Tag Archives: Beer

Labatt vs Craft Beer: When Goliath Tries to Wear David’s Clothes

22 Sep

 

One of my favourite places in the world - Bellwoods Brewery.

One of my favourite places in the world – Bellwoods Brewery.

Hey pals, I’m blogging from the Okanagan this week! Stay tuned as I do have a lovely post about Kelowna-based restaurant RaudZ in the works but for now, I just wanted to quickly share a reminder I received on the importance of knowing the origin of your food and drink.

It’s pretty much the understatement of the year if I say I like craft beer.   Craft beer is enjoyable because it iss made skillfully, driven by passion and community. When you care about your art, you sacrifice time and energy for the slightest details and in return, these small nuances get noticed and celebrated by the educated consumer.   Even if you’re new to beer tasting, or not a beer fan at all, you can still appreciate earnest effort and that is a-plenty in the craft beer industry.

So like anything good and pure, big corporations want to profit from it. And instead of perfecting a beer, they perfect spreadsheets and marketing budgets and then bully their way into an organically created community.

If you haven’t already, check out Ben’s post on Labatt’s expensive and intentionally misleading ad campaign for Shock Top, a beer which is commonly misidentified as a craft beer .

From Shock Top's website

From Shock Top’s website.

Hey, I’m not terribly ‘Shock Topped’ about this (PUN!) – these actions are in line with Big Corporation’s mandate to please shareholders. Okay, so if you’re not surprised they’re capable of that, then why all the hate Alice?  Corporations will be Corporations!  Yes, but there’s something different about imitating real passion and hard work.  I just can’t tolerate that. 

You can cram catchy slogans and expensive giveaways and celebrity endorsements down my throat.  I know what that is.  But when Goliath tries to disguise themsleves as an artist who poured sweat blood and tears into their work, then that’s an outright lie.  You can test my patience for irritating pop songs in your advertising campaign, but you cannot go ahead and skew with authenticity.

But we also have a far more powerful comeback – and that’s our purchasing power.  We can simply not buy Shock Top.

Trust your tastebuds and your common sense. Meet brewers, farmers, and the artisan behind your products.  Always be purposeful with your wallet.

That’s all I wanted to say. 

Love from the Okanagan Valley,

Alice

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On the Mediocrity of Pub Culture in Ottawa

12 Sep

A Treatise Tirade

I was recently sitting in a pub on Elgin Street. It was happy hour. When the waitress stared vaguely at me and visibly strained her intellect to recite the list of half-price appetizers, it struck me, as I recited the well-worn list with her in my head, that many of the pubs on Ottawa’s high streets are hopelessly and predictably mediocre when it comes to food. Surely in 2014, amid the resurgence of quality ingredients as a prime consideration, a basic pub can finally leave the factory-frozen chicken wings behind!

In many world capitals a fraction of Ottawa’s size, the main streets offer up an eclectic array of quality bars that serve simple yet high-quality food. For example, in Luxembourg’s capital city, a quasi-hamlet the size of a postage stamp, the bars and pubs focus on quality rather than quantity, and reflect the region’s culinary history. In Lisbon, a city half Ottawa’s size, the bars that do offer food serve the high-quality seafood and meats that are available in the region. Obvious tourist traps aside (read: Hard Rock Café, etc.), there is largely no recourse to frozen, pre-packaged industrial waste that masquerades as food. In Great Britain, arguably the geographical genesis of Ottawa’s pub culture, even the local public house in the remotest of villages serves inspiring food, to the point that such establishments routinely feature in leading publications on cuisine (e.g., the excellent British Regional Food by Mark Hix).

Sadly, in Ottawa, on streets like Bank and Elgin and in neighbourhoods like the Market, most of the pubs still serve the same tired, bland, lowest-common-denominator food that used to reign supreme before Canada’s cities were flung open to both the world and to the great farms that surround them. These pubs and their clinically depressing fare mirror the people I see walking by. People who wear Crocs to work. People who wear backpacks on suits. People who don’t quite grasp the fact that their clothes should fit them and not the obese geriatrics that they will likely become. Petits fonctionnaires. Melodramatic cynicism aside, I fear that the main reason why mediocre pubs continue to rule the high streets of Ottawa is that there aren’t enough people out there who would vote with their stomachs to expel them from the prime locations.

