B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Posts Tagged ‘Garrett Oliver

The Next Wave in BC Craft Beer

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Patrons enjoying the Driftwood beer dinner at Hapa Umi.

It was just over three years ago when I started this blog out of frustration over the lack of craft beer coverage in the mainstream media – virtually none. In fact, they were reporting the decline of beer in favour of wine when I knew it was a generalization that completely overlooked the ferment that was happening in BC amongst the microbreweries and brewpubs. Clearly, the MSM had no idea, given their wine obsession. At the time, craft beer in Vancouver seemed like an underground subculture whose workings were known to a select few. I had started getting the word out through CAMRA Vancouver’s newsletter, but needed a means for discussing issues and covering events in more depth than e-mail. The B.C. Beer Blog was born.

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Brooklyn Brewmaster’s Dinner

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Garrett Oliver with the Granville Rooms chef, Kye Agrios.

Garrett Oliver with the Granville Room's chef, Kye Agrios, holding a Mint White Chocolate Iced Parfait with Parisian fizzy fruit and Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

We’re fortunate to be able to get beer from Brooklyn Brewery here because it’s not widely available south of us in Washington (although what they do have more than makes up for it). It also means that Garrett Oliver has an excuse to visit Vancouver and be able to expense the trip by hosting a brewmaster’s dinner and tastings.

It’s important that Oliver does come to evangelize craft beer and food pairing because B.C. is only starting to get an appreciation for both; the more people (high profile or otherwise), the better. Some in Vancouver are starting to listen, but for a so-called cosmopolitan city, I find it rather disappointing how slow the pace is. At the very least, every brewpub should be featuring a paired beer with each of their food items. Using their own beer in their food should be a standard procedure, wherever it makes sense. Beer with dessert? If the appropriate styles are brewed, absolutely! If not, I would have bottles available to offer it.

Garlic and Thyme Grilled Beef Tenderloin with duck fat confit potato, baby vegetables, and green peppercorn sauce paired with Brooklyn Local 2.

Garlic and Thyme Grilled Beef Tenderloin with duck fat confit potato, baby vegetables, and green peppercorn sauce paired with Brooklyn Local 2.

We have the potential for so much more. Just look at what food pairing has done for wine. If there’s a way to differentiate craft beer from industrial suds, it’s in that direction. It also appeals more to women who are not engaged by sexist macrobrew marketing. To ignore or alienate roughly half the population in your marketing is sheer stupidity. I assure you, women do like beer, even most of the ones that say they don’t. It’s just a matter of finding the ones they like. Who cares if it’s not a macho beer, it’s still beer!

The Brooklyn Brewmaster’s Dinner was hosted at The Granville Room. At first I was a little leery about this choice. It’s on the Granville entertainment strip which is geared to young partiers who are not known for their discriminating beer taste, if what’s typically on offer in these places is any indication. My suspicions were even further piqued when the bartender was serving the aperitif beer in the bottle! That’s fine when you are talking about a characterless lager purposely made to offend as few as possible. For a full-flavoured beer, however, that’s like eating a fine meal with your nose plugged. You lose a lot of the experience, don’t you? Smell plays a large role in taste, so it’s important to drink from a vessel with a wide enough opening to fully take in the aroma. Those who understood this asked for a glass. Those who didn’t, were conspicuous by the bottle they were drinking from. The point, though, is that this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Time to go to Beer School.

Aside from a stumble using Sichuan peppercorns to encrust ahi tuna in the second pairing (they numb the palate), the dinner was a great success. Oliver was both informative and entertaining; the food was top quality; and we had the good fortune of sampling Brooklyn Local 2, which is not currently available in BC. Personally, I like it better than the Local 1.

As the diners vacated The Granville Room for after-dinner drinks at the Alibi Room, the twenty-somethings were already lining up outside. And while I doubt they would see any benefit from Garrett Oliver’s previous appearance, I’ve still reconsidered my previous hesitation about The Granville Room. In fact, this is exactly the sort of place that needs to have beer events like this. There’s no point in preaching to the choir. It is the “great unwashed” that need to be reached, employees especially. If even a small ray of light can be beamed into their minds, it sows the seed of curiosity that has the potential to germinate into something much greater. This is why there’s a need for a “constant gardener.”

