Student Life

Tasting history: A 200-year-old beer recipe brought to life

The Museum of Jewish Montreal hosts a celebration and tasting of the famous Hart family beer

The Museum of Jewish Montreal hosted a lecture and tasting to celebrate the recreation of a 200-year-old traditional beer recipe from the famous Jewish Hart family brewery, on Oct. 26.

Nearly 100 people gathered in the bright main room of the museum, which opened only eight months ago. At 7:30 p.m. sharp, the room, already filled with displays of famous Jewish literature, historic maps and archival photos, was packed with eager and thirsty attendees.

beer blogger and business lawyer, Gary Gillman. Photo by Danielle Gasher

The almost illegible manuscript of the beer recipe was displayed at the front of the room, in front of rows of chairs, for everyone to see and attempt to read.

The Museum organized the event in collaboration with Fletcher’s Espace Culinaire and Le Réservoir microbrewery.  Fletcher’s, a Jewish-Québécois fusion café, offered their space on the main floor of the Museum, for the event to take place.

Julia Dubé, the event and financial development coordinator for the museum, said the team first discovered the beer recipe when one of their research fellows stumbled upon a beer blog talking about it.

“When she found this article, she shared it with the team, and we immediately wanted to do something with it,” said Dubé. “We had the idea to recreate the beer, using local ingredients and trying to follow the recipe from the manuscript. So we approached our neighbour, Le Réservoir.”

Le Réservoir, a microbrewery on Duluth Avenue, just a street corner away from the museum, accepted the challenge to recreate the beer.  

Concordia graduate and master brewer at Le Réservoir, Nathan McNutt, made it his mission to follow the recipe and the methods used as closely as possible. “We are all very excited to taste the beer for the first time,” said Dubé.

The museum is dedicated to sharing Jewish stories in Montreal. Since the Hart family is such an important name in Montreal’s Jewish community, this was a story the museum couldn’t pass up on.

“Part of these stories relate to food, relate to beer. When we found this story, we thought it would be a very contemporary and interesting thing to share,” Dubé told The Concordian.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

The Hart family are known to be the first Jews to have arrived in North America. They settled in Trois-Rivières in 1761. The entire family is celebrated for their contributions and devotion to Quebec’s Jewish community. The family created the first synagogue in Canada and were active in the fight for Jewish political rights during the 18th century, according to an article on Canada’s History’s website by author and historian, Denis Vaugeois.

That’s why, Montreal-native beer blogger and business lawyer, Gary Gillman, was surprised to stumble on the Hart name when researching early Quebec breweries.

“Growing up here in the Jewish community, we all had known of the Harts and were very proud of them … but we knew their political history, particularly Ezekiel’s situation with respect to trying to set a legislative assembly in the early 19th century. I had no idea that they operated a brewery,” said Gillman.

Gillman found the recipe through public provincial records. In fact, it was so easy to access, he continued digging to see if anyone else had published or at least found the manuscript. “As far as I could tell, nobody actually found it and published it, much less analyzed it from a brewing point of view,” said Gillman. He published a blog post about the beer in February 2016.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

To Gillman, the recipe represents traditional English brewing. “That means things like its alcoholic strength, which is over eight per cent, its use of hops … a substantial quantity of hops. They also used the first mash, the first run off the malted barley, which is the richest extract and produces the strongest beer.”

The brewer of the beer, McNutt, said, “For the most part, we kept very true to the style, very true to the ingredients. We made sure that [the beer] was Quebec-grown, that it was organic.” He explained he had to make certain adaptations to stay true to the original recipe, techniques and style of the brew. He said he used smoke malt, with the help of wood chips, to replicate a taste that was common in 18th century beer. He also added wild yeast to the beer, and aged it in an oak wood barrel, which he said added complexity to the beer’s taste.

Among the guest speakers at the event was Vaugeois, who was particularly touched by the recreation of the recipe. Vaugeois, who wrote a book about the Hart family, imparted his knowledge about the Harts to the crowd.

“Since I don’t drink beer, I focused on the brewery, on the will of Aaron Hart to bring his sons together so they could create a dynasty. He created an enterprise for his sons, like Molson,” said Vaugeois about his book.


Vaugeois said that upon researching and writing so much about the family, he felt like he had a special connection to them. “I feel like I am myself a Hart,” he said.

Once the presentation from guest speakers was over, guests were invited, with their free beer coupon in hand, to the next street corner to taste the celebrated beer for themselves at Le Réservoir.

As the speakers hinted, the flavour of the beer was beautifully complex.  From the balanced smokiness, to a nice spiciness and subtle yet satisfying bitterness, this beer’s taste was a nice surprise.  

Student Life

Hats off to the master brewer

When walking along the streets of St. Laurent Blvd., one can easily find a place to dine, shop or party. However, every so often a spot stands out amongst all the flashy lights, restaurants and dive bars.

Next time you’re walking North on St. Laurent, try something new; take a right onto Duluth and step into Le Reservoir, a bar that stands out for its excellent house-brewed beers and its irresistible snack bar.

The two story bar offers a pub setting and ambiance that would easily fit in the trendy hipster neighbourhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Both floors are equipped with their very own bar, as well as an L-shaped, non-smoking terrace which wraps around the second floor. The interior design of the place is retro with just the right amount of lighting to set the perfect mood over a pint of any one of their fine beers.

Upon being seated, my girlfriend and I ordered off their chalk-written menu hanging above the bar. I ordered their white India Pale Ale, and my girlfriend ordered the cherry beer. Both came rather fast as they were skillfully poured before our eyes.

Through the glass wall behind the bar, the clientele can easily see the room where the giant metal containers called “worts” are kept. These massive containers house the delicious beer as it ferments in all its glory.

I have been yearning to go to Le Reservoir and try their beers crafted by their master brewer Nathan McNutt—beers that I can now happily say exceeded my expectations.

“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people enjoy my work while at the same time fulfilling my passion for creation,” says McNutt. “Combining my skills, creativity, and toil with raw ingredients and machinery to make a delicious product that many people enjoy; I just don’t get tired of that.”

By the end the evening I had tried four of his beers and as a result, must encourage anybody who appreciates a well-rounded beer to head over there next time they want a quality pint.

I may not be a beer expert, but I can say that their white IPA was a refreshing pint filled with taste and character, and their Irish-inspired black beer was a full-bodied pint with a perfect coffee flavour finish. Even my girlfriend’s cherry beer was not just a simple, pretty coloured beer. It is fermented twice with polished cherries, resulting in a savoury beer worthy of being served along the other outstanding choices.

“Reservoir up until recently focused solely on classic styles of beer as opposed to the more fashionable aggressively hopped beers or strong exotically flavoured beers found in other brewpubs,” says McNutt.

While their beers may be filling and satisfying on their own, craving food after a few drinks is expected. Thankfully, Le Reservoir has a kitchen.

The place is well known for its weekend brunch which is supposedly superb. However, I went on a weeknight and so I got a chance to indulge in their snack menu.

I ordered the calamari platter and my girlfriend the Gruyere grilled cheese, toasted to perfection with marinated onions and apple butter. Both plates held decent portions and were creatively served. The grilled cheese was placed on a wood platter and the calamari served in a mason jar. Turns out we chose wisely as the food perfectly complimented the beer.

Overall, the place provided an ambiance and vibe that is different from many bars in Montreal. It is original and versatile in the sense that it is a cool place for a late night drink, yet perfect for an afternoon snack or weekend brunch. They offer a fine selection of beers and spirits at reasonable prices, and their food menu changes daily for a fresh and impressive experience. I love this place and I highly suggest you head on over and try it for yourself!

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