There are, however, pockets of hope along the avenues of mediocrity. For example, the Manx on Elgin takes its food as seriously as its beer, and hasn’t installed twenty flat-screen TVs per square foot. Chez Lucien in the Market follows much the same philosophy (I will forgive it for having two small, elderly televisions perched in the corners above the bar). Sadly, these gems are drowned in a sea of Royal Oaks and similarly styled McPubs that rely on their location, their 24/7 sports coverage and their lack of discernable soul to attract the hordes of bureaucrats who want nothing more than to avoid the march of culinary progress for fear of having to face any sort of change in their little lives.

I have some faith that quality pubs will continue to grow in number and stature in Ottawa. Alas, I don’t harbour real optimism that they will take over from the overly sanitized establishments that currently line the main streets, because this city simply does not have a progressive class on a scale large enough to truly change the face of its culinary scene.  Ultimately, I am too jaded to believe that, some day, John Q. Civil Servant will wake up and walk past the Fox and Feather and into the Manx. Ottawa’s baseline standard for pub food is sadly doomed to remain as low as its wintertime windchills. Those who want a pint and a plate that don’t diminish their hopes for a better world with every sip and every bite will continue to be relegated to the little pockets of quality cuisine that dot the city. It’s a sad statement to make about a world capital of a million residents.

Sam Adams Backyard BBQ: a symphony of beer and cheese

27 Jul

Everyone knows that wine and cheese go together like Velveeta and rednecks. Beer and cheese, however, is less of a common pairing in these parts. This makes the Backyard Barbecue co-hosted by Samuel Adams and the Cheese Boutique at the Workshop on Roncesvalles a bold move. The good news is that it worked, and masterfully so. The bad news is that it’s not a regular occurrence.

 

The lush, inviting back patio at Workshop

The lush, inviting back patio at Workshop

Afrim Pristine, of Cheese Boutique fame, used the lush, treed setting of the Workshop’s back patio to showcase an innovative cheese and charcuterie board that actually incorporated the Sam Adams Boston Lager into the cheese. Afrim sourced a cheese from Quebec and then gave it a luxuriant bath in a vat of Boston Lager for thirty days. The result was gloriously nutty, hard yet creamy, and understandably well-paired with a pint of cold Sam Adams. Just in case there wasn’t enough beer involved, the cheese was served with a Boston Lager reduction. I welcome this sort of dedication to the art of cheese-making, because Toronto truly does not have a cheese of its own. While the beer used was from Boston, Afrim’s innovation is a solid step in the right direction.

 

Afrim's cheese and charcuterie board

Afrim’s cheese and charcuterie board

 

The other items on the board were thoughtfully paired with the Sam Adams beers on offer. The robiola from Piemonte, while not marinated in beer, was nonetheless a fantastic pairing with the Sam Adams Summer Ale. The beer’s citrus notes cut through the creaminess of the cheese like a good Chablis would have. The Sainte Maure was clean-tasting, with the grassy notes that are the hallmark of this type of cheese. Again, it went very well with the light Summer Ale. The Bleu d’Auvergne was very well ripened and full of bold flavour, and it screamed for a powerful red wine rather than a beer.  That said, the cheeses were generally very well paired with both the Sam Adams beers.  Aside from the outstanding Boston Lager-marinated cheese, the best pairing in my opinion was the Summer Ale with the Italian robiola.

 

Lamb burger with Sam Adams

Lamb burger with Sam Adams

Workshop’s contribution was equally solid. The lamb burger was lovingly grilled over charcoal by Mat, and the minty goat yoghurt spread was the perfect complement to the pleasantly gamey meat. The accompanying corn and cherry tomato salad was fresh, spicy and a good demonstration of how local, in-season produce can elevate salad to a delightful art form.

 

Mat grilling up some juicy lamb burgers over charcoal

Mat grilling up some juicy lamb burgers over charcoal

The entire evening was well executed.  The Sam Adams beers were thoughtfully paired with cheese, charcuterie and BBQ in ways that heightened each component of the meal.  As well, Afrim and Mat gave fantastic service to the diners, and took the time to explain each course in such detail that their passion for food and drink was immediately apparent.

