The other night I had the luxury of attending a “rare beer” tasting. Now, it’s worth pointing out that ‘rare’ is perhaps a relative term. Beers routinely found at supermarkets in most of the Cascadia States could easily find themselves wearing such a moniker in BC, at least until we as an industry get more SKUs on the shelves. I think we did pretty damn good despite this and we produced a collection of beers from several countries, encompassing a wide range of styles. The vast majority of these beers are not currently available in BC. Whatever you want to call it, or wherever you may live, this was a collection of great beers.
We started off with Wits and Saisons, and Matthew and Aron from Kits Wine Cellar even snuck a Champagne from Diebolt Vallois and an interesting blend of white grapes from Sutor Wine Farm, in the Vipava Valley, Slovenia. The Sutor wine was made with Malvasia, and Welsh Riesling grapes, neither of which I’m familiar with and is imported by www.farmsteadwines.com whom I highly recommend for both their farm focused approach and their diverse and interesting portfolio.
The first beer of note was in fact the first beer we opened, Fantome Saison Printemps, brought by none other than Canada’s First Certified Cicerone, Chester Carey. Saison Printemps was a close-to-traditional Saison except for what seemed, and is reputed to be, generous spice additions. A very interesting, and hard to find, starter.
Two Jokers, a very strong wit style beer was up next (or shortly thereafter, I think). This was pretty popular in the room, and had a character that one might expect from a doubly strong witbier. Food wise I think this might pair well with some BBQ, and bigger summery flavors. It is a little strong for some of the more traditional witbier pairings like shellfish and seafood. But spiced or curried mussels might be a great fit too.
Of course we had a little bit of food on hand to pair with and it made some of the beers much better, and vice versa. We had a sirloin tip, marinated and grilled that paired very well with Avery’s “Brabant”. This is a barrel-aged wild ale, approximating a dark but not roasty barley wine with smoothness and very light acidity.
Gauging by ‘ooh’s and ahhh’s’, the pairing of the night was likely the braised Pork Belly which was stuffed with apricots, quickly sauteed with a light breading, and served with Cantillon Fou’ Foune – an Apricot Lambic from one of Belgium’s greatest Lambic producers. The pork is fatty in the best imaginable way, and the Cantillon is bitingly dry with incredible if not a little bit intense acidity. On their own, both were great, but the pairing was sublime. Acidity and fat play perfectly off one another and the apricot notes, more sweet and unctuous in the pork and more earthy and aromatic in the lambic, are just wildly complex together. I would eat this for breakfast. Then for lunch, and, well…
We had a few other lambics on hand including the ‘Cuvee Rene’ Gueuze, and a Saison/Lambic blend called ‘Duchessic’ from Birra Del Borgo in Italy. I won’t go through every other beer in detail, but we also had Rippon Pinot (wine, of course) which was fantastic, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project’s ‘BabaYaga’, and ‘Seven’ a strong Saison from Upright Brewing in Portland. Saison Dupont, Hitachino’s Weizen, Gouden Carolus’ ‘Easter Beer’, Deschutes Abyss, and Boulevard’s ‘Sixth Glass’.
Lost Abbey’s ‘Angel Share was there too – taken from Lost Abbey’s site:
This striking Strong Ale is brewed with copious amounts of Caramel malt to emphasize the vanilla and oak flavors found in freshly emptied bourbon or brandy barrels. The beer spends a year in oak before it is packaged for release. The beer is 12.5% ABV and is available in 375ml and 750ml bottles and on draft at inspired locations.’
This was one of the stand-outs for me, and it isn’t currently available in BC, and relatively hard to find elsewhere.
Please excuse the rather jumbled collection of thoughts and beer notes in this post. I hope it shows that there are so many great beers out there and that we have but a small fraction of them in BC. All in all, this was a pretty awesome time for a beer nerd. I would not mind doing this every Friday, though my waistline and bank account might not agree.
You really should try something like this yourself when possible. If you don’t have a bunch of industry friends or generous travellers that can provide ‘unavailable’ beer just go to Brewery Creek, or Firefly, and pick up a bunch of what IS available and try your hand at some food pairings. It will be just as much fun.