Saturday, October 27, 2012

Biercraft & Driftwood Brewery Dinner


Dinner at Biercraft? With one of my favourite breweries as the pairings? Well, yes please! It’s no secret I like beer dinners. I love seeing how the chef pairs food with what is usually a wide array of beer styles and this Driftwood dinner was no exception.

One of the owners of Biercraft, Don Farion, spoke to the food pairing process and it was evident that a lot of time and sampling went into creating this menu. Ah, sampling good food and Driftwood beers – the necessary hazards of the job. Poor things….

At the commencement of each dish, Don would describe the dish and that was immediately proceeded by Jason Meyer of Driftwood lovingly depicting his beer. Jason’s passion for his beers is inspiring and even though I don’t understand the technical talk very well, I enjoy listening to him explain how each beer became part of the Driftwood family. I’m a Driftwood fan-girl but for a good reason – they make amazing beers. If you’re visiting the Victoria/Vancouver area, do yourself a favour and try their beers. You can thank me later.

 Ok, enough gushing about my love-in for Driftwood, here is what we were treated to:

 

Course One

Lobster and corn veloute, srirvacha
Paired with: 2012 Sartori Harvest – American IPA, 7.0% ABV

 

I quite enjoyed this lobster dish and found that the corn and spices paired well with the hoppy Sartori. The only improvement to this could have been the temperature, as my dish was only luke-warm. This was a great pairing with the Sartori.

The Sartori. Ah, Sartori – I love you. This seasonal beer sold out all over the province within a day of hitting the shelves. At some liquor stores, within hours and that was with a one or two bottle per person limit at most stores (not like a couple of people I know who scored three cases from a naïve retailer…).

As Jason described this beer, it is almost 100% hand crafted. It’s a wet hopped beer and as soon as the hops are hand-picked, they’re immediately brought to the brewery and put in the kettle. This IPA can only be brewed once a year (sob), during hop harvest.

 

Course Two

Steak tartare, boconccini salad, arugula, crustini
Paired with: 2012 Mad Bruin – Ouud Bruin; 7.0% ABV

 

A small amount of mustard and a few capers were mixed into the tartare, giving it a slight tang. It was well prepared and delicious on the house-made crustini. The green tomatoes and boconccini accompanied this dish well.

Mad Bruin is the second release from the Bird of Prey series and just hit the shelves last week. It’s a great sour brown ale and we’re definitely going to cellar a bottle this year. Jason commented that a sour is a good bridge for wine or cider drinkers as non-beer drinkers won’t necessarily relate it to beer. He’s even gone so far as to offer samples of it to skeptics and indicating it’s a cider-muffled-words-just-drink-it and when these naysayers like it, boom! Tell them it’s beer. Ah, I like your style, Jason.

 

Course Three

White Bark cured sockeye salmon sushi roll, house made kimchi
Paired with: 2011 Bird of Prey Flanders Red; 7.5% ABV

 

The sushi rolls were tasty! I’ve been anti-soy sauce on my sushi for awhile (after hearing Japanese chefs ranting about it) but was told that the soy made the pairing with the Flanders Red that much better. I guess I missed out on that pro tip.

Jason dazzled us with more technical stuff with the Flanders Red creation. It was the first time the bourbon barrels had a sour in them so the flavour from the barrels was prominent. Re-using the barrels each year will lessen the bourbon barrel taste as more Brettanomyces (Brett) resides in the barrel. These little Yeastie Boys latch onto the barrel and hop into the next batch that’s brewed. Ok, Jason’s explanation was way more succinct and accurate, but you get the picture. There’s currently a second generation Flanders Red in barrels right now and I wish we’d cellared one of the 2011 for comparison.

 

Course Four

Soy glazed beef tenderloin, roasted endive, Indian carrots, celeriac puree
Paired with: Farmhand Ale – Saison; 5.50% ABV

 

Tender, rare and succulent beef was what we were treated to. The celeriac puree was a nice change from potatoes and note to parents, you might even fool your kids into eating celery by pureeing them as they are a mashed potato doppelganger. This dish paired well with the pepperiness of the saison.