 

3.61 out of 5 brown thumbs up, and a nod to Afrim and Mat for the excellent service.

 

NB. All photos were taken by Mauricio Jose Calero.

Bastid’s BBQ 2014: Beers, Brisket and Beats

9 Jul Bastid BBQ Apron

HEY before you ignore this blog post for a dusty Kit Kat you just found tucked between the pages of last year’s enlarged font Readers Digest crammed behind the couch, just know this: the Bastid BBQ is worth you going out RIGHT NOW (you can take the Kit Kat with you) to buy a 2015 calendar JUST so you can save-the-date for the next one.  I’m sorry Toronto, but if you weren’t at the Queen & Peter parking lot last Saturday for the 4th annual party, you really missed out.

Skratch Bastid (aka Paul Murphy), is hands down a crazy skilled DJ and, true to his East Coast roots, a really nice guy.  He seems so approachable and full of joie de vivre; the entire event felt like an intimate back yard party with me and my closest ginormous crowd of friends. ALSO there was BBQ BRISKET.  Ya, nice talented guy and tasty beef: my eyes were basically hearts the entire night.

Partly sponsored by Steam Whistle Brewery, refreshing pilsner was on hand as we cooled down from dancing under the sun.  And by dancing, I do mean awkwardly elbowing strangers and bopping slightly off-beat.  I was totally adorable.

Cheers to beers!

Cheers to beers!

When Skratch hosts a party, every detail is looked after, including event staff wardrobe.  How great are these aprons?  They were also on sale for purchase!

Bastid BBQ Apron

Bastid BBQ Apron

So how was the food, Alice?  Well, I’ll be honest.  I was picturing more grills and typical BBQ fare such as burgers, sausages, ribs, and sauce-drenched chicken thighs.  I was slightly disappointed when I saw that the one true BBQ offering, Stoke Stack BBQ, was actually from a food truck (where’s the outside grill so I can soak up the delicious delicious smoke smells?).  The other option was Toronto sweethearts and faves La Carnita.  Although they did have a grill, and their tacos are amazing, it still wasn’t really what I pictured for a BBQ.

I opted to check out Stoke Stack BBQ since they were new to me.  Everything on their menu sounded amazing but I’ll let you guess what I picked.

Stoke Stack BBQ menu

Stoke Stack BBQ menu

Damn straight I got the Franklin, a brisket sandwich!  And because I have a serious addiction to heat, I sweet talked my way into a side of pickled jalapenos.

Stoke Stake BBQ's brisket sandwich

Stoke Stake BBQ’s brisket sandwich

The brisket was stupid tender and I’m a fan whenever bourbon or espresso is used in BBQ sauces (it cuts the sweetness and tang nicely, and it brings out the richness of beef).   And it didn’t overpower because it wasn’t over-sauced so you can actually taste the brisket.  The bun was pillowy soft and the cool crunchy slaw provided the needed contrast. Oh and this camera angle didn’t do it justice, but my $10 sandwich easily weighed, like,10 lbs.   It was a LOT of meat.  This sandwich was SO good that if Skratch Bastid himself came up to meet me, I probably would’ve said, “Hold on, Paul.  Let me finish this sandwich first.”  Excellent work, Stoke Stack BBQ,  I will be a repeated patron.

It was a day of cold Steam Whistle beer, fantastic brisket sandwiches, excellent beats and a generally great vibe from the crowd.  Then Skratch Bastid himself did two sets and I may be biased, but I’d say they were my favourites of the night.

SkratchBastid

Bastid BBQ was a great party.   Hopefully next year more actual ‘BBQ’, but everything else – don’t change.

Folks in Calgary and Vancouver, you still have a chance!  Get your tickets NOW!

How to eat and drink like a (cheap) pro in SFO

19 Jun

A few months ago, our resident banker went off to San Francisco to indulge in the finer things. I was inspired and, on a whim, I went out there for a few days of food, beer and wine with a friend of mine. However, instead of doing the name-brand, reserve-ahead-or-fail restaurant circuit, we relied on our ability to ferret out a good hole-in-the-wall while wandering around. We found enough of them for me to write a review of biblical proportions, but I’ll spare you the time (and the eye strain) and give you the best and worst of what we had.