School of Beer

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When I was at The Granville Room for the Garrett Oliver Brooklyn Brewmaster’s Dinner, diners were given a pre-dinner drink of Brooklyn Lager. What I found a little disconcerting was that the bartender was just opening the bottle and giving it to people. Of course you could ask for a glass, but that’s not the issue.

What’s the problem, you wonder? It doesn’t matter so much when you’re drinking a near frozen, characterless lager because it’s supposed to have minimal taste that offends no one. With a flavourful beer, however, a large part of enjoying the full experience it has to offer is smelling the aroma. (Note: that’s what aroma hops are for.) It’s hard to smell much from the small opening of a bottle when your mouth is covering it up while drinking from it. That’s like trying to eat a nice meal with congested sinuses — not terribly exciting. With a glass, however, there is ample room for the aroma to reach your nose, even stick your schnoz inside. No more absent-minded drinking. You can’t help but notice the taste of the beer.

This is why establishments should not be serving (and you shouldn’t be drinking) craft beer from a bottle. You will be cheated out of its full potential enjoyment. So why don’t many bartenders and servers know this? Because their managers don’t know this either. They should; they are supposed to be professionals.

Chester CareyFortunately, there is an opportunity for those in the hospitality industry to gain an understanding of beer — the history, ingredients, brewing methods, styles, handling, proper serving, and tasting. The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts is offering an eight-week programme taught by Canada’s first Certified Cicerone, Chester Carey. Students will master a complete vocabulary of beer terms through weekly guided tastings.  Successful completion of this program will prepare individuals for the Certified Cicerone Beer Server examination.

When: every Wednesday for eight weeks, starting September 9, 2009
Time: 6:30 – 9:30pm
Where: Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, 1505 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver
Cost: $475.00 plus GST, includes beer tastings, textbook, and certificate of completion
Registration: call (604) 734-4488 or download PICA’s Short Programs Registration Form and return by fax to (604) 734-4408

Spaces are filling fast. The last day for registration is September 4.

Garrett Oliver Returns to BC

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Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, with Rick, Aly, and Barry of R&B Brewing

Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, with Rick, Aly, and Barry of R&B Brewing at The Whip

The Brewmaster’s Table author, Garrett Oliver, will be in B.C. from August 13-16 to host two beer pairing dinners in Victoria and Vancouver. While the cities’ beer aficionados will leap at this opportunity to dine with one of the foremost authorities on the subject, I hope the hospitality industry and the media will also take the time to attend and find out why beer also deserves a place at the table.

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Chocolate and Dessert Wine, the Perfect Blend?

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With Valentine’s Day coming up, the subject of wining and dining takes centre stage. Chocolate is also a big part of this Hallmark holiday and our local vinophiles are only too happy to proffer up sophisticated beverage recommendations to have with your luscious dessert. The Vancouver Sun‘s resident vine scribe, Anthony Gismondi, can be verbose when it comes to pairing suggestions for a Mia Stainsby recipe. In the case of this week’s Chocolate Crème Brulée, he offers the brief: “Chocolate and Dessert Wine: The Perfect Blend.”

I don’t doubt that you can find a wine to pair with chocolate, but it’s not a simple thing to do. In fact, a port is often suggested. So why even venture down a path that may require the skills of a stunt person (aka sommelier) to perform? Is there not an easier option?

Consider the definition of “perfect” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1 a: being entirely without fault or defect : flawless <a perfect diamond> b: satisfying all requirements : accurate c: corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept <a perfect gentleman>…

When it comes to chocolate, the definition for me of a perfect match is with stout. Not all stouts pair with all chocolates, but you don’t have to venture far to find the ideal mate. It’s such a good match that brewers will actually add chocolate to their beerPhillips Longboat Double Chocolate Porter, Rogue Chocolate Stout, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, etc. Dogfish Head‘s Sam Calagione says, “There is probably no pairing more perfect than a roasty stout and dark chocolate.” Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, wrote:

With desserts, strong roasty stouts can demonstrate true brilliance, perfectly matching chocolate and providing a wonderful contrast to ice cream and fruit desserts. Wine, being incapable of true roasted flavors, can’t even come close.

Chocolate raspberry torte with a Lindeman's Framboise is a delicious combination.

Chocolate raspberry torte with a Lindemans Framboise is a delicious combination.

Yes, stout can pair with fruit desserts, just as you would use chocolate with fruit. When it comes to beer, the reverse is also true. You can pair a fruit ale with a chocolate dessert — young, sweet fruit lambics such as kriek, framboise, and pêche; an apricot wheat ale with Sachertorte to enhance the apricot/chocolate combination already in the cake; a cherry stout with Black Forest cake will do the same.

