How I Met Craft Beer – Matt

People sometimes ask if I’ve always been into craft beer, even when I first started drinking beer in university, circa 2001. The simple answer to that question is not at all. Back then, I strictly drank what was cheap and plentiful. Growing up in the Maritimes, I drank a lot of Alpine, Moosehead, and Keith’s. They were cheap, readily available, and most importantly, they got me drunk, which at 20 years old, was the obvious goal.

So what changed? I found my gateway beer! The brew that made me realize that there was more to beer then what the big companies were offering. Unsurprisingly, it happened by accident!

A friend and I got into the habit of popping into our local brewpub, The Pumphouse, to watch the hockey game, eat some delicious food, and drink pitchers of beer. Although they had a variety of brews to choose from, we always chose what we considered to be their “safest” beer – the one we felt was the closest to what we were used to.

One night, we sat down and ordered our usual pitcher of beer along with a couple of appetizers. A few minutes later, the waitress returned to our table with a sheepish look and a pitcher of dark brown liquid we didn’t recognize. She explained that she had accidently punched in the wrong beer. Instead of our usual she had brought us Pumphouse’s Special Old Bitter and that if we took it she would give it to us at 50% off. While we were hesitant about the beer, this was a bargain! So we accepted the offer.

We were suspicious since this was a dark beer and, after all, dark beer is what old men drank in the movies. However, at this point we had the beer, so we decided to give it a try… and it was delicious! I still remember how it tasted – sweeter then I would have expected with a kick of bitterness. It was surprisingly light and refreshing and went really well with the spicy fried pepperoni I was eating. I liked it so much that I ordered another pint of it after we finished the pitcher.

This started the ball rolling for me. Although I would still slam back my macros on weekends, during the week I eventually started venturing off the beaten path and became acquainted with Picaroons, Propeller, and Garrison, some other really great east coast breweries. I started expanding my horizons in regards to beer, and I haven’t stopped since.

Even today, with the craft beer industry booming, I still have a soft spot for that gateway beer I accidently received.

What was your Gateway Beer?  Let’s keep the conversation alive. Tweet me @mvp1331

Cheers,

A Potluck Dinner with Friends

The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook
The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is Available at All Major Bookstores

Beer and food. A good pairing can make a whole day better. A bad pairing can leave a person wondering which was worse the beer or the dish.

Being beer lovers and food lovers we decided to put David Ort’s The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook to the test. The recipes all come with beer pairings and many have beer in the recipe themselves.

Each attendee chose a dish that suited their cooking skill level, budget and available prep time.

Our starters were Edamame and Spiced Nuts.

Matt made the edamame and found them super easy to make. The recipe was easy to follow and fairly straight forward. The end result were a batch of very tasty soy beans that were eaten quickly.

The dish is a strong starter and you can play around with various flavours to personalize it.

The spiced nuts were quite tasty as well though Brian didn’t find the process as easy. The recipe seemed to miss a key step (when to add the spices to the nuts) and he went with his gut.

Bake time seemed a little long as per the recipe but that can vary due to different ovens. His advice is to watch them. The recipe stated that the nuts should slide off the parchment when cooked and unfortunately that was not the case. With a little bit of elbow grease he was able to get the roasted nuts off of the pan and into a container.

When put out for consumption it took a knife to get them apart. In the end, though they took a bit of work to get apart to eat the result was worth it.

It’s important to note that Brian upped the spice mix right off the bat adding more smokiness with spice paprika and cumin.

Brian said he would make them again with a few tweaks; lower baking temperature, less sugar and more beer. You can never go wrong with more beer.

Our side dishes consisted of the risotto and potato salad.

Matt took on the task of the risotto. Overall the dish was a good one. It came out like the recipe stated though unlike the picture his was purple from the cabbage. No one minded as colour had nothing to do with taste.

To personalize this easy recipe it would be a cinch to up the spice profile for more flavour and experiment with various beers.

I made the potato salad. I opted not to make the beer vinegar. Following the recipe this potato salad came out extremely tasty with a great balance of flavours. The grainy mustard vinaigrette was very nice but next time I will use beer in the dressing.

The most disappointing thing about the potato salad is there was no beer at all in the recipe. By opting not to make the beer vinegar I lacked any presence of beer in my dish. It paired great with the beers suggested but I missed the beer in the recipe itself.

For our mains we had two dishes; fried chicken and moules frites.

Katy took on the chicken. She prepped and brined the bird pieces as the recipe stated. Arriving to the potluck she mixed the batter and prepared to fry her chicken. Tasting the batter before coating the bird it became apparent that the salt content of the recipe was quite high.

She followed the recipe except for a minor change. Rather than frying the chicken in a pot on the stove we used a deep fryer. Oil was brought to temp, chicken dried of its brine, coated and dropped in. As we watched the batter began to stick to the basket and when the chicken was done the batter had come off the bottom of pieces.

Overall the chicken was good if not a bit salty. The steps required for fried chicken can seem long and daunting and this recipe is no exception. The batter falling off was disappointing.

The group decision was due to the salt content and time investment it was not a recipe that would be repeated.

Unfortunately the moules frites suffered a similar decision. Chuck purchased fresh mussels the morning of the potluck. Potatoes were parboiled and everything went onto the grill.

First thing to note about the recipe is there is no beer at all. None. There is a suggested pairing but the recipe has no beer in it. Mussels without beer seems a waste.

Second issue was the idea of balancing the mussels on the potatoes on the grill. That idea was abandoned immediately and a grill basket was used to hold the mussels while they smoked.

Sure the smoke add a bit of flavour but really mussels take so little time to cook that they didn’t absorb enough to make up for the lack of other flavours or spices. The potatoes were good but the star of the dish should have been the mussels.

The only way this recipe gets repeated is if it is modified to add beer to enhance the mussels.

Finally for dessert Sasha took on the brownies.

She changed the beer for the sauce to Beau’s Channel Ocho, adding a nice spice kick. Over all the brownies were dense and a bit dry, the sauce not absorbing as well as one would have hoped. Sasha said that could be easily fixed by poking holes in the brownies before the sauce is poured and thereby allowing it to soak in.

The brownies would be worth a second try with a few tweaks to the recipe.

The final verdict on the cookbook is that the recipes offer good solid beer pairings, great foundation recipes but like most cookbooks adding your own personal touches seems to way to go.

We would have liked to have seen more beers incorporated into all the recipes not just pairings. When someone hears a craft beer cookbook they assume that beer is an ingredient in every dish.

Worth the buy? Yes, if you want to experiment with some nice dishes and learn what sorts of beers pair well with certain foods.

Already good with cooking with beer? Perhaps this book isn’t meant for you but even still if you have it or get it as a gift go through the recipes and make them your own. They offer you a strong starting point and good ideas.

The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook
By: David Ort