 

Beer

MagnoliaMagnolia (Haight Ashbury): this neighbourhood brewpub is a winner on all counts. The bar has a simple rustic feel, the basement brewery vents into the bar to give it the scent of sweet mash, and the staff regularly make jokes about the “colourful” people who walk/stagger by. The beer is fantastic as well – the Stout of Circumstance is as black as bitumen, velvety smooth and has a balanced yet complex flavour. Best of all, pints are generally $4! We almost didn’t leave. 3.94 out of 5 brown thumbs up.

901 Columbus Caffe (Telegraph Hill): $2 local microbrews from 5PM onwards and, despite being a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, nary a fanny pack tourist in sight. Need I say more? 3.39 out of 5 brown thumbs up.

 

 

 

 

 

Wine

IMG_1717

Chateau Montelena, Calistoga

Chardonnay, Cave de Lugny, Mâcon-Lugny (Burgundy): yes, the best wine we had was a $12 bottle of French chardonnay from the grocery store. Sadly, Napa and, to a lesser extent, Sonoma, are the Disneyland of wine. There are some great products, but the prospect of paying upwards of $15 for a tasting and $40-$60 for a decent bottle is mind-boggling. The two valleys have embraced the dog-and-pony show of touristy wine tasting to such a point that anyone with a modicum of knowledge about wine can see through the charade. If you do happen to fall into this tourist trap, go to Chateau Montelena for some genuine Napa Valley history and Bouchon Bakery for the best baguette on this side of the Atlantic. Napa gets a dismal 2.38 out of 5 brown thumbs down.

 

 

 

Meat

IMG_1696

Whole roast chicken with warm bread salad, Zuni Café

Zuni Café (Hayes Valley): a Market Street institution that doesn’t disappoint. We chose the roast chicken for two because it was cooked in a brick wood-fired oven, which is code for “food sex orgy in your mouth”. The warm bread salad that was served right on top of the expertly butchered whole chicken provided just the right texture contrast, and its pleasantly acidic vinaigrette was the perfect companion to the impossibly tender meat and flavourful skin. Service was prompt and efficient – Zuni Café is very obviously a well-oiled machine. 3.71 out of 5 brown thumbs up.

Busters’ roadside BBQ pit

Harvest Moon Café (Sonoma): we wandered into this cosy restaurant after hearing high praise from two different wineries. That night, the kitchen had created a meatball plate with a red mole sauce and rice that paid tribute to the Italian-American original while marrying distinctly Mexican flavours. The menu changes frequently, but I hope they keep bringing back that innovative and well-executed dish. Try to get one of the two seats that face the open kitchen. 3.53 out of 5 brown thumbs up.

Busters Southern BBQ (Calistoga): the smoke from their roadside, wood-fired outdoor BBQ pit made us literally stop in the middle of the road and make a U-turn.  Armed with a baguette from Bouchon Bakery and some serious hunger, we ordered a pile of plump pork loin with a side of spicy homemade BBQ sauce and proceeded to make the most gloriously sloppy sandwiches known to man. Washed down with our Cave de Lugny chardonnay, this shockingly cheap yet satisfying lunch may have been the best daytime meal we had.  For this, and for the cavalier service from the sardonic till-minder, Busters gets 3.78 out of 5 brown thumbs up.

 

Seafood

Anchor Oyster Bar

Anchor Oyster Bar, Castro, San Francisco

Anchor Oyster Bar (Castro): if you like your seafood fresh and your sauces buttery, this is the place for you. My friend’s vat of seafood pasta was large enough to feed the whole Bay Area for a week. Each element was very well executed – the shrimpswere perfectly juicy and sweet, the pasta was fresh rather than dried, and the sauce burst with flavour thanks to generous helpings of butter, fresh herbs and garlic. My comparatively light pan-fried sole was full of subtle flavour and needed nothing more than a squeeze of lemon to be brilliant. The service was friendly in a neighbourhood-haunt kind of way – welcoming without being overbearing. 3.68 out of 5 thumbs up.

