Montreal played host to the 16th annual Stella Artois World Draught Masters on October 25, an evening that mixed both swank sophistication and tense competition. We hopped on board for the one-night escape to experience first-hand what Stella’s famed, centuries-old nine-step pouring ritual is all about.
The day got off to a foggy start, leading to a 4-hour flight delay at Toronto’s Bill Bishop Airport. Between two cancelled flights and a last-minute scramble to reroute to Pearson, the entire trip was up in the air while, ironically, we weren’t. We landed in Montreal as the first portion of the event kicked off – just in time for rush hour. Our spirits were revived when we were greeted at Le Westin Montreal by two ever-so-appealing bottles of ice-cold Stella and accompanying accessories (bottle opener, ice bucket, even cufflinks.)
We managed to walk in just in time for Chef Jonathan Garnier’s food prep course, an immersive hour of cutting scallops and creating beer jelly with an unlimited flow of Stella – a constant throughout the remainder of the eight-hour evening. Garnier is the head of the renowned La Guilde Culinaire, where celebrated chefs come together to host cooking classes, dinners and private events. He also served as a guest judge to this year’s World Draught Masters.
We were then seated in La Guilde Culinaire’s dining room, ready to get a taste of Garnier’s specially prepared menu paired with, you guessed it, beer. Not having the option of wine to complement each dish was both refreshing and educational, something we’d definitely recommend trying.
Princess scallops with the aforementioned Stella Artois jelly kicked off the meal, followed by a main course of spiced pork belly confit, parsnip purée with truffle bits, glazed vegetables, Leffe Blonde gravy and spiced foie gras cromesquis. One thing to note: a traditional, three-course presentation is definitely plenty when paired with half-litre pints along the way.
We finished the evening with what would be the highlight of our meal: Belgian speculoos, chocolate crème pâtissière and Leffe Brune ice cream. Here is where we really experienced the magic of pairing beer with food, the Leffe Brune a seamless, smooth transition when following a taste of the delicate dessert.
A few conversations later and we were whisked away into our private bus, which would take us atop the city at the elegantly exuberant Chalet du Mont-Royal. With a skyline view of the city in relative isolation, let’s just say this iconic Montreal gem tops our list of event venues we’ve attended.
The party inside was well underway, with guests eager to get their hands on the taps to try their luck at pouring the perfect chalice. If you’re a follower of the brand, you’ll know the word ‘glass’ is taboo. We managed to produce a few respectable pints under the guidance of some pouring experts on-hand, but nothing that would compare to the magic we’d eventually witness as the competition unfolded.
Belgium reigned supreme at this year’s World Draught Masters competition, as 23-year-old Allaine Schaiko took home the coveted title. He dazzled from start to finish with stunning precision and movie star charisma, defeating hometown favourite and Canadian champion Jonathan Terninck along the way. The performance of all competitors definitely gave bartenders viewing in the audience much to aspire to.
As midnight passed, we had a chance to pour some friendly chalices with those who competed on the night and eventually found our way back to the hotel’s Stella lounge for, almost miraculously, more beer and, of course, a poutine station. Much like the professionally executed head of a champions’ pour of Stella, it was the perfect end to a frenzied indulgence of fine brew, cuisine and nightlife.