Category Archives: beer dinners

Announcing the Canadian Beer News Dinner Series

It occurred to me this morning that I’ve been spending so much time contacting other blogs and media outlets about this that I’ve forgotten to post about it on my own damn blog. Which is pretty ridiculous, because if you don’t use your blog for shameless self-promotion, why bother having one in the first place?

Right, here’s the deal: I’m starting a new beer dinner series under my Canadian Beer News alter ego. Fittingly enough, it’s called the Canadian Beer News Dinner Series, and the dinners will feature great breweries and import agencies paired with great chefs and restaurants. My participation is basically curatorial – I’ll be bringing the talent together, and saying a few words, but mostly I’ll just be enjoying the meals.

The spark for the series was a dinner I attended earlier this year that featured food prepared by vegan chef Doug McNish and paired with organic wine. After the dinner – which was one of the most astoundingly good meals I’ve had this year, vegan or not – I started talking with Doug about organic beer, and casually brought up the idea of him doing a dinner with Beau’s All-Natural Brewery since all of their beers are organic.

One thing lead to another, and the dinner will be happening on Tuesday December 6th at The Windsor Arms Hotel (18 St. Thomas St., Toronto), where Doug has been consulting on some vegan menus recently. And I’ve also got two more dinners in the works for early 2012, and hopefully many more to follow.

This inaugural dinner will include a welcome reception with passed hors d’oeuvre followed by a four course meal, with the reception and each course featuring a beer pairing presented by Beau’s co-owner Steve Beauchesne. Tickets are available online, and should be purchased sooner rather than later, as there are a couple of large groups that have expressed interest in attending, so a sell out is a strong possibility.

And for those who may balk at the fact that the meal will be vegan – as I noted in the announcement over on CBN, Doug’s food will “show us that there is much more to vegan food than tofu and sprouts.” I was blown away by some the flavours and textures of the food he served at the dinner earlier this year, and I’ve no doubt that he’ll pull off something equally impressive for this event. And while I can’t speak for the rest of you, I know that my fat ass and expansive waistline could certainly do with a little less meat once in a while.

So, in summary:

Canadian Beer News Dinner #1:
Beau’s Brewing & Chef Doug McNish

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
The Windsor Arms Hotel
18 Saint Thomas Street, Toronto

6:30 PM – Reception with passed hors d’oeuvre & beer pairing
7:15 PM – 4-course Dinner with beer pairings

$95 per person including taxes and gratuities

>>> CLICK HERE TO ORDER TICKETS <<<

Hope to see you there!

A Six-Pack of Picks for Ontario Craft Beer Week

It’s no secret that Ontario beer drinkers complain a lot about the state of things in our province. A quick scan of the Bar Towel forums will reveal numerous threads bitching about something or other, with the LCBO and Beer Store being especially popular (and sometimes deserving) punching bags.

But even amongst that negative noise, there’s developed a realization that while our craft beer scene may not be perfect, it’s still pretty damn good. Our local breweries are getting more adventurous with their offerings; our selection of great imports continues to improve; an increasing number of bars and restaurants are stocking better beer; and the events focussed on good beer have become more and more frequent.

One of the best examples of the latter is Ontario Craft Beer Week, an initiative launched last year by the Ontario Craft Brewers, and which returns for this year starting tomorrow, running June 19th to 25th (although unofficial pre-week events such as the Cask Ale Crawl and the Beach BBQ and Brews Festival have already started happening). Not to be confused with Toronto Beer Week, which also debuted last year and will be back in September, OCB Week encompasses a wide variety of events across the province, ranging from brewery open houses and casual tastings to formal dinners and festivals.

There are over 100 events to choose from, and they’re all worth supporting, but here are a half-dozen happening in Toronto that are especially worthy of attention…

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Toronto Beer Week – Day 2: Eatin' and Yappin'

Given my past record, I suppose I should’ve known better than to think I’d able to keep up a next-day diary during all of Toronto Beer Week. It went well enough for day 1, but then – well, it’s now two and a half weeks later, and I’m just getting to day 2. Hardly seems worth it given that everyone else has finished writing about the whole week and have moved on to other things, but I’m not gonna let all the goddamn photos and notes I took go to waste!

