Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beer vs Wine Dinner: Pumphouse Pub

As a spin on the regular beer pairing dinner, The Pumphouse Pub did a Beer vs. Wine dinner this past Friday. I’ve been to many wine paired dinners, as well as beer paired, but have not had the opportunity to try both with each course. If you get the opportunity to experience such a pairing, I recommend trying it. The beers and wine were both carefully selected to compliment the five courses.
Tonight’s beers were from a relatively new Victoria brewery, Hoyne Brewing Co. In fact, Hoyne just celebrated their first anniversary. Congratulations, Hoyne! As Sean Hoyne says on his website, “I make beer. Delicious beer. It is a lovely marriage between art and science and although each batch is here for a short time, I pride myself on the fact that what I make brings people together.” And together we were – all 100 of us at the largest longtable we’ve seen at the Pumphouse.
In the beer corner, Sean Hoyne himself described each beer prior to the pairing. In the wine corner, wearing the red trunks, Chris Funnell from 16th Street Liquor Store. Chef Daniella Iaci had her work cut out for her to ensure that the food pairings complimented both wine and beer.
The very busy staff at the Pumphouse efficiently served all 100+ of us quickly and poured a small tasting of the beer and wine. After sampling both with the food, they came back and filled up your glass with your choice of beer or wine. You picked the winner for your own palate.
Tonight was also a birthday celebration for Kooner Hospitality Group’s big boss, Micah Noble.  Happy birthday, Micah!
Course One
Winter salad: Brussels sprouts, kale, heritage greens, almonds & spiced yogurt dressing
Beer: Pilsner     *     Wine: Cottesbrook Malborough Savignon Blanc
The salad was a good choice as the flavours were subtle and paired well with both the wine and beer.
Hoyne’s pilsner is solid. Pilsners are not my favourite style, but this one is great. Its light hoppiness easily paired with the salad.
The Savignon Blanc was light, fruity, crisp and delicious. The citrus in the wine coupled well with the delicate flavours in the salad.
So which one won?
My choice: wine
Crowd’s choice: wine
Course Two
Citrus house-cured salmon with crème faîche. Served on homemade bread.
Beer: Down Easy Pale Ale     *     Wine: Vina Leyda 2008 Chardonnay
The salmon was served on a thick slice of homemade bread. Glorious, homemade bread. It was dense but not heavy. The salmon with crème faîche, sprinkled with capers, was tender and flavourful.
The pale ale was appropriately bitter and aromatic. The cascade hops are most prominent in this ale and is a well-balanced, sessionable beer.
Although I’m not a chardonnay fan, this one was surprisingly pleasant. Not an oaked chardonnay or overpowering flavours.
The winner is….
My choice: beer
Crowd’s choice: beer
Course Three
Roasted garlic and chili cream mussels with frites
Beer: Devil’s Dream IPA     *     Wine: Mission Hills 5 Vineyards Pinot Noir
I smelled the garlic in these beauties about 5 minutes before their debut. I may have looked like a springer spaniel with my nose in the air, inhaling all the garlicy goodness. Sigh… And the mussels didn’t disappoint. Perfectly cooked. Perfect. Tender, flavourful and succulent. My favourite pairing of the night. (sorry, spoiler alert).
The strong flavours of the IPA worked with the mussels. Hops, malt and garlicky mussels – a party in your mouth.
Red wine with mussels? Actually, it works. Chris was put to the test to not have three white wines in a row. And he nailed it. The pinot noir was light and full of flavours, complimenting the mussels perfectly.
Who’s the boss?
My choice: beer
Crowd’s choice: a draw
Course Four
Smoked BBQ chicken served with a risotto cake
Beer: Dark Matter     *     Wine: Monte Antico IGT
The shredded chicken had a subtle BBQ flavour, served with chives and nestled on top of a risotto cake. The dish worked beautifully with both libations.
The dark ale was malty and had a hint of cocoa and coffee with a sweet finish. The sweetness of the beer worked well with the BBQ.
The Tuscan wine, a blend of cabernet, merlot and sangiovese, gave a combination of sweet and juicy as well as sour cherry tang. Similar to the wine, the sweet red grapes worked impeccably with the chicken.
Drum roll please…
My choice: a draw – after a few sips of each, I couldn’t declare a clear winner. It’s a tie, baby.
Crowd’s choice: beer
Course Five
Espresso Panna Cotta
Beer: Voltage Espresso Stout     *     Wine: Bodegas Atalaya Laya
Italian for cooked cream, the espresso panna cotta was light and airy.
Espresso stout and panna cotta were meant to be. The Bert and Ernie of food/beer combos, well, without the weirdness. Chris didn’t even wait to hear our winner – he filled up our glasses right from the start. Yeah, he knows us well enough. I love this stout – full of espresso and chocolate notes. Gorgeous.
Yes, I loved the stout with this pairing, but that didn’t mean that the wine didn’t compliment it as well. The vanilla notes were apparent in this medium bodied red.
And the Oscar goes to…
My choice: beer (shocker, I know)
Crowd’s choice: beer – hands down

