Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pumphouse & Beerthirst September Longtable

Summer has now passed, which not only means that the great autumn beers are back, but the Pumphouse Pub resumes their Beer Tasting Series! I’m always curious to see what Chef Daniela Iaci will create with her food magic and per usual, she didn’t disappoint. These dinners just keep getting better and better so if you haven’t checked one out yet, get on it! Daniela does an amazing job of nailing the pairings and prepares such succulent and flavourful dishes. I bow to you, Daniela.
The menu:
Course One
Café latte beef carpaccio espresso crusted beef, crème fraiche & arugula salad
Paired with: Elysian Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout
The carpaccio was paper thin and paired gorgeously with the crème fraiche and arugula. Balsamic vinegar was drizzled on the arugula and it exuded a pleasant parmesan aroma.
Stout paired with the first course, you say? Bold, for sure, but it worked. And the Elysian is such a fantastic beer. It’s truly one of my favourite stouts – the coffee and chocolate notes are well balanced and it is a smoooooth beer to drink. Ahhhh. I love you, Spilt Spot.
Course Two
Spicy coconut sweet & sour prawn soup
Paired with: The Commons Urban Farmhouse Ale
The chilies that were used in the broth would pack a big, punch you in the face and take no prisoners bite, should you eat them. And we were warned so as not to have a surprise should we eat one. But wow, did they ever enhance the flavour of the soup. It had a great kick to it and kept the sweet and sour from having their own battle. I loved this soup.
The Commons’ beers are new to BC and thanks to Beerthirst, they’re now being imported! We had the Urban Farmhouse Ale with this course. I’m a big fan of farmhouse ales and this is a great example of one. Floral notes, some bitterness and a clean finish. This beer is the 2012 World Beer Cup Bronze Medal winner. Applause, applause. We’ll be stopping in at The Commons’ tasting room on our next Portland trip (coming up next week!) and will indulge in some of their other goodies like the Flemish Kiss…
Course Three
Crispy pork belly crostini with goat cheese
Paired with: North Coast Le Merle Farmhouse Ale
I made some pretty detailed notes on this one, such as SO DAMN GOOD! I’m no food blogger, but I know what I like in food and beer. And this pork belly was ah-maze-ing! So flavourful and tender in its porky goodness. I think we all wanted seconds, and thirds, and and and… Did you catch that I loved this?
Ok, I’ll stop my pork-love-in and get on to the Le Merle. North Coast hits a lot of home runs, in my opinion (Old Rasputin, Old No. 38 Stout, PranQster and others) and this Farmhouse Ale is beautiful. Its inspiration comes from the Flanders region with Belgian yeast, plenty of hops and fruity undertones.
Course Four
Citrus BBQ chicken tostada
Paired with: Half Pinks Little Scrapper IPA
The citrus flavours on the chicken tostada danced around like a happy little mariachi band. How Daniela managed to make this pairing a show stopper, I’ll never know, but she did it. This dish was so flavourful and tasty! Slow clap time… clap-clap-clap
Half Pints Brewing are another new addition to BC, again courtesy of Beerthirst, and Little Scrapper is a great IPA. They sell t-shirts that say “Together we can stop the evil spread of lite beer”. Yep, we will get along just fine. A hop forward IPA with gorgeous citrus/grapefruit notes all the while, staying balanced.
Course Five
Fig & blue cheese crème brulee with candied walnuts
Paired with: Tenaya Creek Double Tandem Double IPA
Did someone say crème brulee? I love crème brulee. I’m not a dessert person by nature but good luck on me passing this up. Fig and blue cheese might not be what you’d expect in this dessert but it rocked my world. Daniela, my hands are getting sore from all the clapping… but well deserved. She outdid herself with this gem. A few candied gooseberries also came along for the ride and the brulee was sweet and salty. I saw a tweet from Daniela earlier that morning saying she didn’t have a proper recipe for this dessert – the way she wanted it, she obviously put her creative genius and culinary skills to work. Bam! She nailed it.
The Tandem DIPA from Tenaya Creek Brewery was a new beer for me and is a limited special release. Grab a bottle before they’re all gone, beer geeks, as it’s worth a try. It has the typical characteristics of an IPA with a bit of earthiness. Mild bitterness and extra hoppy goodness.
These amazing dinners with generous pourings are $40 (not including tip – please tip their great servers!). Talk about value!
During and after dinner, we were treated to the musical stylings of Dino DiNicolo. What a talented man! I just checked his tour schedule and it’s amazing he has time to play at the Pumphouse – check him out!
The next beer dinner will be during BC Craft Beer Month on October 19th. There will be a six-course brewmaster’s dinner with six BC brewmasters on hand to pour their own beers and mingle with the crowd. Tickets are $50 and more information can be found on The Pumphouse’s Facebook page or their website.  I’d suggest you get your tickets soon as this will undoubtedly be a sellout!
Thanks again to The Pumphouse staff, chef Daniela and Beerthirst for another excellent event. We continue to look forward to the next creative menu!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Great Canadian Beer Festival