The Farmhand Ale is made with the same yeast used by Belgian brewery La Chouffe (another tidbit from Jason) and it sings of fruit and peppery spices. It’s perfect to pair with beef.

 

Course Five

Peanut butter espresso semi-freddo, minted cream, malt caramel
Paired with: 2012 Singularity – Russian Imperial Stout; 11.6% ABV

 

I’m not sure what dessert wouldn’t pair well with the beauty that is Singularity however, this dessert definitely worked. The espresso is a no-brainer to pair with an imperial stout as it pulls out even more coffee notes in the beer. The mint worked but I preferred the caramel flavours with this stout.

The inside-the-brewer’s-head notes on this one informed us that the name Singularity (a la The Big Band Theory) was picked before the beer. Well, if you’re looking for a big bang, this 14% imperial packs one. Full of robust flavours and one of my favourites. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but we still have three cellared. Once we have four or five years of this exquisite stout, we’ll have a vertical tasting. Treasure this gem if you can find it.

 

The Biercraft team of chefs, servers and menu creators outdid themselves and served us a decedent meal. They poured generous samples of each beer, with top-ups, and kept the evening flowing between courses. Kudos to the entire team for a great evening!

And it goes without saying that it’s always a treat to get the brewer to attend the dinner and give us some insight into why and how the beers were brewed. I still recall Jason’s comment from a dinner in February when he said he only brews what he likes and if that doesn’t appeal to the masses, oh well. I have great respect for him and this honest opinion. He’s an artist and these are his creations – and man, can he create. Once again, I bow to you, Jason. We need to make a trip back to Victoria soon to visit Driftwood and Victoria’s other great breweries (Lighthouse, Hoyne, Phillips, Vancouver Island) but I bet I’ll get the best cappuccino from Jason’s crew…

The cost for this dinner was $75 CAMRA member/$80 non-CAMRA member. It’s more expensive than most of the beer dinners in the city, but they had no problem selling out. Check their web site or follow them on Twitter/Facebook to get information on their next dinner.

 

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Portland...Beervana


We went to Portland for the first time in April and as we didn’t cover nearly enough beer territory, the long weekend called for us and so, on to Beervana!

I know people say they see the light or have a sign from above but this really did happen to me. On a trip to Beervana. Ok, maybe the Trappist monks won’t equate this to being “the” sign but when you read a tweet that Belmont Station has Pliny the Elder on tap AND you’re only two hours away, that’s a bloody sign from the beer gods.  One guess where we started our beer adventure after literally tossing our luggage in our room and hailing a cab.

Hello Belmont Station, why haven’t I visited you before? What a great place. Sixteen rotating taps, a cask “beer engine”, decent food and a great adjoining bottle shop featuring over 1,300 tasty beers. When I asked if I could take my beer in the store, I received a quizzical look from the bartender. Right, you don’t have the dumb liquor laws that we do in BC – drink and shop away! I almost burst a blood vessel with excitement when I started perusing. I want this and this and this and this and and and… yep, I want ALL the beer.

PLINY!

Back to the Pliny – it was my first one, people. Ever. And the Elder was hoppy, full of grapefruit and citrus notes and downright beautiful. But I have to tell you, I think a Driftwood Fat Tug could stand up to this and I hope to score a bottle of Pliny one day to test this observation. And after the Pliny cherry popping, we moved on to tasters of some of their other great beers including a paddle of:

o   Fresh Hop Farmhouse Saison – Pints Brewery 
o   Fresh Hop Bitter – Burnside Brewery
o   Hop Harvest Pilsner – BridgePort Brewing
o   Fresh Hop Harvest Ale – Big Al Brewing
o   Union Jack IPA – Firestone Walker (cask)
o   Fusion 10 – Lagunitas Brewing

How did they get a
Pliny the Younger Tap?