The most anticipated event for TBW for many folks was the BrewDog Brewery dinner at beerbistro, with co-founder James Watt flying in from Scotland to host. (He’s the sly looking fellow on the right in the photo above, next to me in the middle, and Josh Rubin – beer writer for the Toronto Star – on the left. Photo courtesy of Stephen Gardiner.)

I imagine that anyone bothering to read this blog already knows about BrewDog’s reputation for pushing the envelope of brewing and marketing with their super-strong beers, cheeky promo videos and media baiting. And it’s hardly news that you can always expect something pretty great from a dinner at beerbistro. So let’s skip the background and get straight to the proceedings…

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Toronto Beer Week – Day 0: Dieu Du Ciel!

It’s only a few hours old, but I already feel like I haven’t written enough about Toronto Beer Week. Loads of other folks – like Jordan, like Stephen, and Jordan, and Troy, and Jordan, and Chris, and, uh, Jordan – were all over it well in advance, which has given me a bit of the ol’ blog guilt.

In order to assuage that guilt somewhat, I’m going to attempt to post a daily TBW diary this week, which will likely consist mainly of photos and a couple of paragraphs posted each day as a recap of the day before. Or that’s the plan, anyway. And I’ll likely be doing plenty of tweeting, as will many other folks.

To kick it off, here are some highlights from the TBW pre-party of sorts that took place this weekend, when the folks from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel! came in from Montreal for a few events to mark their recent brewery feature at the LCBO.

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Innis & Gunn Rum Cask

This is one in an occasional series of posts reviewing various beers from Innis & Gunn. For the previous post in the series, covering Innis & Gunn Original, click here.

When I wrote my first in this series of Innis & Gunn reviews back in mid-October, I didn’t expect that I’d be posting them on such a glacial schedule. But as is usual for this blog, it’s taking me longer than hoped due to the thousand-and-one other things to which I’ve got myself committed. (Which reminds me that it’s been ages since I last posted a round-up to my beer-related posts on Taste T.O. – I really should get around to that sometime as well…)

Anyway, in the nearly two months between then and now, one of those “other things” that I was lucky enough to do was  attend a dinner presented by the secretive underground dining club Charlie’s Burgers that featured Innis & Gunn beers paired with food prepared by Jonathan Gushue and Victor DeGuzman, the Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chef respectively at Langdon Hall, one of the top restaurants in North America. The food was absolutely stellar, one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in my life, and I was especially impressed by the pairings given that the chefs admitted that they’d never done a beer dinner before. While not every match was absolutely perfect, most were excellent, and there were no train-wrecks.

With so many great dishes and solid pairings to choose from, it was hard to pick a favourite. The poached Colville Bay oysters paired with I&G IPA was a surprisingly solid match, and the pure decadence of the Atlantic lobster in hand-churned butter with pig cheek and foie gras torchon would’ve blown me away even if the beer on the side, I&G Original, hadn’t been such a good accompaniment.

Since it was a multi-course tasting menu, there was no traditional “main” course for the dinner, but the final course before dessert was an outstanding elk tenderloin served with smoked tongue (better than it sounds!) and several sides, all paired with Innis & Gunn Rum Cask. It was a great match, and while the bottle I had at home a few weeks later wasn’t paired with such an exciting dish – just a couple of pieces of good chocolate – it was still enjoyable.

I&G Rum Cask  is currently available in Ontario as part of the I&G “Connoisseur’s Oak Collection” holiday gift pack along with bottles of I&G Original and IPA and a nice branded glass. It’s apparently slightly different from the version that was available in single bottles last December, but my impressions were so close to what I wrote about the 2008 version on Taste T.O. that I might as well quote myself:

It has a much darker reddish hue than [I&G Original], and a deeper and richer aroatma with strong notes of spice, rum and sweet toffee. Rum also comes through prominently in the flavour, along with sweet malt and a bit of oak, and a mild spiciness in the finish. It’s a warm and flavourful beer that could be enjoyed with many desserts and sweets, or just on its own as a pleasant nightcap.

