegan and gluten-free restaurants, Japanese and instagrammable cafes, Café Campus and the lesser-known Petit Campus, which hosts gigs from local artists and bands. There’s also the cabaret Vol de Nuit and a restaurant called Onoir that only hires servers who are visually impaired and where you eat completely in the dark. 

Dispensaire Microbrasserie is right in the thick of it, too. It was started by four mates in 2018 and it’s a small operation—but busy work. You can see the ginormous fermenting tanks through the glass from afar. There’s a seating area outside with benches and tables that is very popular during the patio season. 

I went inside and sat by the bar. Inside is split into two areas: The serving counter and a small seating area tucked behind. Both have a gastronomic feel, like you’ve just come off MasterChef. The serving area features black brick against white-contrasting walls and a strip of glass that peers into the fermenting room. The small seating area behind has a couple of high standing tables and metal stools. 

They had six beers on tap—all with funky names like “Elephant Velvet” or the “Schmoutz”, and all brewed in their 700-litre in-house tanks. They had the same six in cans to take away, plus an extra four. The cans were designed by local artists as well, which I bring up because it seems that most McGill students these days have an Instagram page dedicated to their doodles. The menu changes frequently, with one or two brews being replaced each week, and they also have a tasting tray with small glasses to sample each of the beers on tap.  

I got the “SMaSH #3”, a non-hazy Indian pale ale with a 6.8 per cent alcohol content. This brings me to beer jargon—it’s an absolute nightmare, like talking to a Desautels kid about Bitcoin. An essential thing to know is the difference between an ale and a lager, the former being fermented at a warmer temperature and the taste being typically fruitier.  

Anyway, the SMaSH #3 is made with centennial hops, which gives it a crisp fruity finish. My, it was tasty, and balanced, too, with hints of bitterness that keep you on your toes without stretching a muscle. All the pints are $8.50 and half pints are $6.50, with taxes included. And it’s worth its buck. Each sip was filling but bloody moreish! 

Dispensaire Microbrasserie really does offer an object lesson in how to run a sensible establishment. No funny business, just shrewd mother wit. Say, for example, you want to bring a curry to have with your beer—a perfectly sound idea. Well, no problem—you can bring any food you want. Or say you’re tired of your friends nattering on—they have board games to change the conversation. What if you’re outside and getting cold? Don’t fret, they have blankets. And if you don’t know what type of beer you want, they let you have a taste test. This is a business by locals for locals. Oh, and their beer is absolutely hoppingly brilliant too. 

Score: 5 / 5 stars

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