When it’s too cold to schlep to the SAQ, hit the dep

Beer deps abound in Montreal. We checked out one on Rachel called Peluso.

It’s a little chilly to be slamming back cans of PBR or Vieux-Montréal blonde these days, but luckily it’s the best time of year to sample the many IPAs, dark and Belgian-style wheat beers made in Quebec. If you don’t want to shell out in brewpubs, Dépanneur Peluso (2500 Rachel E.) has got you covered with a selection of over 1,000 beers from here and abroad from over 100 breweries.

Peluso started over 30 years ago as a Bonisoir at the corner of Rachel and Iberville, near the eastern edge of the Plateau. They quickly distinguished themselves from the bland dépanneur chain by selling a huge variety of microbrews — it’s always great when a franchise goes renegade. They’ve since opened a second location on Beaubien at the corner of Alma, which is completely independent.

When they started selling independent products, Quebec microbrews were mostly focused on heavy, overproof Belgian-style beers inspired by the Trappist tradition, with medieval kitsch labels and cork and wire seals (think DDC, or Unibroue before they got purchased by Sleeman). We’ve come a long way since then, with everything from Czech-style pilsner fait ici, English-style porters, bitters, session ales and stouts and German weissbiers and dunkels, all with arty labels that are as enticing as the contents. Peluso has grown alongside the beer scene, and you’ll find so many iterations of these styles and others at Peluso that you’ll want to ask a staff member to help you make a choice. In recent years, they’ve started selling artisanal charcuterie and cheeses (not the Hygrade “charcuterie” and Petit Québec cheddar that you see at most deps) to encourage clients to try beer pairing.

In fact, the only thing missing here is the kind of selection of imported beers you’d expect to find, say, at the SAQ or the Beer Store in Ontario. Peluso points out on their website that the SAQ has a virtual monopoly on private importation on beers, which is why you’ll only find big names like Heineken, Sapporo and Corona, which are distributed by Molson or Labbatt or brewed in Canada under licence.

While many deps now have a fridge or two with microbrew products, Peluso has been a pioneer in a new type of dep that goes beyond the convenience store function to be specialized in a wide range of high-quality beers. To this day, there may be no better place in the whole province to get to know Quebec beer. ■

See another beer dep inspection here.