Tag Archives: black oak brewery

Ü Two Should Meet – Chocolate & Beer Pairings

It was my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary recently. As a celebration, a family friend sent over a box of chocolates that were, to put it mildly, a decadent experience that transported us all to Cloud 9. Rich, smooth, creamy, and bursting with flavour, we vowed never to get celebration chocolates from the grocery store again. The chocolates were made by Ü Chocolate for the World a local business run by Mother & Son team Lydia and Andy Yue. Lydia, a longtime veteran chocolate maker, originally rose to confectionary stardom with her business Chocolateur, which had two storefronts in London, Ontario’s Masonville Place and Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Now, after an absence of more than twenty years, Lydia has returned and making confectionaries with high quality ingredients and incredibly rich and creamy swiss chocolate.

If you’re in Toronto, Ü Chocolate for the World has a temporary storefront at Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West) for the 13th and 14th only. If you miss those dates or live elsewhere in North America, you’re in luck! They’re primarily an online shop, and can provide boxes of their wonderful truffles, chocolate coated fruits, and custom gift novelties.

So anyways…after being sent to heaven with these chocolates, I thought that it was about time I did a post on chocolate and beer pairing. And what better way to level the quality playing field than by pairing excellent beers with excellent chocolates? After all, a bar of generic, waxy, milk chocolate bought in a grocery store is going to provide a different experience than a well-crafted chocolate made with quality ingredients. It pays to have good quality on both sides of the pairing to get the best overall experience.

So chocolate primarily seems to go well with the darker beers such as stouts, porters and brown ales, with the occasional nod going to Barley Wines or a nice Pilsner. But like all pairings, it all depends on your personal preference to taste as well as the quality of what you’re pairing.

Now, for the selection of some of these, I went with what seemed to me like a fairly logical pairing based on what I knew about the beers. Sometimes they worked out, sometimes they didn’t and I had to figure out something else. As a result, I not only went with a dark and milk chocolate truffle pairing, but also went for two of the flavoured ones as well (I mean hey, you get a box of chocolates and it’s not just straight up milk and dark, right?). I have to say in, ahem, researching for this post, I was quite surprised by the tastes that went with the beers selected.

So here we go.

Dark Chocolate – Mort Subite Kriek Sour Cherry Lambic

Mort Subite Kriek is usually a beer I break out when I learn that a person doesn’t drink beer because of the bitter taste. It’s a good introduction to the versatility of beer and is a lovely occasional treat to pick up at the LCBO. While this particular one, brewed in Belgium’s Brouwerij Mort Subite, is made with cherries, the brewery does have a Raspberry variation as well. I find that one a bit too sweet though, and appreciate the wonderful sour cherries used in the Kriek.

I always love matching rich, bitter, dark chocolate with the taste of cherries and the choice of pairing the dark chocolate truffle with the cherry lambic was a wise one. The tartness was brought out more with the chocolate and provided a breif, wonderful explosion of cherry and cocoa, almost as if I was eating a cherry flavoured truffle. As the flavours died down, the sour notes of the lambic continued to swirl around my tongue while the chocolate provided and nice, creamy finish.

Mango – Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue Cap) Dark Belgian Ale

Admittedly this one threw me for a bit of a loop. The Mango certainley wasn’t my first choice for the pairing, but as an experiment I decided to try it out and…well, it worked. Marvelously in fact. Definitely helps that the chocolate was of extremely high quality, with the Mango flavours less overt and medicinal and more natural and subtle. The dried fruit and malty notes of the Chimay blended nicely with the subtle Mango note at the back. The alcohol burn I normally find in this Dark Belgian ale was all but diminished, making for a creamy, slightly dessert-like experience.

Milk Chocolate – Black Oak Nut Brown Ale

Again, I had a bit of a trial and error with this one. Unfortunately, dark chocolates paired with this beer just didn’t do either of them justice. But there was the Milk Chocolate truffle and I thought “Why not? Two longtime, solid favourites coming together. Let’s see how it goes.” and sure enough, it went well. The sweet creaminess of the milk chocolate matched the dark, slightly bitter malty notes and distinctive hop characteristics perfectly.

Irish Cream – Wellington Russian Imperial Stout

You can’t go wrong with Irish Cream Coffee, and the Wellington Russian Imperial Stout, with it’s strong cocoa and coffee flavours, was the perfect pairing for the milk chocolate Irish Cream chocolate and made for a wonderful final pairing on par with a nice cup of coffee with dessert.

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Session Toronto 2013

 

Well now. Session.

