Growing up in Montreal in the 60s I remember grocery signs with the legend “Ale and Porter”. In French, “Bière et Porter“. I recall wondering what they meant. Beer was delivered to homes by a small black pedal bicycle (no gears). Cases were fitted into a wide, low metal basket, of 24, 12-oz. bottles. I’ve looked online for the fascia of a store reading Ale and Porter or Bière et Porter, but can’t find one. A verbal description will have to do but anyone who grew up in Montreal in the period mentioned or earlier, will know what I mean.
It was years later that I actually had a chance to try the ale and porter of my native Quebec province. The ales – Molson Export, Labatt 50, Laurentide Ale, O’Keefe Ale – were tasty enough. The porters were reduced by the time I could find any to Porter Champlain, a sweet, licorice-tasting black beer.
All these were probably reduced in character from earlier in the 1900s. In later years with the onset of the craft beer I got to see what authentic ale and real porter were all about. below are some images of beers tasted recently in my long-adopted city of Toronto.
This is Stone IPA, all the way from San Diego, CA but tasting very sound far from home. It’s rich and sweet, resinous and rather bitter, the real deal for old England beer via the Oregon hop fields.
The porter is a mild example of the genre, from Sleeman in Guelph, ON, apparently a replication of an 1800s porter as brewed by Sleeman’s in the 1800s. An old book of recipes still exists from that time, I saw it myself 25 years ago when touring Sleeman with the beer writer Michael Jackson.
The porter a good beer and may be similar to some porter still sold in Quebec in the 50s and 60s.
The beer tradition of Quebec, inaugurated by the French colons including notably l’Intendant Jean Talon, was later continued by British and other English-speaking settlers. They came after the Conquest in the 1770s. However, all residents, French, English, and other, seemed to like the beers from the newer tradition.
The beers may not have changed that much anyway, given local grains and hops were used before and after (with any imported), as well as a top-fermentation process.
In Quebec taverns circa-1970, the call, donne-moi une Porter Champlain tablette (room temperature] was commonly heard. Today, with all the refinements craft brewing has brought, that way to drink beer seems lost to history, at least in bars and restaurants.
“May I have an I.P.A., that new one on the blackboard, shelf please?”. Incomprehension would follow.