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Barkeep, Another Course – The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook

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Longtime readers of this site along with anyone who has known me for like, five minutes knows that one of my most enjoyable activities is cooking. Additionally, finding ways to cook with beer is another interest of mine, although I should say that beyond an excellent cake recipe, a weiss pizza crust, BBQ sauce, and a lovely sauce for some sausages, I’ve been left stumped.

Although there have been recipes and even books that involve incorporating beer in to the dish, I’ll be honest, guys…it’s easy to get cynical when I hear about someone releasing a beer cookbook. Normally it means that the recipes have beer thrown in with very little thought, the beers suggested are very specific ones which makes the book redundant in six months to a year from publishing date, the author’s tone suggests that (bless their heart) they don’t know a damn thing about beer, or, if it’s REALLY bad, a combination of all three of those things. We’ve all bought cookbooks before, or visited a recipe blog and were disappointed. We’ve all been hurt before.

But The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is none of those things. For five years David Ort has been a food and drink writer on his blog, Food With Legs, and throughout that time he has been creating recipes, attending events, and doing research. This book, the product of many long hours of tweaking, testing, researching, and redoing for the self-taught cook, shows the careful effort that was put in to it.

The first thing that sticks out about each recipe is the accompanying beer recommendation. Although not every recipe is actually made with beer, every recipe does have a suggested pairing in order of style, specific Canadian beer, and sometimes a specific international beer. This not only gives you an ideal pairing for the meal, but, when referring to the specific style, ensures that I can still pick this book up after ten years and make something from it.

Another thing that sticks out for me is something that many would probably be surprised to learn – it’s not all pub food. While there are recipes for onion rings, Currywurst and Steak & Ale Pie, there are also recipes for Soba Salad, Fondue, and Rogan Josh as well as recipes for condiments such as IPA Mustard, homemade vinegar, and Hop infused Salt. The recipes I’ve been reading so far seem to range from “simple” to “a little more difficult but still simple” and the variety of foods ensures that one won’t be reaching for this book just for a main dish.

It’s also enflaming an adventurous, experimental spirit in me cooking-wise, I have to admit. I don’t even have my physical copy yet (I was graciously given a pdf to help me with this review) and as I type this I have some mustard seeds sitting in a jar of IPA where, for the first time, I’m going to be making my own mustard (though due to availability, I had to change the suggested beer of Amsterdam’s Boneshaker to Muskoka’s Mad Tom). Hop salt and Edamame will soon be following in the next couple of days.

To top it all off, its introduction section provides a very thorough history and guide to Craft Beer and the book is scattered with profiles of some of Canada’s Beer trailblazers. Ort’s thought process in forming the recipes is also brought out in an understandable way, helping the reader learn more about what it’s like cooking with the beverage from a  practical viewpoint.

In summary…buy this freakin’ book. There are others out there, but this one is the one I’m excited about because it is just so solid and ridiculously good. Simple recipes for big dishes that get you to think more about the individual ingredients as well as the incredible versatility of beer. Aside from what is already turning out for me as a book that I find myself going through for the next culinary adventure, it is also very obviously a love letter to good food, good beer and the country that provides both of those things.

David Ort’s Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is available RIGHT NOW in Canada and the US both online and in stores, with plans to move things more across the pond to be available internationally.

For more info, check out the book’s page at beercookbook.ca

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You didn’t think I was going to write about a beer cookbook and not provide at least one recipe from it, did you? Honestly, and you call yourselves my readers…

When I visited David at his apartment a couple of days ago he made me a couple of dishes from the book. One in particular, an amazing fondue sauce, got devoured quickly. Tangy, sharp, smooth, slight burn (both literally from the temperature as well as from the little bit of brandy and mustard) and…argh. Just go and make it. Absolutely delicious.

FONDUE SAUCE

recommended beer Bière de garde
Barrel-Aged Bière de Garde, Bellwoods Brewery (Ontario)
Bière de Beloeil, Brasserie Dupont
(Belgium)
serves 4–6
preparation time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 15 minutes

7½ oz (230 g) shredded Gruyère
(about 2 cups/500 mL)
4 oz (125 g) shredded aged cheddar
(about 1 cup/250 mL)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup (250 mL) bière de garde
1 Tbsp (15 mL) whole-grain mustard
1 Tbsp (15 mL) cider vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL) brandy
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the two cheeses and cornstarch together in a medium mixing bowl. Set a fondue pot over medium heat and add the garlic cloves  and beer. When the beer barely simmers, add the cheese, a handful at a time, and stir to melt before adding the next handful. When the cheese sauce is smooth and creamy, add the mustard, vinegar and brandy. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. For dipping, move the fondue pot to its tabletop setup and serve with bread cubes, potatoes, sausages and pickles.

