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!

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