Daily Menu at Belmont


This trip, we had ambitious plans to cover quite a bit of ground and still hit the Fresh Hop Fest the next day so we left the friendly beer people at Belmont and went to Horse Brass, which was only a few blocks away. This bar had an old Irish bar feel to it with a dark interior and lots of old wood. They too had a well-defined list of 24 draught beers, a bottle list and three casks. After a pint of DayTime Fractional IPA by Lagunitas, we headed back to Belmont to buy some bottles. You didn’t really think we’d leave without buying anything, did you? You funny. We managed to fill up two cases with beer and then they guy threw in a couple stickers and beer cozies. They called us a cab, we drank a Pliny while we waited (I love saying that), and we took our pretty little treasures back to the hotel.


Horse Brass

Today was my husband , Kelly’s, birthday so we decided to go to Portland Prime for dinner. I must say, we didn’t do much research on the great places to eat – and we know there’s many – but this steak dinner hit the spot. No food pictures (you’re welcome) as it was pretty dark in there and alas, iPhone 3GS doesn’t have a flash. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that the presentation was lovely. For an appie, we shared the Baked Fromage Duo (hazelnut encrusted brie & pretzel crusted blue cheese, balsamic & fresh fruit). For our mains, I had the Angus Prime Rib – rare, of course, and Kelly had a Peppercorn steak with cognac sauce. Tasty meal and a decent price.
Look at the massive line-up...

Saturday morning, we headed to the Portland Fresh Hop Fest which was held at the Amusement Park. Apparently, our cabbie wasn't much into the roller coaster rides as he didn’t have a clue where we were talking about. After I suggested punching the address into the GPS, we were off. We were eager beavers and joined a huge group of, oh, about ten people in line. GCBF line up of thousands this was not, but people rolled in all afternoon with their friends, spouses, dogs and kids. Yep, kids. Seemed odd to us to see a bunch of (bored) kids at a beer festival, but there were quite a few. They even had a craft section that you could dump the kids off at… I mean, leave them to be artistically inspired, while the parents got their hops on. Entertainment wise, there was a ho-down-ish type band and when they went on a break, some sort of line dancing transpired. Well, I wasn’t there for the entertainment now was I? For $20, you got a pint glass and ten 4oz pours. Per usual, Kelly and I shared our beers so we each had 2oz of twenty fresh hop beers. Always good to drink with someone you don’t mind sharing spit with, I say, as it doubles your beer tastings! By the way, to those non-beerfest people who may be reading this and think it’s a big drunk-up, we had 40oz. That’s two pints. In three hours.

Here’s the entire list from the festival. There were no duds from the festival and although it’s hard to pick, my standouts were:
o   Alameda Brewing – 100# Nugget
o   Base Camp Brewing – Hoptastic Voyage
o   Cascade Brewing – Fresh Hop Porter
o   Gigantic Brewing – The Most Interesting Beer in the World (Fn Legit Fresh Hop)
o   Logsdon Farmhouse Ales – Fresh Hop Seizeon
o   The Commons Brewery – Fresh hop Farmhouse
After the beerfest, I chanted Big girl pants! Big girl pants! to get ready to tackle a few more places. I didn’t want to wimp out, as I often do from beer festivals (zzzz nap time), and we took off for Apex. What an awesome place. The weather couldn’t have been nicer in Portland this weekend so the picnic tables were filling up outside. We chose to sit inside as our multiple devices needed charging – we wouldn’t want to miss entering all these glorious beers into Untappd now would we? And p.s. – free WiFi here too. I had a pint of Jungle Love by Hop Valley Brewing which was the cask – Chinook & Simcoe hops. Just delightful.