This year’s Great Canadian Beer Festival was their 20th anniversary! It took multiple attempts online to secure tickets to Saturday’s festivities in Victoria, BC, but it was worth the wait. The event ran September 7th and 8th at the Royal Athletic Park and hosted fifty-seven breweries and 174 beers (twenty-five of which were cask conditioned). I heard that the festival had over 8,000 people in attendance over the two days. That’s a lot of beer-loving, costume wearing people! We didn’t wear a funky outfit, I just had on my Stone Brewing “Fizzy Yellow Beer is for Wussies” and Kelly had on his Pony Bar shirt. That’s as much of a costume as we could muster but some people went all out renting and making costumes. You crazy beer people.

But our GCBF weekend didn’t start in Victoria, we warmed up at St. Augustine’s in Vancouver on the Thursday prior. First off, if you haven’t been to St. Augustine’s, you’re missing out! They have forty rotating taps and they brilliantly have the quantity remaining of each keg listed on two TV screens and it’s also LIVE on their website. That’s right beer nerds, if you see that your favourite beer is running low, quickly distract your buddies with “hey, that guy with the beard over there, isn’t that [insert brewer here]?” and quickly order another pint. You’re welcome.

Now where was I? Oh right, Half Pints. Beerthirst was re-launching the presence of an amazing craft brewery from Winnipeg, Half Pints Brewing Co. I’d already gotten to know co-owner Nicole Barry a bit through Twitter, and as you know, Twitter relationships are akin to being blood sisters. Really. I jest, but I was really looking forward to hanging out with Nicole and sharing some of her beers. She’s one awesome beer chick! Until now, I’d only had the Little Scrapper IPA, which I enjoyed thoroughly again this night, but when someone tells me there’s a Double IPA, my heart flutters. Don’t tell my husband. Their seasonal beer, Humulus Ludicrous, is their Double IPA and it didn’t disappoint! It’s a malty DIPA and as they describe it, it has “a stupid amount of Centennial and Cascade hops during the brewing process and finish with running the sweet hot wort through a hopback (stuffed with more hops) on its way to the fermenting vessel.” That’s not it though because as it ages, there are an additional three dryhop additions. I. Love. You. And by the way, stupid is as stupid does (thanks Forrest Gump) – so sign me up for stupid if it mean more hoppy goodness.
Humulus Ludicrous
Norm & Tom from Beerthirst

The third beer they debuted was the Noche de Los Alejibres, a black lager. It’s a nice, deep brown colour and had a great malty aroma. Me like! The evening was a lot of fun, and a wee bit late for a school night, so Friday was a Red Bull day. Oh the things we do for great beers.

Saturday morning, we hopped on the ferry and made our way to downtown Victoria. After checking in, we didn’t make it to the park until opening time of noon so we encountered a very long line up. Very long. Stupid long – around the block and around the next block long. But I must say, it did move along well and by 12:45 we were inside buying tokens and plotting out our beers. The place was packed and definitely had a mix of craft beer geeks and others who like beer, but perhaps don’t have an experienced palate (yet). As evidenced by the extremely long line up at Dead Frog. They certainly have a following and market the hell out of their “do it froggy style” logo, but I’ve tried Mandarin Orange and Pepper Lime Lager and wouldn’t rate either of them as more than a two. Maybe they’re going after the Bud Lite Lime drinker, who knows, but as far as craft brewers in BC goes, I’ve written them off. But, to each their own, so continue your froggy style drinking.

