A Magdalen Island Microbrewery Experience – Drunk on the Past, at À l’abri de la TEMPĒTE


Jean Sebastien on the deck of his microbrewery A l'abri de la Tempete
Jean Sebastien on the deck of his microbrewery A l’abri de la Tempete


The taste of the beer was rich and woodsy, with overtones of Christmas trees and undertones of history. I dropped in to learn about the art of beer making in this ocean side microbrewery, but did not expect to find a “real taste of history.” I was in for a surprise or two.

À l’abri de la TEMPĒTE , translated Storm in a Barrel,is a microbrewery located on the island of L’Étang du Nord in the Magdalen Islands, Québec. It has been operating since June of 2004 under the artistry of brew master Jean- Sébastien. It was built on the site of an old crab-processing factory that is situated on dunes against a background of sea and sky.

The Magdalen Islands or Îles De La Madeleine, are a group of 12 islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The population of 12,000 plus residents, live in colourful homes on six islands linked by long and slender sand dunes. The islands are part of the province of Québec and the culture is mainly Acadian and French Canadian, although there is a small English speaking community of those of Scottish, Irish heritage. The islands can be reached by air and sea from Montreal or Prince Edward Island.

After an excellent talk describing the beer making process, in view of the workers in the background making beer, we went upstairs for some tastings.

I spoke to brew master Jean Sébastien and explained my Dining Out With History project.

His eyes lit up as he explained the 2011 Annedd’Ale project that he was part of, and how it worked.

This project was established to introduce a unique beer from Québec that was produced using ingredients available in 1563.

Annedda (also spelled Aneda), means Tree of Life and is the French word for Balsam Fir. Balsam fir is of historic significance. When Jacques Cartier landed in North America with a ship of dying sailors in 1563, the Iroquois fed them tea made of balsam fir, which is accredited with saving many lives.

The first beer in Québec was made using the readily available balsam fir.

The 2011 Annedd’Ale project used yeast spores that came from the vaults of the first known commercial brewery established by Jean Talon in 1668, in Québec city. The project grew yeast from those spores and distributed it to six microbreweries with the challenge to create a new beer.

“You are lucky,” said Jean Sébastien, “I still have a few bottles of the Palabre de L’Intendant,” left in the vault.

A bottle of Palabre d'Intendent, a Balsam beer made as part of a project based on historic ingredients.
A bottle of Palabre d’Intendant, a Balsam beer made as part of a project based on historic ingredients.

The server poured the dark, rich beer into my glass and as I sipped, visions of the past raced through my mind. I felt privileged to truly taste “a bit of history,” knowing that the yeast in that beer had a very old base.

That special beer is no longer produced by Á l’abri de TĒMPETE, but the skill and knowledge is alive.

As mentioned in the other articles, the food artisans of the Magdelen Islands, blend their skills and resources to create some truly distinct tastes.

Jean Sébastien serves beer using malt that has been smoked over the fires of Le Fumoir D’Antan, a local fish smokehouse. The drippings from the herring above, flavour the malt. Local wildflowers, algae and herbs are also used to make a beer with a true Îles De La Madeleine taste.

As I sipped my beer and smelled the fresh sea air, the tastes of time turned back…for a moment.

See recipes for an old recipe for a Spruce Beer.


If you go:





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