Point Reyes

Drake Bay oysters at Cafe Reyes, Point Reyes Station

Café Reyes (Point Reyes Station): one word – OYSTERS. They come from literally just down the street, and are so fresh that they barely need a squeeze of lemon to induce the culinary equivalent of post-coital moaning. They are amazing enough to overshadow the restaurant’s superb wood-fired pizzas. They also go well with the spirited drive up the winding coastal road from the city. Get out of the city and go there (but not in a Ford Taurus, which is a detuned tractor compared to any other modern car). 3.79 out of 5 brown thumbs up (but a big fuck you to the car).

 

Coffee

Castro Coffee Company (Castro): a hole-in-the-wall in the truest sense of the word, this tiny café barely has enough room to stand let alone sit.  There are likely more coffee beans per square foot in that shop than anywhere else in the world, all of which are expertly roasted in house.  Their espresso has an excellent full-bodied mouth feel and a nice long crema.  A house creation, the café Africano is an incredibly complex and deeply-flavoured blend of espresso and rock sugar.  The people who served us seemed to know everyone who walked in the door, a testament to how much the locals appreciate the quality of their coffee.  My friend ordered an americano and, when he was asked whether he wanted a 12oz or 16oz cup, he instantly realized they understood that the feeble and touristy would order the larger cup in order to fill it with useless milk and sugar, and the true cognoscenti would get the smaller cup and drink it black.  If you need to stay alert while eating and drinking in San Francisco, make sure you get to this incredible little gem. 3.82 out of 5 brown thumbs up.

National Beer Hall: my Calgary staple

31 Mar

Hey, remember me?  Ya, I’m that other girl who sometimes writes here.   I’ve been touring Alberta for the past 2 months for work.  Livin’ the dream, amiright?

So whilst on this roadshow,  I’ve been eating at my fair share of pubs.  It’s a bit for the convenience (their country-wide proliferation a result of our colonial past, no doubt), a bit for the price point (can’t be chowing down free-range Albertan prime rib every night!), but mostly because after a 10 hour day all I want is a cold beer and an appropriate venue to cuss about work without getting stern stares from a maitre d’.   As such I’ve become intimately acquainted with typical pub fare (and the art of squishing into snug pants).  One of my favourites in Calgary?  National Beer Hall.

We came upon this place the first time the temperature in Calgary went above 0 C for us…and shot straight to 13 C!  Let me translate this bit o’ Canadiana for any non-Canadian readers…+13 C means we as a people are out on patios.  We wandered 17th Ave and found National’s patio to be packed, as well as the patio of neighbouring Ship & Anchor (which we’re told is a Calgary favourite).

Their disposable paper menus featured a long draught list (yay!) filled with Western Canada microbrews (double yay!).  But I was craving a Caesar, so a Caesar is what I got.

Caesar

Bonus points for sufficient garnish, use of freshly grated horseradish and a splash of IPA which mellowed the acidity.  It was a Caesar that even Brutus could love (har har har…).

Now what made this a venue worthy of a return visit is the food, which was beyond the typical quality for pub fare, yet the prices remained (Calgary) reasonable (no jacked up prices under the guise of ‘gastropub’!).  Want photographic evidence?  Let me present, Duck Nuggets ($7):

Duck Nuggets

Served with a grainy mustard and fig dipping sauce, this ain’t your Happy Meal nugget.

Another snack or appetizer, the Scotch Egg ($5)

egg1

Crispy sausage hugging a soft poached egg?  That’s some extreme skills in timing.

My entree was a short rib & oxtail ragu open-faced sandwich with caramelized onion and Quebec cheese curds, served with a side of choice ($16).

Alice, what is that next to your meat pile of a sandwich?  Is that…more meat?  Yep.  Apparently at National, if you order a caesar salad, you’re really getting a bowl of fried pork belly.  I regrettably asked for dressing on the side (an annoying habit, I fully admit) because if properly tossed, this would’ve been a beauty.  Not to take away from the amazingness of the sandwich (it was amazing – rich full-bodied ragu with shredded tender melt in your mouth oxtail/short rib combination and the squeeky melty curds accented by the sweetness of the carmelized onion), but let’s take a closer peek at my salad…

Ya.  An anchovy.  Guarded by grana padano.  This was a legit caesar salad.

