I am sitting at a long handcrafted wooden table in the middle of a beautiful dining room that displays First Nations artwork, animal skins and a crackling fireplace in the center. In front of me sits a pint glass etched with the word “Kwe” on it… and in it a perfect looking pale, golden blonde ale.
Brewed by Microbrasserie Archibald, Kwe is the name of the beer and also the traditional word of welcoming in the Huron First Nations language. As I take the first sip of this corn-brewed beer I close my eyes and imagine the sounds and smells of what it must have been like to be a part of this First Nations group. It is not hard to imagine. The city of Wendake has done an outstanding job of recreating the traditions and telling the story of these people.
At first smell I am enthralled by the perfume of whispers of floral notes and hops; the desire to taste it takes over and I take my first sip. The taste of malt is highly present and the grain taste remains long after I have swallowed. The flavors of honey and grass come through, easing the taste of hops that has sneaked in. This simple blonde ale consists of corn, malt, hops and water–the diversity of flavor it puts forth surprises me considering the lack of complexity. At 4.8 percent this beer is easy drinking and becomes slightly smoother throughout the pint. The frothy head disappears quickly and the carbonation seems quiet and is just present enough to notice.
The Kwe beer is brewed around the principle of living in harmony with nature. Brewed by Archibald microbrewery, this beer is only available on the territory of Wendake, which seemingly makes me like it even more. Wendake owns the recipe and decided to brew it with corn as it is one of the main vegetables grown by the Wendat people. I got the chance to ask Jason Picard-Binet of Tourism Wendake what the sunflower label stands for on the can:
“The logo is a sunflower because it’s a blonde beer but also because the sunflower was very useful for Wendat people. We were eating the seeds and using the oil for cooking and even waterproofing the raw hides of the traditional snowshoes. Then, there is a turtle in the middle because the turtle is the symbol of the Wendat nation. In our mythology, we believe that America is a turtle back.”
My Kwe beer was paired with a traditional soup called Sagamite consisting of elk bones, beans, squash and pork followed by a beef flank steak with cloud berries sauce. I couldn’t imagine a better suited beef for the occasion. The honey and grass flavors mixed perfectly with the heartiness of the soup, and the floral notes combined with the cloud berry flavor were a perfect combination.
Wendake was the perfect combination of exceptional food, interesting history and a unique beer that will have me coming back for more. From learning about the traditional methods of how they made snowshoes to how they live today–combined with a beer that is brewed on the principal of being one with nature–it is no wonder so many snowshoers visit this beautiful First Nations territory.
Find out more about Wendake and the Kwe beer by visiting tourismewendake.ca and http://www.archibaldmicrobrasserie.ca/contenu/index.php/fr/nos-bi%C3%A8res/item/kwe.html.