Festibière 2021 delivered a night full of great sights and good sounds… with craft beer as an afterthought.
Held twice a year—most recently at the Place des Festivals Zibi from August 4 to 7 and August 11 to 14, 2021—Festibière, perhaps better known on this side of the river as Brewfest, promises to promote the latest brewing trends and developments in Québec.
Enthused at the prospect of a first “real” night out in almost two years, and flanked by my fiancé and his best friend in from out of town, I jumped at the opportunity to once again be surrounded by craft beer and greasy food truck offerings. We set out across the Alexandra Bridge, tastebuds primed, stomachs grumbling, and souls languishing for a long-awaited dose of live music and human contact.
Under the glowing lights of the Edison lightbulbs strung across the welcome gate, we were greeted by friendly ticket officers, who promptly invited us to remove our masks and enjoy our beer. A strange feeling of normalcy floated through the air.
To our left, revellers lounged around what appeared to be a large blue kiddie-pool, but was rather a basin intended for intimate pedal-boat rides. Sipping half-pint cups of suds, they joyfully frolicked, splish-splashing their urban woes away into the night.
To our right, small patio tables were spread across glossy green turf, interspersed with potted parlour palms swaying in the warm evening breeze. Prime seating for a casual view of the stage or of the bright Ferris wheel lifting attendees into the clouds.
“Très instagrammable,” we remarked, making our way through the crowd. Almost as instagrammable as the imposing beer-tasting tent before us: Friendly staff invited us to explore carbonated delights with witty names like Weiss Ventura and Pour que tu Pintes Encore sprawled across rustic wood panels. “Très, très instagrammable.”
Our free samples were poured, our plastic cups were lifted in the air with a cheer, and our liquid discoveries were thirstily chugged. It was a beautiful warm night and we were back, baby. It was only upon returning to the tent for a second round that our hearts collectively sank. Selling for around $7.50 each, the half-pint samples made the entrance fee of $19 suddenly feel a little hefty. Though smaller shot-glass sized sample sizes were also on offer, their $3.75 price tag didn’t feel much easier on our wallets.
Pricey samples made it difficult to taste with total abandon. We weighed our choices, celebrated some, and regretted others. Even pricier food made it downright difficult to remain on the grounds until the 10:15pm concert. My Abitibien fiancé’s expansive vocabulary of creative expressions of shock and regret—muttered as he nibbled on our overpriced poutine—did, however, keep the evening both festive and educational.
The cost ultimately ran us off the festival grounds on a hunt for more wallet-friendly selections. We ran out the clock until the start of the show at Bar Ou Quoi, an enchanting local institution where the total for two perfectly respectable Caesars and a generous tip came to less than the Festibière’s entrance fee.
We returned to the grounds of the festival tipsy but giddy with the sort of simple glee that can only be brought about by cheap drinks and lack of personal space. Now, we were definitely back. We gleefully bobbed our heads and writhed our tired bodies to the sweet sounds of the Foreign Diplomats, whose smooth vocals, audacious beats, and catchy trombone riffs lifted our spirits, making the whole evening pretty worthwhile after all.
Festibière ultimately delivered more “festi” than “bière.” If you’re looking to catch some great bands with friends in a trendy atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed. But if like us, you’re definitely neither rich as cake nor cool enough to rock a pedal boat sober, do yourself a favour: Imbibe at your friendly local bar and come back later for the show.