Posts Tagged ‘Unibroue’
I remember when I was beer shopping in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, and came across a Jeroboam (3L) of Chimay Bleu. The enormous bottle made an immediate impression. I imagined cellaring it for years, then opening it on a special occasion to share the Trappist elixir with good friends. Needless to say, bringing it back to Vancouver in my luggage was not an option and I didn’t have time to find out what shipping it would cost. The opportunity slipped from my grasp.
Now, beginning on November 19, there’s an opportunity in the Lower Mainland for you to acquire an even larger rarity. Chambly, Quebec, brewery, Unibroue, will be selling exclusive 6-litre bottles of La Fin du Monde and 17 Grande Réserve through the 39th & Cambie Signature BC Liquor Store. At $149 each for La Fin du Monde and $199 for the 17 Grande Réserve, these will be the largest and most expensive bottles of beer ever sold in Canada†. Only 50 bottles are available.
Whenever I plan to visit a new city, if it isn’t in Saudi Arabia, I’m checking out the local craft beer scene online ahead of time to ensure I enjoy some of the local flavour. I know I’m not alone in that regard because If you visit Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, you’ll notice each has a section set up for the brews traveller. And with the rapid growth of craft brewing in North America, beer tourism is also on the rise.
Beer festivals, like the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria and the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Pentiction, are obvious tourism boosts to those cities. Penticton, however, isn’t known as a beer town. Victoria, on the other hand, is well-regarded in craft beer drinker circles for its high per capita number of breweries, pubs, and brewpubs. The fact that I don’t see much of Victoria outside of those when I visit is a testament to the quality experience our provincial capital offers.
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.
It was announced yesterday that Creemore Springs Brewery (a Molson Coors Canada subsidiary) intends to acquire Granville Island Brewing from Andrew Peller Limited. No changes in Granville Island’s operations are currently anticipated. According to the press release, Creemore’s primary reason for buying Granville Island is to offer a broader portfolio across more markets in Canada. This offers the potential for both to become national brands.
Craft beer aficionados are concerned about what role Molson Coors may play in this. However, according to Ontario beer writer, Greg Clow, “Molson has taken a very hands-off approach to Creemore, similar to the way that Sleeman basically left Unibroue alone. The beer is still brewed in the same place on the same equipment by the same people.”
There is some irony in this deal. The raison d’être of craft brewing in British Columbia—begun by the likes of Horseshoe Bay Brewing, Spinnakers, Granville Island, and Vancouver Island Brewery—was to offer more choice to British Columbians than the Big Three, whose mass-produced lager dominated the market to such an extent that it was synonymous with “beer.”
What role did Molson, one of the aformentioned triumvirate, play in this? How hands-off will they remain? Won’t it be better for Granville Island to be owned by brewers, rather than winemakers?
The best-case scenario is that Molson Coors will remain behind the scenes and merely provide Creemore Springs/Granville Island with the financial means to expand craft beer consumption across Canada. This allows them to profit from beer’s fastest growing market segment without generating nearly as much controversy and suspicion from beer aficionados that creating faux craft beer brands and fictitious breweries has done.
Should Molson Coors decide to become more involved in the day-to-day brewing with Creemore Springs/Granville Island beers suffering as a result, they will just be further examples of craft beer compromised by the corporate mentality. The customer base will shift with the more quality conscious moving to, perhaps Phillips or Tree; they will be replaced by industrial lager drinkers who have discovered their taste buds and want to move towards something more interesting.
However, one thing is certain. Regardless of what happens, craft beer in B.C. is here to stay. With three new microbreweries starting up in the last year, there is no shortage of those wanting to offer us a better brew. Seeing what is happening in the U.S., there is ample room for growth in Canada.
If you were inclined to fill in the blanks with “wine,” don’t feel bad. These are clichés that will take some time to be struck from our vocabulary. The more people discover beer’s affinity with food, the less people will subconsciously utter the phrases. This has already happened with tea and especially coffee. How many cafés can you walk into and order “a coffee” without getting any further questions from the staff to determine what exactly it is that you want. Similarly, there are fewer and fewer places where you can order “a beer” and expect to leave it at that.
On May 20th, Two Chefs and a Table are contributing to the evolution of our culinary lexicon by hosting a six-course dinner with both beer and wine pairings for each dish. Diners can choose for each course whether they want beer, wine, or both. Paul Watkin of the Seacove Group worked with executive chefs Karl Gregg and Allan Bosomworth to build the menu for this unique event.
“We wanted to keep the spirit of fun from our Wine Drinker Dinners while offering something to please beer advocates just as much as wine lovers,” said Karl Gregg. “Creating a menu which includes outstanding beer pairings alongside the wine choices seemed like an excellent way to broaden the appeal and give our diners a more interactive experience. There’s no reason a couple couldn’t have beer and wine with each dish to compare.”