If you’re nothing like me and give a crap about your health, then your options wouldn’t be limited to water and sniffing hot sauce here.  A colleague ordered the sesame salmon with kale and quinoa ($21).

He’ll be embarrased, but I need to tell you the guy isn’t a health nut; this tahini-infused salmon dish was preceded by an order of deep fried spicy hoisin wings.

With fancier fare made from fresh quality ingredients and attention to detail, National Beer Hall provides a ‘restuarant’ dinner at pub prices.  On top of that, almost every night of the week there’s a different feature: half priced entrees, discounted wings, buck-a-shuck oysters…always a reason to keep coming back.

A gooey good time: Toronto’s First Grilled Cheese Fest!

25 Feb

Can cheese be responsible for some of humanity’s happiness? At least a quarter of it, right?

And Fact no 120 was about how it's best when enjoyed between two pieces of bread.

And Fact no 120 was about how it’s best when enjoyed between two pieces of bread.

Joylister is putting on a event this Friday at Roy Thomson Hall that will celebrate that that is grilled cheese, specifically all that is grilled cheese in YYZ. Joylister has a proven track record of taking our favourite comfort foods to the next level, adding alcohol and giving top billing to local chefs and businesses. Remember the fuss made over how Toronto Poutine Fest sold out? Well, there was cheese there too and it was run by the same people. And guess what? It looks like the Grilled Cheese fest is just as popular, but… there’s a waiting list!

If you’re one of the lucky few to have tickets to the event (like I am!) what do you have to look forward to?

 

1. A selection of the BEST Grilled Cheese sandwiches in YYZ

What would Drake say? So you a fancy grilled cheese, huh?

What would Drake say? So you a fancy grilled cheese, huh?

The local who’s who of Grilled Cheese will be there: Cheesewerks, Melt, Crème Fraîche and Gorilla Cheese to name a few. Want to know exactly what you will be getting? Check out the menu!

I am most excited to try the “General Kim” from Cut the Cheese. Why? Well, I am insistent that 2014 is the year of kimchi overtaking bacon, even if this sandwich has pork!

 

2. Pair your Grilled Cheese with soup!

Do you dip the sandwich and mix the flavours or do you enjoy separately? So many decisions!

Do you dip the grilled cheese and mix the flavours or do you enjoy separately? So many decisions!

Two winter staples that are best served together: grilled cheese and soup! Soup Nutzy and Zoup! will be providing the soups on site.

…What could possibly be missing?

 

3. BEER! 

I’m not a beer drinker myself (for shame!), but I’ve been told that Grilled Cheese, Soup and Beer are the trifecta of a true Canadian’s winter survival meal. Could it be true?

We will all gather together on Friday at 5:30 at Roy Thomson Hall to find out. I know I can’t wait.

 

Still not jealous?
This video just might make you sign up for the waiting list…

Grilled Cheese Fest 2014 from Joylister on Vimeo.

Haiku Thursdays: Ode to Great Lakes Brewery

22 Aug

 

I strike days from my

calendar; Autumn, come soon!

Thirst for Pumpkin Ale.

 

GLB Pumpkin Ale

GLB Pumpkin Ale

Oh Summer Lovers, stop gasping.  I love summer too and I’m only (half) joking.

Two of the greatest joys in my life are good beer (surprise, surprise) and the flavours of pumpkin pie that autumn inevitably brings.  So of course, whenever breweries try to combine both into one bottle, I am always intrigued.

I typically abstain from flavoured beers but am always willing to try anything and as such have been rewarded with a handful of exceptions that have made it into my regular purchasing cycle.  One of them is Great Lakes Brewery’s seasonal (wail!) Pumpkin Ale (5.5% ABV, 650 mL bottle).

GLB is recognized as Toronto’s first craft brewery and they clearly have fun doing what they do.  Not only do they create delightful puns (Audrey Hopburn Belgian IPA) but they’re also willing to venture into the unknown (Green Tea Ale with your spring roll, anyone?).

