Tag Archives: cheese

Five Reasons Why Toronto's Festival Of Beer Didn't Totally Suck This Year

LEFT: One of the few reasons that Toronto's Festival of Beer doesn't completely suck - RIGHT: Two of the many, many reasons that it mostly does suck

LEFT: One of the few reasons that Toronto's Festival of Beer doesn't completely suck - RIGHT: Two of the many, many reasons that it mostly does suck

Several years ago, I accepted that I’m not in the target market for Toronto’s Festival of Beer. Despite assurances in the program that the event caters to the “beer enthusiast” with “an astute palate”, it really is a ridiculously overpriced celebration of swill that is oriented more and more towards fratboys and douchebags every year. From the stupid “hats” made out of six-pack boxes being handed out by Steam Whistle (seriously, folks – penises and boobies? Are you all in Grade 5 or something?), to the booth girls who are hired based on their breast cleavage rather than their beer knowledge, to the massive and obnoxious “Brand Experience Areas” offering such fine beverages as Budweiser and Tecate, the Festival manages to represent pretty much everything that is offensive and embarrassing about the mainstream beer market.

That said, I still take up the offer of a media pass every year and go check it out, and I always manage to find at least a couple of things that save my visit from being a complete waste of time. Here, then, are my five reasons why this year’s Festival wasn’t a total write-off…

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Newsflash: Beer Goes Well With Cheese!

Many newspapers and websites across Canada that get a feed from the Canadian Press ran a fluff piece recently about a shocking new food and drink activity that is “becoming all the rage in some trendy corners”: pairing cheese with beer (gasp!) rather than wine! (It also mentions scotch, but since this is ostensibly a beer blog, that’s what I’m focussing on.)

Now, I’ve always argued that good beer is much more conducive to many food pairings than wine – but then again, I’m not much of a wine guy, so that’s really just me talking out of my ass. But it seems that executive chef Lee Humphries at FigMint Restaurant and Lounge in Vancouver agrees with me:

While wine seems like a natural to have with cheese, the likelihood of a mismatch is much greater with wine than with beer and scotch, says Humphries.

“Beer and scotch work really well with cheese because the flavours are so complementary,” he explains. “Many wines just overpower the delicate nature of cheese, making wine pairings that much more difficult to perfect.”

And it’s not just chefs who think this – the scientists are in agreement that wine & cheese don’t work well together:

Bernice Madrigal-Galan and Hildegarde Heymann of the University of California, Davis, presented trained wine tasters with cheap and expensive versions of four different varieties of wine. The tasters evaluated the strength of various flavours and aromas in each wine both alone and when preceded by eight different cheeses.

They found that cheese suppressed just about everything, including berry and oak flavours, sourness and astringency. Only butter aroma was enhanced by cheese, and that is probably because cheese itself contains the molecule responsible for a buttery wine aroma, Heymann says. Strong cheeses suppressed flavours more than milder cheeses, but flavours of all wines were suppressed. In other words, there are no magical wine and cheese pairings.

It’s curious to note that Humphries thinks that wine overpowers cheese, while the science-types argue the opposite. But either way, it’s obvious that wine and cheese just don’t get along as well as people like to think, and they should just split up now so beer and cheese can get together. I mean, they make such a cute couple. It’s inevitable, really. Wine should just accept it and move on.

Anyway, this story comes along at an interesting time for me, as I’ve got plans afoot with a local cheese guy that may lead to some fun stuff in the new year. More on that as things develop…