At the corner of Beaubien and de Lanaudière sits a beacon for beer lovers: Dépanneur Simon Anthony (1349 Beaubien E.). Though some locals shop there for the usual reasons people duck into deps — to re-stock on cigarettes, Tylenol, batteries and tampons — the real attraction, the impetus for locals to commute long distances and for tourists in the know, is the store’s collection of roughly 400 beers. That’s 100 more than is boasted on the signs inside and outside the dep.
Owner Charbel Leon named the dépanneur after his son, though the establishment is also referred to as Paradis de la Bière, and it’s no wonder. Every imaginable variety of brew is on display, with bottles and cans stacked high on wooden shelves that line the walls and fill aisles in both parts of the double-room, including the massive walk-in fridge.
Leon has been building his beer paradise for over 15 years, to the point where it’s visibly infringing on the regular dep products, which are limited to one short, double-sided aisle, a few display cases around the counter and a pair of ice cream and freezie fridges.
Leon proudly states that 85 per cent of his beers are Québécois, including some of the best-sellers — as examples of the popular beers of the moment, he named le Castor IPA (from Rigaud) and a “blanche de pratto” by Pit Caribou (from Percé in the Gaspésie; we have a Pit Caribou brew pub in Montreal, on Rachel, incidentally).
A lot has changed in the world of beer since this dep opened; Leon cites the explosion of microbrews as the trend that has most affected his business, for the better. Along with being spoiled for choice, he’s seen the popularity of certain types of beers spike (IPA and radlers for example) and, more broadly, noticed increased interest in a wider variety of beers amid his growing clientele. As with the foodie epidemic, many beer drinkers are no longer willing to settle for big beer — mainstream brands like Molson or Budweiser — and are more likely to have tried flights of beer at breweries or tasting events, or have a favourite, hard-to-find microbrew.
Another testament to the deepening popularity of beer is the increased demand for non-alcoholic varieties — Dépanneur Simon Anthony stocks over a dozen of these, and that’s not even including ginger and spruce beer, which they also have in stock. There’s pretty much a beer for everyone in beer paradise. ■