This past Saturday was the Session Craft Beer Festival, which is more or less an after party to the Ontario Craft Beer Week festivities. Last year featured some of the best and brightest breweries from all over Ontario showcasing special one-offs and this year was no different. The festival included a wonderful selection including beers for consideration in the in-fest competition Collaboration Nation, where breweries teamed up with Ontario celebrities like the badass TV personality Ed the Sock, Well-known horse masturbator Tom Green, Canadian Singer-Songwriter City & Colour and Toronto Star Beer Columnist Josh Rubin for a chance of their beer being picked up by a handful of LCBO stores.

This year’s event was packed. More than a thousand arrived for the event at Wychwood Barns and the event was shoulder to shoulder. Amazing for the organizers and for anyone looking for a sign that craft beer is only going to get bigger.

My one big suggestion to the organizers for next year (and one that they are very well aware of by now, I’d wager) would be to find a bigger place so folks can spread out a bit better and even separate if there are individual things going on. Beer Writer and Prud’homme Beer Sommelier Crystal Luxmore, who I deeply admire and look up to for her insightful view on the drink we love, led a tasting with hot dogs and a selection of beers. Although the talk was wonderful, I feel it would have been better in an area with better acoustics. Equally so with Black Oak Brewery’s Sonja North and Erica Campbell’s talk on IPAs. In the end I got the sense that, with two stages for live music/talks, food trucks galore, a volleyball court and incredible beer, the organizers planned big but, to be on the safe side, chose a space that was too small.

Don’t get me wrong though, of all the problems that a festival can get, “too crowded” is a really good one to have. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of beer lovers for this event and seeing the overwhelming love for quality beer was incredible. In the crowds I managed to strike up conversations with some fantastic people (including an adorable couple that met during Ontario Craft Beer Week) and got a good insight in to the general public’s way of looking at beer. Session is a festival that keeps showing the rise of the Beer Geek in popular culture and I love the hell out of it.

Although the winner of the Collaboration Nation competition was The Tom Green Beer, a milk stout by Beau’s All Natural Brewing and Tom Green, I had many highlights, including  “Allison Brier”, a Raspberry Saision by Sawdust City Brewing and Edge 102’s Fearless Fred, “Lion Grass”, an earthy beer made with lemongrass and Dandelion leaves by Highlander Brew Co. and Durham Tourism Manager Kerri King and “Red on Red”, a stunning Imperial Red Ale by Flying Monkeys and Central City Brewing.

It was a fun, inspiring, and above all an optimistic day.

…there was also a scary clown.

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Cask Days 2012

Have to say, that was one enjoyable Cask Days.

Some quirks were expected, as the festival moved from the smaller Hart House to the bigger and better Evergreen Brick Works and added on an extra third session. The biggest problem was that nearly half of the 100 or so casks went empty at the third and final session, but the festival made up for it by bringing in new casks and offering $10 in cash or beer tokens to people attending.

I wasn’t around for that one, though. I went to the first session which went as smoothly as possible. The Brick Works offered amazing shelter from the rain, the delicious food was ready to go (the cured meat plate was my saviour), all the beers advertised were available (though some went quicker than others because of word of mouth) and I ended up having a lot of fun by trying new and weird beers, talking to brewers and other beer writers (some of which I’ve previously only spoken with on twitter) and chatting with strangers by comparing notes, making suggestions and in one case singing along with them to Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. Definitely a different experience from my time last year and I think, tiny tweaks to be made aside, BarVolo, the organizers of Cask Days, have matched the festival with the expectations and growing popularity of craft beer.

And now on to some of the highlight beers from the 25 or so that I sampled…

FAVOURITES:

Flying Monkeys Mark Henry Sexual Chocolate Triple Take Down Stout – Yes, that’s what they called it. This was quite a dangerous drink, as it tasted like the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had and at about 12% ABV…damn. Amazing.

R&B Brewing Cucumber & Mint American IPA – An incredibly refreshing IPA that I hope becomes available in the summer. The Cucumber offered a really nice crispness to the drink while the mint, though subtle, added a nice bite. And of course the hoppiness brought it all together.

Amsterdam Brewing Full City Tempest – Imperial Russian Stout with coffee. “Have you tried the Tempest yet? Do it now.” was pretty much all I heard for my first ten minutes at Cask Days from the brewers I ran in to and I’m glad I took their advice. Went down very smoothly and the coffee was a powerful and amazing presence.

Black Oak Call of Brewty Black Chipotle Schwarzbier – This…I really enjoyed it. This was the first beer I had that cleared my sinuses, burned away anything hanging around in my throat and warmed me up for the rest of the day. I went back to the cask for seconds. To give an idea of how much chipotle was in it, I’m pulling this from Alan Brown, the brewer of this beer’s, web site:

I brought a small container of perhaps 125 mL of pulverized smoked chipotle, courtesy of Chef Michael Olson of Niagara College. The question was, how much chipotle to add to 40 litres of schwarzbier? The assistant brewmaster looked at the container of chipotle, then at me, then at the container.