My only criticism, which is the same one I’ve lodged against other I&G beers, is that the fairly light body doesn’t quite hold up to the flavour, although I’m sure that my strong appreciation for the barrel-aged imperial stouts and barley wines that are becoming more and more common in the US craft brewing scene may be influencing my opinion in that matter. To others, it may seem just right. Either way, it’s a tasty winter treat.

Next up: I&G Triple Matured. Watch for it sooner than two months from now, hopefully…

Danish Beer Dinner at beerbistro

danishdinner_room

Having now been to several gourmet beer dinners at beerbistro, I know that I should expect to be blown away by them. Chef Brian Morin and his team are true artists when it comes to preparing food and pairing it with beer, and they always team up with some of the world’s best breweries for these multi-course extravaganzas.

Still, I find myself amazed, delighted, and often surprised at every single one of them, and their Danish Beer Dinner this past Thursday night was no exception. With the support of import agents Roland + Russell, the dinner put the spotlight on the beers of Danish breweries Nørrebro Bryghus and Mikkeller, and Nørrebro brewmaster Anders Kissmeyer flew over from Copenhagen to introduce his beers, while beer writer and beerbistro partner Stephen Beaumont did the honours for the Mikkeller beers.

Read on for a full run-down of what was served, along with some dark photos and a few scattered thoughts on the beer, food and pairings.

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Nørrebro Påske Bock

paskebock

If you live in Toronto and like good beer, you’ve likely heard about little shindig happening on Wednesday night this week: In the tradition of previous brewmaster’s dinners like last year’s Dogfish Head event and 2007’s Brooklyn happening, beerbistro along with import agents Roland + Russell are presenting a Danish Beer Dinner, featuring the beers of Mikkeller and Nørrebro Bryghus, and a talk by Nørrebro brewmaster Anders Kissmeyer.

To give me an advance taste of what the event has in store, R+R slipped me a bottle of Nørrebro Påske Bock a few weeks ago, and I finally got around to cracking it open last Friday when I had a couple of friends over for a beer tasting. It was Good Friday, in fact, which was very fitting as the brewery describes this doppelbock  as being “brewed according to the original bock tradition, which used to be the point of origin for Danish Easter brews.”

Here’s the thing, though: While I really like well-made doppelbock s, I also find it hard to say much about them. My tasting notes usually end up being quite short and consisting of some combination of  “dark brown”, “malty”, “roasty”, “dark fruit”, “medium bodied”, “balanced” and “tasty”. Which is pretty much what happened with this one. We all enjoyed it, and agreed that we could easily drink a couple, but didn’t have anything overly descriptive or profound to say about it.

I also imagine that I won’t be saying anything descriptive or profound by the end of tomorrow’s feast, as the 8 courses of food and beer pairings will likely leave me too full and drunk to say much more than a few incoherent grunts and mumbles. Good thing I’ve got Thursday booked off work…

If the dinners mentioned above are any indication, this will be one of Toronto’s top beer events of the year. For those who don’t have tickets yet, there may be a few spots left – call 416.861.9872 to check. You’ll hate yourself for missing it. Seriously.

PS: Forgot to mention how much I love the Nørrebro Bryghus labels. They’ve got that minimal and consistant look that I love. Can’t wait to see a few of them lined up together tomorrow night.

Fuller's Chiswick Bitter Launch Dinner

The Abbot on the Hill, a Toronto gastropub specialising in imported beers, marked the launch of Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter in Canada with a special beer dinner this past Monday. They have a beer and food pairing prix fixe dinner each Monday, and this week featured five Fuller’s beers matched with each of the five food courses. My wife and I went to check it out, and shared a table with fellow beer blogger Troy Burtch and esteemed brewmaster and beer & food pairing expert Bill White.

