December 31st, 2007

Bonne année

Le Cheval Blanc

Where does a Boston-based drinks blogger go to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Montreal, of course. Assuming you’re a seasoned barfly like me, you probably have conflicted feelings about going out on the town for New Year’s only to drink overpriced drinks, eat overpriced food and fight for cabs with all the smashed club kids pouring out of the Alley at 2:00 a.m. One way to go out and enjoy the evening without experiencing this hometown malaise is simply to reach for a change of scenery. That’s what I did. Selfish of me, I know, because it means I have absolutely no advice for anyone looking for cool things to do in Boston for the big night. If you’re desperate, you might get a few ideas from last year’s NYE post.

Canada’s ultimate New Year’s celebration is happening in Quebec City, which is kicking off its 400th anniversary celebration. But we ended up in Montreal because it happens to be the home of one of North America’s best bars, Le Cheval Blanc (809 Rue Ontario). Cheval Blanc is a brewpub that has been around for 20 years. It is not like the brewpubs that most New Englanders know, with lots of gleaming tanks and sterile, un-bar-like decor. No, it’s a great bar that just happens to have a brewery downstairs. The stainless steel, reach-in coolers and faux marble wall panels appear to date from the 1950s. Spiky snake plants on the wall, red lanterns and a big neon clock complete a look and feel that’s retro and original all at once. The house music veers from punk to klezmer to soul. Probably the best brew in the place is a Belgian-style white beer simply called blanche. There’s also an amber (ambrée), IPA, porter and few specialty beers in bottles — including a nice barleywine (strong, British-style ale) that we shared last night with one of Cheval Blanc’s regulars, an ivy capped guy named Pat.

The clientele and the staff are laid-back and friendly in a cool, Quebecois way. We hear both the brewer and the bartender will appear on stage tonight as part of a special New Year’s band. Looks like we’re heading back to Rue Ontario. Cheers, Beantown.

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6 Responses to “Bonne année”

  1. Jeff B

    Happy New Year be safe and please have a drink and think about one of your readers from California.



  2. Max Spencer

    A great commentary about a great city and great bar, perfectly ending the year. Cheers back at you.

  3. ljclark

    Thanks for the comments and New Year’s wishes, Jeff and Max!

  4. Adam

    Happy New Year, and thanks for the tip on the Montreal bar (not to mention all of the other great stuff you’ve shared over the last year).

  5. Jon from NH


    Happy New Year! Quebec City has some fun bars as well, but Montreal is tres cool. I’d say that’s a better choice than Boston or NY. If only the US dollar hadn’t crashed this year…

  6. ljclark

    My pleasure, Adam. Jon: so many bars in so many cities. Only one liver. Sigh.

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