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Filed under Cooking With Beer, Learning, people I know

Judging a Beer By Its Label (part 1 of 2)

It’s a very risky game.  Sometimes it pays off brilliantly, other times…you end up spitting out the beer and pouring it down the sink.  But picking a beer just by the label design alone can be a really fun way to discover new types of beers and learn more about your own personal tastes.  Plus every time you buy a beer based on its design, a graphic designer gets its wings.  Or something like that.

There are too many beers to list on which ones have been a success, a failure and a surprise, so I’ll just list a few highlights. This entry is going to be separated in to two parts.  The first one the good beers with good designs and the second being on the bad beers with good designs as well as the surprises I’ve had.

GOOD DESIGN, GOOD BEER

Hobgoblin Ale – It’s been mentioned here plenty of times before and I SWEAR this will be the last time I mention this beer from Wychwood Brewery for a while, but it’s important! This was the first beer I felt that I HAD to buy on the design alone and not look at any of the details that point out alcohol content or taste notes.  I believe it was 2004 or so and at the time I was really in to fantasy novels.  While “preparing” for a weekend trip to the cottage with a few friends I came across this beer and found myself really impressed with the design of both the label and the bottle.  At the time, I hadn’t seen any designs that went beyond a crappy logo and standard beer bottle (or even a “stubby” which was a rare treat at the Beer Store).  And as you all know, this beer my stand-by drink to this day.  Hell, I had one on tap (the beer has an AWESOME custom tap by the way) just last week and it hasn’t lost anything in taste for me.

Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA – I found this beauty about a year ago when I made a trip to the Amsterdam Brewery here in Toronto and the label just blew me away.  But then again, I love William Cheselden’s Osteographia, so whatever.  The colour scheme, smooth bottle design and yes, the choice of typeface all contributed in making me wonder what this beer was all about.  I picked up three bottles on the spot.  Turns out, it’s a DAMN good IPA.  So hopped up that you can actually taste a kind of earthiness and so bitter that it is still the only beer that can make my throat go dry.  And as you folks out there who either read this blog or know me in person know, that’s just the kind of bitterness I like.

This brew very recently (about two months ago) went on tap and has been a pretty good success.  In fact, it was hearing about one of the few bars that carried this that led me to find the Town Crier/Halfway Beer House, which is now my favorite pub in all the city (more on that place in a later post).

Arrogant Bastard Ale – I like this design because it matches perfectly with the reputation that the folks at Stone Brewing Co. wants it to have.  It’s aggressive, it’s mean, it will spot a weakness in you and exploit it to the point where you leave the room crying.  Even by tasting the beer, with it’s strong punch of hops, one can tell that this is a beer for Tough People and I think the design puts forth that image incredibly well.

But aside from the design, what REALLY won me over was the copywriting on the bottle.  Here’s how it reads:  “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory–maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.  

DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO DRINK THAT?

Coney Island Lager – The label is in more detail at the head of this post.  This I think was one of the first craft brews I picked up when I went to New York City and actually had an appreciation for beer.  The label alone was enough to make me wonder what the hell this drink was about because, quite frankly, a pants-shittingly terrifying Carny on the label (which also reminds me of the good ‘ol fashioned Carnival signs back in the day when people didn’t think stuff like that looked terrifying at all) is enough to make me laugh and pick up the bottle.  It could taste like brown sugar in water, I don’t care.  You have to try it and you’d be half-tempted to keep the bottle as a souvenir. The same goes for most of the labels put out by Shmaltz Brewing Company.

But as it turns out, it was a pretty damn refreshing drink.  Very nice malt and earth flavours with an very nice aroma that just worked.  I definitely wouldn’t say no to this brew on a hot summer day.

So that’s it for this post.  Toon in soon for part 2 where I discuss the good designs with bad tasting beer as well as the surprises I had.  I might throw in a third post, but we’ll see.

But hey, I can personally taste and try so many beers, so if you have any DAMN good brews with some equally DAMN good designs on the labels (or heck, if you just want to suggest a brew to me) e-mail me at robin@therobinleBlanc.com! Or, you know, COMMENT.  Because that’s even easier.

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