Another amazing diner at the Pumphouse. Not sure how Chef Daniella and her kitchen team plated 100+ dishes so well in a relatively small kitchen. Huge kudos to the servers, Micah, Chris, Tony and other management who busted their butts all night to ensure we had our courses quickly as well as our two pairings. Well done, Pumphouse, well done.
Post dinner – burlesque! Here comes the lame part of the post. We left after dinner. Yeah I know, we suck. We heard from many that the festivities went on late (early?) so we probably made the right choice as I had a paper to write on Saturday and couldn’t be, um, hazy. Our loss!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

BC Craft Beer Month – Cocoa Nymph

Not only was this event pairing BC beers with Cocoa Nymph chocolate during BC Craft Beer Month, but it was also my first Pink Pints event! Six beers, two combo beers and seven chocolate pairings. Yummy!

The cost to attend was $35, with proceeds going to Breast Cancer. Beer, chocolate and donations. Win, chocolatey win, win.

Our very own Lundy Dale, who I might add is one of only two female Certified Cicerones in Canada, poured and introduced each beer. While Lundy was pouring for the twenty guests, Cocoa Nymph owner, Rachel Sawatzky, dropped off a decedent chocolate at each setting. Rachel would describe the truffle (through the ooohs! and ahhhhhs! ) and why she paired this particular chocolate with the beer.

Nope, not pairing one. Someone was a little anxious and ate the
chocolate... So, here are our dogs!

Pairing One

Pumpkinhead – Fernie Brewing; 5% ABV
o   What’s unique about this pumpkin ale is that they use their nut brown ale as the base rather than the traditional ale. This brought out a nuttiness to the pumpkin beer along with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and coriander. I found it very smooth, well balanced and with light carbonation.

Chocolate Truffle: “Erin”
o   Bailey’s ganache, milk chocolate and oh so very creamy.  What inspired Rachel to pair the pumpkin with the Baileys came from making Bailey’s whip cream for her pumpkin pie. Well played, Rachel, well played.

Valley Chestnut and "Rosie"

Pairing Two

Valley Chestnut – Whistler Brewing; 5% ABV
o   Roasted chestnuts, yes, chestnuts in beer. It’s actually a good combo and rather unique. The nuttiness is obviously prominent but there are also vanilla notes present and the result is a well balanced beer.

Chocolate Truffle: “Rosie”
o   Guess what flavour Rosie is – go ahead, guess! No, not rose petals, but good try! Salted Rosemary, baby, and damn, was it every good! I quite enjoyed this truffle and thought the pairing worked well with the chestnut ale.