Ferry ride to Victoria

Ferry ride to Victoria

Dead Frog is considered a craft brewer but I was surprised that Granville Island and Okanagan Springs were in attendance as they’re owned by Molson Coors and Sleemen Breweries respectively. The festival organizers tout the festival as craft beer so they must use a different definition than I would. Maybe they don’t look at ownership and production size to determine craft breweries? Not to say there wasn’t a lot of great craft beer to choose from, it was just a surprise that these two breweries would qualify to be there. And, by the way, when you see a cask from Vern Lambourne (brew master for Granville Island), drink it. All of it. He’s an amazing brewer so it’s unfortunate that Granville Island didn’t take the opportunity to bring a cask (or three) of his magical beers.

Thanks @TCB17 for the pic :)

I wish we’d gone both Friday and Saturday, as five hours is not enough time to try a sample of all of the beers that piqued my interest. Having my husband with me, we share all of our beers so at least we get double the amount of tasters to try. Given our limited time, we still had to be somewhat selective and didn’t sample beers that we’d already had before (unless it was a cask). The standouts for us were:

Central City – Red Racer ESB (cask); you could smell the hopes a foot away. I love this beer and find it to be one of the best ESB’s brewed locally. On cask, even better!

Double Trouble Brewery – Hops and Robbers IPA; this was the first time I’ve tried this beer and I loved this fruity IPA. Lots of fruit, hops and caramel notes.

Firehall – Holy Smoke Stout; I love stouts and smoked beers so this was a hit with me. Roasted coffee, chocolate and smokiness from a malt smoked over a beach wood fire. Yum.

Great Lakes Brewing – Karma Citra IPA; a great IPA with a nice balance and clean but bitter finish.

Lighthouse Brewing – Blackberry Black Saison (cask); a great cask that was infused with Gabriola Island blackberries.

Microbrasserie Charlevoix – Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout; had a nice balanced coffee and chocolate taste and the right amount of sweetness. Very enjoyable indeed!

Moon Under Water – Tranquility IPA; this IPA has Cascadian hops and four specialty malts. It has a great balance and the usual fruity goodness.

Noble Pig Brewery – Belgian Pepper Saison; the pepper was definitely coming through but it made the saison unique.  Their Mocha Porter was also well done.

Parallel 49 – Schadenfreud Pumpkin Oktoberfest; ah yes, the pumpkin beers are back! If you like a spicy/nutmeg version, this one’s for you. I really enjoyed the spice.

Trou du Diable – La Saison du Tracteur; a nice, dry saison. La Buteuse; a dry, hoppy triple. Both great beers and the first time I’d had anything from this brewery.

Wellington Brewery- Imperial Stout; as always, I’m happy to try any imperial stout. This one is a great example with the dark coffee/chocolate flavours along with liquorice and black current.

In typical fashion, after an afternoon (and a sunny one at that) of drinking, we were sleepy. Back we went to the room for a quick nap before dinner with friends. Friday night was the night to go out, it seemed, as everyone was looking exhausted by Saturday night. You know the movie The Hangover? Well let’s just say that on Friday night, there was a rickshaw hit and run that left quite the nasty wound that looked like a kidney was stolen (he didn’t find himself in a bathtub of ice, though), a mystery mustachio man in a cab and some double underwear sightings. So maybe not a tiger and Mike Tyson, but a GCBF Victoria version of the movie. See, we should have gone on Friday!

Tony & Charlie the Unicorn having a pint

Stone Brewing shirt - trying to educate the Dead Frog love-in

Best sign of the festival :)
Sunday morning we caught up with Nicole at Floyd’s Diner for breakfast and since we were there around 9am, we got in before the hipsters packed the place. They clearly wouldn’t be caught dead eating bacon before 11am. What a menu! There were so many yummy looking choices, it was hard to pick. Great place to get to, if you can sneak in before the hipsters.

We’ll definitely be going back to GCBF next year but this time, for the entire weekend. I’m brushing up on my tiger taming and Mike Tyson translation skills before we go, though. As for a costume, I’m going to dress up as a brewer to get the coveted bracelet to bypass the entrance line and sit in the brewer’s tent. Time to grow a beard…