So there you have it, folks. The ideal Valentine’s beverage is beer. And what dessert better epitomizes love than a Russian Imperial Stout Cheesecake? Gentlemen, if your quarry is beer averse, this will change her mind, especially if you made it. Ladies, finding it hard to get your man to drink what he scorns as a chick beer? This will send Cupid’s arrow through his heart unless a dislike of desserts covers it in chain mail. Ah, l’amour!

Reaching Beer’s Outer Limits

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As I mentioned in a previous post about the importance of imports, an outside stimulus to the derriere is sometimes necessary to motivate one to reach beyond the rut or comfort of stasis. That swift kick may come in the form of competition from imports. It can also come from the introduction of new domestic products.

A kind reader referred me to an excellent article by Burkhard Bilger in The New Yorker on the search for “a better brew.” While also functioning as an interesting profile of Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione, the article points out two schools of thought on what Boston Beer Company founder, Jim Koch, coined as “extreme” beer. To Koch, “When you’re making an extreme beer, it’s like pushing beyond the sound barrier.” Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, on the other hand, thinks:

The whole idea of extreme beer is bad for craft brewing. It doesn’t expand the tent—it shrinks it. If I want someone to taste a beer, and I make it sound outlandish and crazy, there is a certain kind of person who will say, ‘Oh, let me try it.’ But that is a small audience. It’s one that you can build a beer on, but not a movement.

I think Oliver is right—you won’t build a movement on extreme beer, one that will get the macrobrew drinkers to switch over to craft beer. However, I don’t think that’s the point of these beers, nor is that what Calagione, for one, is intending for them to do. Broadening the diversity of beer does expand a corner of the craft beer tent; we just need to find a way to bring more people under the tent.

Look at Europe for contrast. The competitive landscape there is shrinking as breweries consolidate or are forced to close, reducing the amount of choice to consumers. Brewing there is increasingly about the bottom line, not the beer. That means Edward Scissor Hands is in the driver’s seat. This is why consumer organizations like CAMRA, PINT, and Zythos have circled the wagons to protect their brewing traditions from being destroyed by corporatism, just like Slow Food has done for cuisine.

In North America, on the other hand, the craft beer market is growing. This provides the competitive impetus for innovation. How does a brewer distinguish themselves but by coming out with something completely different, even original. American brewers have covered the common European beer styles quite thoroughly, even adding their own stamp to the degree that it has warranted creating American sub-categories. Now they are venturing into more esoteric styles, ones that are nearing extinction in the Old World—Gose, Kellerbier, Sahti, Steinbier, Wassail, Zwickelbier—and ones from the really old world that, until recently, have been gone for centuries and only revived through archaeology. Even traditional lambic is finding a dwindling audience.

With the U.S. being such a large market, there is room for ballsy brewers willing to push beer’s outer limits to succeed. The small market of B.C. makes it a lot harder unless you have some good financial backing and top notch marketing. Unfortunately, our breweries comfortably in the black are largely run by people in it for the business opportunity, not the beer. Don’t expect them to be raising the bar on creativity, much less release seasonal beers. To find the cutting edge in B.C., you’ll have to dig deeper and keep your ears open. What could be considered extreme beer here is often found at the cask ale festivals at Dix BBQ and Brewery in August and December. If you want more of a good thing, then you should make a point of attending and encourage the brewers willing to take a chance.

A curry pale ale, anyone?

FigMint ‘BC Day’ Beer & Cheese Tasting

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Wine and cheese is such a cliché that many people scoff or are skeptical that beer and cheese go together. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Beer-pairing author and Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, is impassioned in his advocacy of the superiority of beer when it comes to pairing with cheese. Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle also wrote a good article on the topic.

Curious now? Then, I recommend taking in FigMint’s next ‘On the Wood’ tasting series, featuring a ‘BC Day’ beer & cheese pairing theme. Executive Chef, Lee Humphries, will present four BC artisan cheeses supplied by Mount Pleasant Cheese (3432 Cambie Street, Vancouver) and organic ales from Sorrento’s organic farm brewery, Crannóg:

Tickets are $25 with seating limited to sixteen. Call today to reserve a spot:

Thursday, August 7, 2008
FigMint Restaurant & Lounge
500 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver
Tel: (604) 875-3312