Here’s how it turned out (and apologies in advance for the mediocre photos – the room was quite dark, and the few flash photos we took look even worse):

fullerschiswick_soupStilton Ale Soup
beer pairing: Organic Honey Dew

This course was sadly a disappointment. “Stilton Ale Soup” suggests something flavourful and hearty to me, but instead we got an under-seasoned and lukewarm onion soup with a couple of small pieces of Stilton floating in it. Considering the light body and subtle flavour of Honey Dew, though, that might’ve been a good thing, as I don’t think the beer could’ve held up to anything too rich or heavy. Having eaten at the Abbot a number of times before, I knew they could do much better than this…

fullerschiswick_fishGinger Beer Battered Salmon
Shoestring Fries
beer pairing: Chiswick Bitter

…and I was right, as this next course was excellent. My wife had a bit of trepidation about the fact that they chose to deep-fry a perfectly good piece of organic Irish salmon, but once we tasted it, there were no complaints. The shoestring fries were nice as well, and the presentation in a small take-out style container was very cute. And it probably goes without saying that pairing the traditional session ale with the slightly gussied-up take on the traditional fish & chips was a good choice.

fullerschiswick_pastriesMini Vegetable Wellington
beer pairing: ESB

I don’t know if there was a last minute change in plans, or if they were being creative with the description, but what was called a “Mini Vegetable Wellington” on the printed menu was actually the mushroom pastries that my wife had previously ordered off of the Abbot’s regular menu. No complaints here, though, as they’re damn tasty. The ESB was a suitable pairing – not revelatory, but solid.

fullerschiswick_beefRoast Prime Rib
Peppercorn Jus
Champ
beer pairing: 1845

As someone who prefers his red meat to be served very rare, I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed but the fairly well done piece of beef that I was served. At least it wasn’t dried out and leathery – it was quite juicy, in fact, and while the Yorkshire pudding was a bit overdone and dry, the champ was absolutely lovely. I think the beer went well with it, although to be honest, by this point the pre-dinner pint and all of the paired beers were starting to get the better of me, and the conversation was getting more animated, so I was paying less attention to the subtleties of the pairings.

fullerschiswick_floatPorter Vanilla Float
beer pairing: London Porter

Yeah, it looked like a total mess – especially in the photos – but this float made with London Porter and vanilla ice cream was seriously good. Like, off-the-hook good. Especially after I smushed up the ice cream and mixed it up and drank it like a boozy milkshake. Mmmm!

Torontonians looking to get a taste of the Chiswick can head up to the Abbot, where it’s still on tap, and it should be rolling out to other pubs and restaurants over the coming weeks. Thanks to Premier Brands for bringing in another beer from the Fuller’s portfolio, they’re always a treat to try.

V For Victory

vforvictory

My pub profile on The Victory Café is up now over on Taste T.O., and Winston wants you to go read it.

Also: the wife and I went to a beer dinner at the Abbot On The Hill last night marking the Canadian launch of Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter. We were also there for a trade/media tasting on Saturday, where Stephen Beaumont revealed that the cask version is his go-to beer when he’s in England and at a Fuller’s pub. The keg version is obviously not quite as good as the cask (according to Beaumont, at least, but I’ll take his word for it), but it’s still a pleasant session pint.

I’ll try to post more details about the dinner (which was a smaller and less formal affair than the previous Fuller’s launch I attended) in the next day or two.

The Return of Unibroue

(Sorta creepy photo borrowed from evilloop.com)

The title of this post is a bit misleading, as Unibroue never actually went anywhere. But for the last couple of years, their presence was on the wane in Ontario. Their products were being delisted from retail outlets, and while Blanche de Chambly was still a popular draught choice at various in-the-know establishments, most of their other beers had all but disappeared. Quite simply, it seemed that parent company Sleeman (and their parent company, Sapporo) were more interested in expanding the Unibroue brands in the US market than in Ontario, which is somewhat understandable, given the relative size of that market.

Recently, though, there’s been a definite push to re-establish Unibroue in Ontario. 750 ml bottles of several of their beers are now back on LCBO shelves, and a couple of events have taken place in Toronto recently that show they’re serious about getting back to business.

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