La G7 brew: Flavours of the world inside Charlevoix microbrewery's summit edition
'I was looking for a concept, not just a recipe,' said beer's creator Nicolas Marrant
Brewers in Quebec's Charlevoix region have put the world inside a pint glass by creating a special beer fit for a head of state.
As a nod to the 44th annual G7 summit taking place June 8 and 9 in Charlevoix, a renowned regional brewery, the Microbrasserie Charlevoix, has blended ingredients from all seven member countries into a true international lager.
Even its alcohol content reflects the summit: at seven per cent, La G7 is on the strong side.
"I was looking for a concept, not just a recipe," said Nicolas Marrant, the beer's creator.
The brewer is originally from northern France, a region bordering Belgium he said is simply called the "North."
"They didn't break their heads coming up with a creative name," he mused. Marrant moved to Quebec in 2001 after he learned the province was undergoing a craft beer renaissance, and he now proudly considers himself Québécois.
"I am passionate about Charlevoix," Marrant said in an interview in Baie-Saint-Paul, about 90 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
"I was thinking about a way to brew something special for this fantastic event."
The leaders of Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and the United States — countries that represent the majority of world GDP — will be staying at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, which has been serving La G7 beer for a few months.
The base ingredient is a Canadian barley malt supported by an oat malt from the United Kingdom. Italian orzo pasta gives the brew a fruitiness, similar to the role wheat plays in a white beer.
Down the list are three types of hops.
Summit hops from the United States bring a bitterness to the drink; strisselspalt hops from France offer a floral note, and Japanese sorachi ace hops added in uncooked at the end, right before bottling, carry a touch of citrus flavour.
Finally, the beer is fermented by a German yeast.
Russia used to be a member of the exclusive association — when it was called the G8 — but the country was kicked out in 2014 after President Vladimir Putin forcefully annexed Crimea.
When asked if a secret eighth ingredient was added for Russia, Frederick Tremblay, founder and president of the brewery, said categorically, "No."
Then he held up a pint glass emblazoned with La G7's logo and filled with that beer and said: "But this does go well with poutine!"
Microbreweries booming in Quebec
Tremblay's microbrewery, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is an elder statesman in the province's craft beer industry, which has exploded over the past several years.
Between 2002 and 2017, the number of breweries in Quebec increased to 190 from 87, a jump of almost 120 per cent, according to the province's microbrewers association.
Brewing beer is particularly popular with Quebecers who live outside big cities: 60 per cent of all brewers in the province are located in towns with a population under 100,000 people.
Quebec's craft beer companies come up with inventive flavours and names for the products, as well as especially colourful labels, reflecting their regions.
The rapid increase in craft beer across the province has forced the big players to take notice.
In late 2017, the craft beer division of Molson Coors snapped up Shawinigan's Le Trou du Diable company, makers of the well-known Shawinigan Handshake beer, a term that harkens back to the 1996 incident in which ex-prime minister Jean Chrétien choked social activist Bill Clennett.
The beer's label features a cartoon of Chrétien — who is from Shawinigan — with his hand around the neck of Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry.
Riding the Flavour Trail
Charlevoix's brewers are part of a larger community of local food producers and restaurateurs who have united to create what's called the Flavour Trail.
Tourists travelling through the mountains and rivers of the region can also take a tasting tour along the trail of cider houses, cheese and chocolate factories and visit farms that raise ducks and other kinds of organic meat.
The trail also includes a series of restaurants in the many Charlevoix villages that make food with local products.
Tremblay said opening a brewery was an excuse to return home from Montreal with his wife.
"One of the reasons I started brewing was to come back to Charlevoix," he said. "It was a good opportunity for us to do something with the Flavour Trail."
Tremblay's ethos reflects a community of food artisans who work together to raise each other's profile and give back to the region.
He has deliberately sacrificed expanding his market share across the country and internationally in order to ensure Quebecers don't go without his products.
"We wanted to make sure that all our customers in Charlevoix and Quebec have access to it," he said. "Sometimes, when you start to export, you can create a shortage of your beers — and that's not what we wanted."
La G7 is being made available throughout Charlevoix, in Quebec City and in select places across the province.