Apex has 50 taps (including another Pliny sighting) and a live beer menu/TV (which I love), as well as multiple coolers for take home beers. It’s a great place and definitely one we’ll be frequenting every time we come back. To note, Apex doesn’t serve food, but they allow you to bring in food from the Mexican restaurant next door. We both had burritos and they were massive! We’ll be sharing one next time as half of mine went to waste (somehow, Kelly powered through his, though…).
Burrito to go...
Kitty corner from Apex is Beer Mongers – a smallish bar with eight taps and 525 bottles to drink on site or take home. We didn’t stop for a pint here but we did check out their coolers and ran into Sara from @PartingGlassBlog – as we seem to do when we travel south. Last time, we ran into each other in Seattle. Guess we frequent the same places, hey?
The Commons Brewery





Next up was a trip to The Commons Brewery for a tasting. They’ve just recently been imported to BC by Beerthirst and after trying their Flemish Kiss (silver medal at 2012 Great American Beer Festival) and Urban Farmhouse Ale (bronze at 2012 GABF), we definitely wanted to try the rest of their line-up. What a great place – friendly people, eight taps poured in stemmed taster glasses, cool t-shirts and gnomes. Apparently someone brought them a gnome once and then others arrived, as gnomes will do – they like to travel you know. We counted five gnomes scattered around.


We shared the following tasters:

o   Urban Farmhouse Ale – Saison; floral nose and soft underlying hop bitterness with a crisp finish
o   Pale Evening Ale – Belgian Pale Ale with spiciness from Saaz hops
o   Bene Tibi – 100% Brettanomyces Lambicus fermentation with sour cherries and fresh apple cider
o   Avant Flandre – Pale Ale and the base of Flemish Kiss; clean and slightly malty
o   Pitch Black IPA (Winmer Brothers guest tap) – American Black Ale
o   Blonde – Dry blonde ale with hop bite from Willamette and Goldings with complementary esters from their Belgian ale strain
o   Berliner Weisse - Refreshingly tart, their house lactobacillus strain contributes a citrus tartness that works well with the grain profile from the wheat
o   Fresh Hop Farmhouse - Saison
If you have a chance to visit The Commons, do it – Mike and his group are very welcoming and they serve fantastic beer!
Well, big girl pants were firing on all cylinders until we hit The Commons – time to pack it in for the day and start again tomorrow…
Sunday arrived and we headed to The Morning Star Café for breakfast. Since the Portland Marathon was on, we had to take the long way around all the barricades but arrived with just that much more of an appetite for their great breakfast. During the day, we saw a number of marathon participants and although they arrived looking full of life, after sitting for a while, their poor muscles stiffened up and the hobbling began. Ouch!


Hair of the Dog
 
















After breakfast, we walked over to Hair of the Dog and waited for them to open at 11:30. We had flights of the following, in cool stemmed taster glasses:




o   Greg
o   Little Dog Adam
o   Little Dog Doggie Claws
o   Ruth
o   Fred Flanders from the Wood
o   Cherry Adam from the Wood (2009) from their vintage bottle list


Our buddy Tim raved about the Chuck Norris duck wings so we had to try them. Hot and spicy, baby! Should have been paired with an IPA but we didn’t have one in our flight (they were out of Blue Dot Double IPA). 

Green Dragon



















Next up, Green Dragon! Just a short walk from Hair of the Dog and we passed the Rogue Ales garage sale on the way. Could have bought a big Rogue sign but thought, nah, we’re walking. Off to the Dragon. They have 62 taps, a list of what’s going on next (once the current goodies run out), outdoor picnic table seating, video games and board games! We went for the heavily intellectual and mind challenging game of Chutes and Ladders. You know, it was Snakes and Ladders when I was a kid. Did I miss the memo when it became inappropriate to use snakes? They weren’t scary snakes, they all had cute little smiles when they stuck out their forked tongue. I came out strong on the ladder front and won the first game but in the end, I went down three games to two. Loser buys beer – new rule. Hehe. You’re probably more interested in what I drank, not my chutes and ladder skills so here you go:
o   Mikkeller – 1000 IBU Double IPA (taster)
o   Hair of the Dog & De Proefbrouwerij collaboration – Fred Flanders Red Ale
o   Oskar Blues Brewery – G’Knight Double Red Ale
o   Speakeasy Ales – Big Daddy Wet Hopped IPA
The washroom signs were unique – Standing and Sitting. Boys, take note. There’s no pooping at Green Dragon.



