The cost for the Wine and Beer Drinker Dinner is $65 per person (not including tax and gratuity) with the option of having both beer and wine with each course for $80; reservations are recommended. Call (778) 233-1303 to book a spot.
Wine: Monmousseau Cuvee JM Brut 2003 Beer: Deus Brut des Flandres
Polderside Smoked duck salad w/baby arugula, fresh pear, candied almonds
Wine: Villa Chiopris Pinot Grigio 2007 Beer: Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen
Salmon Rillettes – wild sockeye salmon, olive oil soda bread, cornichons
Wine: Domaine Lafond Tavel 2007 Beer: Propeller India Pale Ale
Pan seared pork loin: Cinnamon,cardamon,and grilled onion, concerto tomato polenta
Wine: Leyda Pinot Noir “las Brisas” 2006 Beer: Anderson Valley Brother David’s Abbey-style Ale
Double Braised Short Ribs w/wild mushroom risotto, roasted heirloom carrots, and braised tomato
Wine: Chateau Val Joanis 2005 Beer: Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Chefs’ Table smores: Dark chocolate, house made marshmallows, graham crackers,
Wine: Chateau la Rame Ste Croix-du-Mont Beer: Unibroue Chambly Noire
Needless to say, I’m delighted Two Chefs and a Table are taking this approach. It’s rather silly to be pro-beer and anti-wine or vice versa. Allow the two to stand side-by-side and give people the opportunity to discover which they prefer. It could be one, it may be the other, perhaps both but for different reasons. There’s only one way to find out.
Two Chefs and a Table
305 Alexander Street, Vancouver
Tel: (778) 233-1303
Hours (subject to change): lunch M-F, 11:30am – 2:30pm; dinner W & Th, 5:30 – 10:00pm, F & Sa, 5:00 – 11:00pm, Su, 5:00 – 9:00pm; brunch Sa & Su, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Speaking of culinary tourism, Spinnakers hosted their inaugural cask festival on March 14 from noon to 5:00pm. As they’ve been tapping a different cask every weekday since December, it was only a matter of time before they would have a festival. I got word that the planning was underway when two of their employees attended the X-mas X-treme Caskival at Dix on December 6 to take notes.
The timing of Spinnakers’ cask festival was somewhat unfortunate in that it coincided with Just Here for the Beer’s Wine & Beer Festival at the Plaza 500 Hotel in Vancouver. Forced to make a choice, I selected Real Ale and an excuse to get out of town. Even with a high chance of rain, a day spent indoors imbibing cask-conditioned ale from some of BC’s top breweries, in the company of brewers and the craft beer cognoscenti, is time well spent.
The event was held upstairs in Spinnakers’ pub, which meant a limited number of tickets were available. Demand seems to have greatly exceeded supply as they sold out rapidly. Perhaps for the next one they will consider a larger venue. However, I doubt they will close off the downstairs dining room as I’m sure they make a lot more money from regular diners than drinkers.
Nineteen beers were featured, so there was adequate space to stage the casks around the room. The lineup was:
- BigRidge Wrath of Khan I.P.A
- Canoe Habit Espresso Stout
- Central City Empire IPA
- Dix Ol’ 66 IPA
- Driftwood Brother Bart’s Belgian Brown
- Fat Cat Bunny’s Black and Tan
- Granville Island Nut Brown Ale, Ginger Beer
- Lighthouse Riptide Pale Ale
- Longwood Old School ESB
- R&B Dark Star Oatmeal Stout
- Phillips IPA with Cascade or Centennial hops
- Spinnakers Black Velvet, Saison
- Storm Cider
- Swans Pod Porter
- Taylor’s Crossing Mad Scow Stout
- Whistler Brewhouse Bear Arse Barleywine
- Yaletown Mélange à Trois Oud Bruin
In comparison to the more freestyle nature seen at Dix Caskivals, these beers were fairly indicative of their respective styles. A little bit of experimentation was seen with Canoe’s stout, Granville Island’s Ginger Beer, Spinnakers’ Black Velvet, and Swans’ porter, but nothing as eccentric as Dave Varga’s Masala Pale Ale or Tariq Khan’s Chipotle Cream Ale that they brewed for Caskival. Canoe Habit Espresso Stout is a collaboration with a Victoria coffee roaster. I like both beverages; even better together! Granville Island Ginger Beer appeals to all those ginger lovers with plenty of Hawaiian ginger to spice things up — great food pairing beer. Spinnakers’ Black Velvet was a blend of Irish stout and sparkling white wine. This was my first taste of the fest and I found it tasty, light, and refreshing — somewhat reminiscent of Unibroue Chambly Noire. Swans Pod Porter was conditioned with organic Madagascar vanilla pods, giving it a nicely enhanced vanilla flavour that is a major contrast to Granville Island’s over-the-top, cloying Winter Ale. Lovers of the latter should compare the two in a side-by-side tasting.