Ginger Beer & "Liz"

Pairing Three

Ginger Beer – Phillips Brewing; 5% ABV
o   Ginger – and lots of it in this brew. Not my kind of beer but I can see how some would like the sharp ginger flavours and floral notes. Anyone want a bottle? The one that’s been sitting in the fridge isn’t going to hit my lips anytime soon.

Chocolate Truffle: “Liz”
o   This is what Rachel noted as her classic truffle – it goes with anything. I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t get a ginger truffle, which is good since I’ve been known to spit out ginger chocolates that I mistook for a hard caramel in the Purdy’s box. This truffle was delightful – basic white and dark chocolate meant to contrast the ginger beer.

Pumpkin Ale & "Barnabas the Tortoise"

Pairing Four

Pumpkin Ale – Lighthouse Brewing; 5.5% ABV
o   Unlike the Pumpkinhead, this pumpkin ale is brewed with an amber base. It’s a lighter ale and the spices are more prominent – nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves. It’s a nice pumpkin beer and one that you could probably get non-beer drinkers to try as it doesn’t have overpowering flavours.

Chocolate Truffle: “Barnabas the Tortoise”
o   Brandied caramel, milk chocolate ganache with pecan. The sweetness of the truffle worked well with the spices in the pumpkin ale. I found the pecan too sweet for my liking, but enjoyed the truffle portion. .

Pumpkin Ale/Dark Chocolate Porter & Cocoa Nibs

Bonus Beer! Lundy mixed the Pumpkin Ale and Lighthouse Brewing’s Dark Chocolate Porter. The combo really worked as it enhanced the flavour in the spices and the addition of a chocolate porter gave this a unique taste. Pumpkin ales and porters blend well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in Lighthouse’s line up next year as a new seasonal.

Rachel gave us some cocoa nibs to try with this beer. Cocoa nibs are what most brewers use in their beers. They definitely had a bitterness to them but they weren’t as bitter as I would have expected.

Dark Star Stout & "Illa"

Pairing Five

Dark Start Stout – R&B Brewing; 4.6% ABV
o   The classic stout aromas and flavours of espresso, cocoa and malt graced this oatmeal stout. The carbonation stood out for me on this – perhaps because I was pairing it with the smoothness of the truffle.

Chocolate Truffle: “Illa”
o   This was my favourite truffle, but it’s not a tough sell to ask me to have a salted dark caramel. Devine.

Frambozën & Raspberry Truffle

Pairing Six

Frambozën –Steamworks Brewing; 7.0% ABV
o   Raspberry, raspberry, raspberry! Fresh berries from the Fraser Valley, tart and appropriately a pink beer. Noticeable carbonation and a pleasant fruit beer.

Chocolate Truffle:
o   Rachel used the Frambozën to make a raspberry truffle and the outcome was amazing. She didn’t need to supplement it with additional raspberries as the beer provided enough flavour.

Frambozën/Dark Chocolate Porter & Sesamo Bianco

Second Bonus Round! This time, it was the Frambozën paired with the Lighthouse Dark Chocolate Porter. Another great combo – the chocolate mellowed out the carbonation in the raspberry ale and who doesn’t love chocolate and berries??

With bonus round beer comes bonus round chocolate! Woo hoo! The Sesamo Bianco was paired with this – red wine, white chocolate and toasted sesame seeds. This was akin to a savory pretzel with a hint of caramel. So good, and unique, that I bought a bag to take home.

I should note that all of the local breweries donated their beers to this event and thus, more money was donated to Breast Cancer. Craft beer people really are the best!

When I wasn’t busy tasting the beers and chocolates, I was scoping out the display shelves to plot what to take home for my husband and I to devour. The Sesamo Bianco was a must along with Sea Nymph - dark chocolate with sea salt and English toffee (I bought the bar and bark of this!) and a Dark Peanut Butter Bar. For the integrity of this post, I thought it was mandatory to try each of them. Twice.

My thanks to Lundy and Rachel for organizing and hosting such a great event. Looking forward to the next one!