Like most places in Portland, Green Dragon is kid friendly (except sitting at the bar) and I saw that the kids get their food served on a Frisbee! How cool is that? Well, unless the kid hucks the food-filled Frisbee at you. I had a super tasty baked Cajun mac and cheese, sans Frisbee L. Yum. The bartender was one funny chick and asked us where we were from. Told her Vancouver, Canada  (not to be confused with what we hear is called Vantucky, WA) and she says That’s why I like you guys! Aw, shucks. Us Canadians are so loved…
Cascade Barrel House
Two down, two to go. Cascade Barrel House was our next stop and also within walking distance. We’re doing our own little pub crawl here, folks. I love sours and Cascade was a must on our list of places to visit. Tasters can only be ordered in two’s and here’s what we shared:
o   The Vine – American Wild Ale
o   Bi-Polar – Double IPA
o   Apricot Ale – Lambic
o   Oblique Blonde Coffee – American Blonde Ale
o   Noyaux – Sour Ale
o   Strawberry – Sour Ale
o   Diesel Imperial Stout
o   Barrel Aged Bruin – Flanders Oud Bruin
o   Autumn IPA
o   Elderberry – Sour Ale
o   Black Cap Raspberry – Sour Ale
o   Cascade IPA





Again, another place with picnic tables outside and ample seating inside. The food menu is relatively small, mostly small plates, cheese and charcuterie, but we didn’t sample any of their food.  Loved Cascade’s beers but on the friendliness scale, they didn’t rate very high. We asked our server to call us a cab since we were from out of town and she said “we don’t have a call out button – here’s the number”. Right. No ability to call out – I forgot, you pay extra for that on a phone contract. Well thanks, Cascade, we love to pay ridiculous Canadian roaming and long distance cell charges. And by the way, aren’t you morally responsible to promote a safe ride home and not drinking and driving? I still love your beers, but you’re not going to win miss congeniality in my books.



Last stop of the night was Saraveza. A smallish, neighbourhood pub with nine rotating taps and 1950’s coolers full of 250+ beers for consumption there or take home. The table tops had various beer bottle caps embedded with a heavy lacquer on top. I had one pint at Saraveza  - the Hop Venom Double IPA from Boneyard Beer Company.
The nice, responsible people at Saraveza called us a cab and back to the hotel we went. Last night in Portland and we managed to get to all the must’s on our list. There are still a pile of places and breweries we want to visit, and re-visit, but that means we just have to keep coming back. Oh the horror….


John's Market
John's Market - More!
John's Market - and MORE!


Of course, we couldn’t leave Portland without making a stop at John’s Marketplace to buy some take home treasures. They have shelf after shelf after shelf of beers. Their US selection is incredible and they also have small sections for other countries. Considering what they had on display for Canada (all macro except for Unibroue), I’d say they’re not a great representation of the great beers from other countries but they certainly do provide variety.





P|ine State Biscuits
We didn’t scout out many foodie type places but we ate well at all of the beer establishments. On our way out of town however, we did stop at Pine State Biscuits and waited with all the hipsters to get in on this gem. Kelly had the Reggie Deluxe – biscuit, fried chicken, gravy, bacon, cheese and an egg. Messy? Sure, but divine. I went with the Chatfield - biscuit, fried chicken, bacon, cheese and apple butter. Yum. It was worth the wait and we were lucky to get seating in this tiny establishment.
On a final note, I geeked out and Google mapped the beer establishments, beer stores and some restaurants that we’d heard were good. Feel free to use and send me any additional places to add!
Map: http://goo.gl/maps/n6QsC
Take home!
Take home!