Another cold night in Victoria was warmed over with the company of great beers and great friends. I have always wanted to try Westvleteren 12; so it was decided that a party should be build around this great Trappist ale. But you cannot have just one great Trappist ale, so I ordered a few bottles of Rochefort 10. Then I got to thinking: without great food there can be no Epic Beer Dinner. What greater challenge is there than finding great food pairings for great local craft brews. It has been done before.
Dates were set and emails flew. Several amateur Victoria chefs volunteered to prepare meals. The venue was perfect. Thank you Rod Phillips of Liquor Plus for allowing us the use of the beautiful tasting room at the Douglas Street location. It was truly a great canvas for the homegrown culinary creations we were about to create. Now, on to the food and beer..
The first featured beer was Spinnakers Kolsch style ale. This is truly a great delicate beverage and even better it is a fundraiser for the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. I like this beer and look forward to it every year. The light grains and faint spicy hops combined with a tart citrus hop snap which gave ideas for a perfect pairing. Sandwich chef Geoff prepared a Spinnakers focaccia bread sandwich with triple cream goat brie, green apples, tzatziki and onions caramelized in Storm's 13 year old blackcurrant lambic. The apple flavours of each item blended well and the fatty brie enhanced this delicate beers flavours. Thanks Geoff
The next course featured the ESB from Swan's/Buckerfields - thanks Andrew. This is a great brew in the English bitter style; ample caramel and nutty malts with floral/herbal hops. English bitters are the easiest beers to pair because they go with anything. Perhaps, the best options are all things roasted; such as grilled veggies. In this case Simon was kind enough to prepare Welch rarebit with Brandson pickles. The grilled cheese and maltiness of the Brandson pickles were a natural match for the ESB.
When I asked Michael Decker to cook something, I never imagined it would be sooooo spicy. Putanesca sauce with homemade pasta is usually not this spicy. The garlic, capers, tomatoes, anchovies and fresh basil barely peaked through the spicy pepper onslaught added by Mr. Decker. We tried to pair this dish with a beer from Moon Under Water. The added rye of the Lunar Pale Ale provided an effervescence that helped to cleanse the palate of this uber-spicy pasta. It is hard to imagine, but this low ABV brew has so much flavour. Normally pale ales are perfect for washing away intense, spicy or hot flavours from the mouth. Thanks to Bonnie and Ron, from Moon Under Water, for helping to wash away the burn.
Next was the main course: lentil curry. Thanks to Dave and Dan for a tasty dish. With this dish came the double beer pairing. We served the Driftwood Fat Tug IPA and VIBs Hermannator. The bold pine, citrus and spicy hops of the Fat Tug really accentuated the same flavours in the curry. But the surprise pairing of the night was the ice bock. With its uber-maltiness, the Hermannator was able to calm everyone's spicy tongue. It's a pity the Hermannator is only available once a year; luckily we can get a Fat Tug every day. Thanks to Jeff at Vancouver Island Brewery and Gary from Driftwood.
A palate cleansing dish was needed to scrape away the residual spiciness. What works best to cleanse the palate? A sorbet of course. And what pairs well with a fruit sorbet? It must be a lambic. So we had Saskatoon berry sorbet paired with Lindemans frambroise lambic. This is an easy pairing that anyone can use to impress people.
The last course of the night featured the "Battle of the Trappists". My wife made delicious plum and chocolate ganache tarts; this was paired with Rochefort 10 and Westvleteren 12. Both of these Epic ales were big and rich with plum, fig and chocolate flavours. Which of these two beers was the favourite? There were 7 votes for Rochefort, 6 votes for Westy and 2 abstainers. While not a concise victory, it looks like the Rochefort was the favourite.
It was truly a night of Epic beers (both local and imported), great food and great company. Look for the Epic Beer Dinner #4 in about six months. Maybe next time I will remember and ask someone to take photos. I almost forgot; this epic night was also the launch date for www.beerontherock.com. Beer on The Rock will focus on great beers and events on Vancouver Island.