After much delays and anticipation, The 3 Brewers finally opened today in Ottawa. The place had looked ready for days, but a sign had been put on the door stating that Ottawa customers would have to be patient a few more days.
So the day has arrived, and the word spread on twitter fairly quickly. When Marc-André suggested that we check it out for lunch, I did not hesitate.
When the noon bells rang, we made our way there, with a sense of excitement and anticipation we had not had since the last time we drank a beer. We were welcomed by a cutout of the local master-brewers, in front of the copper tanks where the beers are being brewed.
Les 3 Brasseurs, or The 3 Brewers, is a French chain of brasserie. The 3 Brewers opened its very first microbrewery restaurant in Place de la Gare à Lille in 1986. Each year, they brew 33 000 hectolitres of beer!
There is currently 443 Brewers locations, including 28 in France, 8 in Quebec (with another one opening soon in Quebec City), 3 in Ontario (with expansion planned in Kanata and Oakville), and 5 in the French Dom-Tom.
The Sparks street location is big, wide, open. Lots of seats spread on two floors, lots of natural light with huge glass walls all around, lots of space to spread your legs, quite comfortable. There is big multi-panel TV set at the bar, but it would be difficult to watch sports from most of their tables or booths. Still, it is the type of establishment that was missing from this area of Ottawa, where most pubs and restaurants are rather small.
We were directed upstairs, where we got a better view of the brewing installations. Wood cases of peanuts on the shell were scattered across the establishment, if you want to skip their menu and just enjoy a pint.
Speaking of which, the Master Brewer Challenge is on, and the Ottawa location has submitted its brand new 240 Sparks Wheat beer in the competition.
The 3 Brewers offers six beers on tap: their four regular ales, that you order by their colour: White, Blonde, Amber or Brown. They’ll also have two rotating seasonal beers that will change each month. Also available in bottles, La Belle Province and La Triple.
But I felt the obligation to sample the new creation of Christopher Maxfield and John Miller, and was quite pleasantly surprised by the hepfenweise.
It poured a cloudy yellow color, quite opaque. If you didn’t know it was beer, you’d almost think it was juice. Same for the taste! To the nose, it did seem more spicy than fruity, but when you drink it, you are hit by delicious grapefruit flavours, maybe even some pineapple, with a tangy hop bitterness.
Very fresh, very smooth, a little zesty, thoroughly enjoyable. I waved Brew-master John over to convey my appreciation – the real John, that is, not the cardboard version.
On the table, the Maille dijon mustard included in the basket of condiment clearly indicates that this place hails from France.
Indeed, the 3 Brewers’s menu is french-inspired, simple, featuring some classic brasserie fare and bistro dishes, such as braised pork shank, lamb shank, sauerkraut, open-faced sandwiches, mussels, and beef bourguignon. But you’ll also find very North American salads, wraps, sandwiches, 8 kinds of burgers and, yes, 4 types of poutine.
But what they are really proud of is the “flammequeche” – an Alsatian-style tarte served with varied toppings. Basically, the french version of a pizza, though our server was offended when I ordered their “pizza special” – I reassured him that I knew what a flamm was.
The special in question was a soup and any flammequeche you’d like for $14.99 (except for the smoked salmon and shrimp.) The soup of the day was a vegetable soup, hard to screw up.
Still, the broth had a light tomato flavour, but was quite salty. The amount of vegetables in it was disappointing. There was a few carrots, onions, green beans, celery – at least they had some texture, some crunch. Perhaps I just got unlucky with the ladle.
The flamm I ordered was the Thai – a new addition on their selection, which also includes inspiring names such as Provençale, Alsacienne and Moulin Rouge.
The Thai flammequeche is garnished with marinated chicken in a peanut sauce and Gruyère cheese, topped with baby sprouts, green onions, red peppers, julienne cucumbers, cilantro and almonds.
If the flavour profile was interesting, the execution was not perfect. It did look good, and flavour wise it wasn’t bad. But, the chicken was not exactly starring, and it was on the dry side. The peanut flavour was subtle, and the Gruyère was barely present. The veggies were unevenly present – if you got a good crunch from the sprouts and some freshness from the cucumbers, there was no red peppers whatsoever and the green onions deserved better chopping. The almonds were chunky, and the cilantro was fresh, helping the dish somewhat. However, I did struggle with the crust – it was hard to cut through. I probably wouldn’t order it again.
As for Marc-André, he ordered their burger special, which was topped with brie, mango salsa and onion rings, served on a ciabatta bun.
The burger was a tad overdone, and it was not garnished with any sauce or condiments – ciabatta does need that kind of help when used as a burger holder.
The burger came with sweet potato fries, thick and cripsy, and served with their (so-not-homemade) mayonnaise.
The service, if friendly and polite, was sometimes slow and and a little random, but this was opening day. Still, it wasn’t packed, so if the place ever gets crowded (which I assume is their goal), hopefully they’ll be able to keep up.