Although Phillips did not bring a cask, they did do something out of the ordinary that I found most welcome, despite some people’s grumblings — they served their draught IPA through two randalls, one containing Cascade hops, the other Centennial. Basically, they were dry-hopping the IPA even more on the fly. Delicious!
This was the first opportunity I had to try the mysterious Lighthouse Riptide Pale Ale. It’s their first new beer in three years and I must say that it’s about time! Offering seasonal beers is a basic practice for improving marketing: at the very least, you have more to say to the public to get their attention. Naturally, I was curious to find out more about the Riptide — how is it different from all the other pale ales out there; what malt or hops did they use, etc. Unfortunately, they won’t tell me anything beyond their generic marketese: ‘choicest imported malts, mated with a unique hop blend…’ Doesn’t everyone say that? Actually, no. If you look at the festival programme, virtually all of the other brewers talk about the specific ingredients they used for their beer. No big trade secret. Without specific measurements and knowing the particular brewing techniques, it is highly unlikely a brewer will be able to exactly match another’s beer. There are too many variables. I find the secrecy rather silly. Riptide doesn’t have a je ne sais quoi that makes it truly unique. It’s just another pale ale aiming for broad drinkability.
Five hours of drinking means that you need to have something to eat. Spinnakers is a good place to be hungry. I ordered their pulled pork nachos and Highland Beef Burger. There was no need for dinner after! Nevertheless, as a lagniappe, complimentary handmade white chocolate saison truffles were served to sweeten the day’s experience.
I always find these festivals come to a reluctant end. There’s never enough time to talk in a lot of detail to all of the brewers and your craft beer comrades and still be able to taste all of the beers. Fortunately, if you wanted to stay around, Spinnakers honoured purchased tasting tickets and you could order pints of any of the remaining casks. I had a ferry to catch, so I made a hasty departure with my travelling companions, Spinnakers Barley Wine and India Pale Ale malt vinegars for souvenirs.
When it comes to beer, most Asian restaurants typically offer little but lager because that is the dominant, if not only, style of beer brewed in their respective countries. For the lager loather, they may have Guinness, but that doesn’t mean it actually pairs well with any items on their menu. This is a shame because there are a number of beer styles that go very well with different Asian dishes. For example, every Indian restaurant should have an India Pale Ale (Alexander Keith’s not being an IPA), not only because the style was created for India but because it also happens to go well with many spicy Indian dishes.
A Vancouver restaurant is changing this stereotype. I hosted beer-tasting dinners on April 27 and November 8 at Saté Satu, an Indonesian restaurant in Cambie Village, to highlight pairing Asian food with ales (more photos on Picasa) . The menu was as follows:
- Gado Gado with Blanche de Chambly
- Coconut Prawn & sambal mayonnaise with Saison Dupont
- Lamb Sate/Loin with Fernie First Trax Brown Ale
- Beef Rendang with R & B Hop Goblin’ IPA
- Pisang Gulung Manis (deep-fried banana) with Aventinus Weizen Eisbock
Salads pair well with wheat beers. In this case, I chose a Belgian wit to go with the Gado Gado. Wheat beers also pair well with seafood. But to change things up a bit and showcase another style of beer, I chose to match the prawn with a saison, a very versatile and palate-cleansing food beer.
Darker beers typically pair well with dark meats. The trick is to discover which style. Depending on how it is prepared, lamb can have a strong flavour. In this case, the spices it is marinated in cut down on the gaminess, while grilling brings out some sweetness from caramelization. Therefore, I chose a brown ale that complements this, but won’t overwhelm the taste of the food with heavy body and full flavour.
One might be tempted to pair the beef rendang with a porter or stout. However, this one was spicy. If you aren’t able to handle a lot of chili heat, either of these styles will be completely inadequate to stand up to the spiciness. Therefore, I chose an India pale ale to dampen the heat. If you can find one, even better would be an India brown ale. The hop bitterness would counteract the chilis on the one hand, while the malt sweetness would be a better match for the beef.
How much spiciness you can handle in your food actually makes a difference as to what style of beer will pair best with your food. The less heat you can handle, the bigger a beer you need; the converse is also true.
Finally, the deep-fried banana has some options, depending on how it is presented. If there is any chocolate sauce, a chocolate or roasty imperial stout would work. In this case, however, it was plated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and fruit. Consequently, I chose a wheat Eisbock because the caramel of the beer goes well with the carmelized batter of the banana. Also, the banana esters from the wheat beer yeast complement the dessert perfectly.
The owners of Saté Satu were very pleased with the outcome of the dinners, not only because their customers were satisfied with the experience but it gives them an opportunity to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Consequently, they modified their beer selection to include the ones above.
My next beer pairing dinner will be on November 19 at the House of Dosas (1391 Kingsway, Vancouver) with dishes from Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.