Their Pumpkin Ale (which would receive numerous Valentines from me IF this product was ever distributed beyond the fall season and through to spring), is made with actual pumpkin and has hints of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice.  What I like is that it’s precisely only hints of these flavours; it’s not overpowered at all by the tortured ghost of a wrongfully killed pumpkin pie.  You can taste pumpkin, but ultimately, it’s a refreshing beer.  It’s a beer you want to drink while relaxing with friends on haystacks after a day of apple picking.  Or while cozied up to a bonfire, camping under the changing colours of the forest.  Or hidden in a travellers mug while you dole out candies to the neighbourhood kids during Halloween…(what?).

It pours a nice cloudy light amber-orange and usually produces a decent head.  It goes great with harvest inspired crumble desserts, plain cheesecake, turkey dinner, or the last burger BBQ of the year.  It also goes well on its own (I call those ‘snack beers’!).

GLB’s Pumpkin Ale – try it this fall if you haven’t already and you’ll forget that the days are getting shorter.  Summer who?

Nogne O event at Beer Bistro

1 May

Nogne O event at Beer Bistro

Beer Bistro, at King & Yonge, hosted a beer tasting and food pairing event that featured the creations of Nogne O, a Norwegian brewery (and, to my surprise, a sake distiller!).  S and I have long been fans of their Tiger Tripel, which always seems to be available only in limited quantities at the LCBO, so when the $40 tickets went on sale, we were quick to nab a pair.  Tucked away in Beer Bistro’s private back room, the cocktail party styled evening allowed the 40 participants to mingle and chat with Kjetil Jikiun, Nogne O’s affable and bespectacled brewmaster.   Eight (of Nogne O’s 30 or so different brews at any given time) were featured along with Beer Bistro’s appetizers.

In one word?  Deeeelish.

In several more words?  We were welcomed with a glass of Nogne O’s Junmai Sake (16%).  It was clean tasting, had hint of ripe fruit, refreshing with medium umami.  One of my and S’s favourites of the evening.

Next was their oatmeal stout, Haverstout (4.5%), served alongside a fresh shucked oyster.  While I have to say it was an excellent pairing, the Haverstout was, for me, a touch too fleeting in flavour and probably not something I’d think to order.

The Nogne O Saison (6.5%) came next with shrimp ceviche.  Although the ceviche was delicious on its own, as a pairing they probably should’ve substituted the overpowering jalapeno with pineapple or mango to compliment the (again) fleeting fruitiness of their Saison.

Citrus Hystrix IPA (7.5%) was one of S’s favourites of the night (as was the accompanying butter chicken).  It had more of a full mouth feel than the previous beers and my initial reminders of mandarin oranges were validated when Kjetil told us they added tangerine juice at the end of the process.

Imperial Brown Ale (7.5%) was hard tasty yet difficult to gauge since I’m not familiar with brown ales in general.  BUT OH MY GOD THE ACCOMPANYING MINI PULLED PORK SANDWICH WAS AMAZING.  Perfect fresh bun with the perfect chewiness, sweet and smokey pork, sharp aged cheddar and cooling refreshing coleslaw.  SIGN ME UP, BEER BISTRO.

Then came one of my favourite beers of the evening, the Sour Brown (5%), served with cheese fondue stuffed cherry tomato.  Their sour brown was limited edition (wail!) and the flavours animated through your mouth as you consumed it.  I’ve become quite intrigued by sour beers as of late and this one did not disappoint.

The India Saison (7.5%) was very interesting.  Made with purely Australian hops, it had (to me) strong pine flavours with a fruity background.  I wasn’t sold at first but then near the end of my sample I was wishing I had a bit more.  This was paired with mini kobe beef tacos and let’s just say, an evening of smiling politely at the server meant we were sneaked an extra one each!

Then came their #100 (10%) which, I’ll be honest, was good I think?  I was drunk at this point.  It was served with the a buttery flakey stilton shortbread.

And last, but not least, their Imperial Stout (9%).  I’m not a big stout fan in general (and I was drunk) but I remember a clean finish and a delicious vanilla bean chocolate truffle.

I really enjoyed having the brewmaster introduce each beer and Beer Bistro did an excellent job of pairing the beers with appetizer sized foods.  Funnily enough, my biggest take-away from the evening was to look up their sake!