“Add it all,” he suggested.

“All?” I gulped.

“Sure.”

So I added it all.

Amazing. Hope to see something like that again very soon.

THE NOT-SO-FAVOURITES:

Microbrasserie Charlevoix “Chicory” Strong Porter – Just missed the mark for me. The chicory flavours was pretty minimal and the whole thing tasted rather thin.

Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater Milk Stout – A bit too thin for me (I like my stouts as thick as sludge) and WAY too sweet.

F&M Wurst Idea Ever – Sour Ale brewed with Brussel Sprouts and Smoked Meat. I know it sounds weird, but I thought the use of those two ingredients was fun. But as much as I hate sounding like a judge for Iron Chef, I felt that the beer didn’t celebrate the two ingredients, especially the brussel sprouts, well. In the end it smelled horribly and left a really bad taste in my mouth. I ended up dumping it.

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What a Night: Cask Days 2011

I’m still recovering from the lovely night that was Cask Days, the beer event with over 50 beers from around the country to sample. It was also my first ever large scale beer event.

It was a LOT of fun and showed that the event, which originally started in the patio of Toronto’s Bar Volo, can attract plenty of folks.  People dressed up (two guys even dressed up as hop flowers!), some decent music was playing and the beers were just…WOW.  Before I go in to my pros and cons I have to name off two of my favorite beers from the night.  Amsterdam’s “Wee Heavy with Heather Tips” (sweet and comfortable) and Black Oak’s “Black Betty” Dark IPA (the aroma alone is worth getting this beer, but all in all a phenomonal drink).

So I’m going to do two things here.  First I’ll be going through some notable pros and cons of my experience at the event and then I’m going to go more general and give off some tips I learned at this event and will remember for other events.

PROS:

– Talking with the man from Niagara College’s recently formed brewing school (only brewing school in Canada), finding out the beer they make is VERY tasty and learning that they’d be up for me to pop by for a visit at some point!

– Getting a special pint glass and having that be what’s used for samples

– Learning about the Pink Boots Society, a group of females in the brewing industry who are setting out to encourage other females to join in on the fun.

– Bacon beer by Du de Ciel.  Never thought I’d get to try something like that. Bacon beer!  Jeez!  Was quite smoky and actually tasted like bacon.  And to later be told by more than one person that a better one exists in my area…wow.

– Talking with other people.  Making suggestions, discussing what we’re drinking and what got us in to craft beer…that was definitely a lot of fun.

– Being inside Hart House and feeling like I was at Hogwarts.

– The names! One of the things I love about one-off beers is the really fun names.  My favorite one was “There is No Dana, Only Zuur Sour Ale”.  As a Ghostbusters fan it made me cry with joy.

CONS:

– Music got WAY too loud.  It became difficult to talk to people over it.

– Hart House, while a great place for the event, just didn’t have the lights for it.  I would have liked there to have been lights in the sitting areas.

– Hipsters were everywhere, but that’s hardly anyone’s fault.

– Not enough representation from other provinces.  Ontario covered half the area, Quebec got a small table and the other provinces combined got one table.  While there was a lot of amazing stuff from the Ontario breweries, and I understand that Ontario laws are silly so they couldn’t get many out-of-province beers, I just would have liked to have seen more brews from other provinces.

– Accidentally sitting on broken glass in the bathroom.  Ouch.

– Walking through the maze that is the University of Toronto campus.

These cons are small at best and aren’t really the fault of the organizers.  And at the end of the day I’m there for the beer and it was fantabulous.  I’ll definitely be attending future events.

And that’s pretty much what my experience was.  And now THE TIPS.  Lessons learned from my first large scale beer event.

1. You don’t need to drink all the beers.  Cask Days had over 50 beers available, so it was pretty easy to feel overwhelmed and the excitement of it all made me feel like a kid in a candy store.  Next time, I’ll have a lot less and be content with that.

2. Eat something.  With all that alcohol around, you’ll need something to eat and the chances that those events will be serving food is really good.  Even if it’s something small, just make sure you’re having something to soak all that booze up (I had a veggie burger which hit the spot).

3. Bring a friend.  While I had a great time there and ended up chatting with some people, I really can’t shake the feeling that the event would have been better for me if I brought along a beer-loving friend.

4. Be safe.  In the good chance that things get a bit hairy and you’re not as sober as you’d like to be, make sure that you have a way of getting home that doesn’t involve a lot of falling down.  Do constant checks of your things to see if you still have them.

So pretty basic tips, I’ll grant you, but that’s why they’re so effective.

So in summary, I had a lot of fun and am really looking forward to going to more beer events!

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