Showing posts with label BeerSchool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BeerSchool. Show all posts

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saison Beer School

Beer geeks like to gather and discuss things. We discuss many things, but the main focus is always beer. This beer school was all about the Saison style. Thanks to Clive's Classic Lounge for allowing us to use the back snug room.

The Saison style originated in the southern region of Belgium called Wallonia. This French speaking area of Belgium was historically an area of agriculture. Every farmhouse produced an ale for both nutrition and enjoyment. This is why the Saison is sometimes called a 'farmhouse ale'.

'Saison' is the French word for season. This beer was brewed in spring, la saison de mars (March), to be enjoyed during the summer months. A hearty brew was needed to last for an entire season. It's higher alcohol content and generous hopping were qualities need to make a beer last for extended periods of time. Some Saisons were lightly spiced with star anise, coriander or orange peels. Others used a yeast strain that naturally produced a spicy taste. This yeast is thought to have been a hybrid of red wine yeast, hence the spicy/phenolic characteristics.

The definitive Saison is from the DuPont brewery. It is only brewed with Pilsner malt, East Kent and Styrian Goldings; no spices are used. It's bottle conditioning makes an idea beverage for short term cellaring. Despite its world wide appearance, DuPont is still a small family run brewery. Their annual production is only 15,000 hectoliters. By comparison, Lighthouse is 14,000 hectoliters. Central City is aiming for 35,000 hectoliters.

This dry, effervescent brew never disappoints. Every taste is an explosion of lemon citrus aromas, followed by sips of spicy pepper and dry bread. It pairs with anything, but Thai food is especially nice.

Next on the sampling list was the American/Belgian connection. Brewed by Duvel in Belgium, the Hennepin by Ommegang was another classic. This one is spiced with coriander, orange peel, ginger  and grains of paradise. A little zestier with mild honey sweetness, Hennepin would be a perfect accompaniment with sushi.

Le Merle is the American interpretation by North Coast brewing. This was a calmer beverage, but still packed 7.9% ABV punch. An approachable Saison with mild pepper notes, sweeter malts and a restrained floral hop profile. Let this brew shine alongside salmon steaks with cracked pepper and gouda. It was originally brewed for Whole Foods silver jubilee.

8 Wired Saison Sauvin was a southern hemisphere take on this classic style. Its southern hemisphere hops delivered something very different: lots of tropical fruits and tongue tingling spiciness.This was the crowd favourite. A perfect food pairing would be lobster with mango chili sauce.

Lastly we had to decide if the local version could hold its own against the best Saisons in the world.We all thought that it did. It had ample spicy hops, bready malts and a yeasty character that gave a dry finish. A divine dinner: match with beer with Thai curried mussels.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Season for Saisons Beer School

Every so often I do these 'Beer Schools'. A group of local beer geeks gather in the back room of Clive's Classic Lounge to sample and discuss a particular beer style. Here is a posting of the previous Cascadian Dark Beer School. The upcoming school has a few spots left.  If anyone wants to attend, leave a comment below with your email and I will get back to you. You do not have to be a beer expert, have an uber palate or recite obscure facts about a particular brewery. Sounding pompous is my role. However, you must have a desire to enjoy new beers and meet other beer geeks.

Summer is over, so it is time to restart the beer schools. The next one will be Sunday, October 21th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. This school will be "A Season for Saisons". I have not even chosen the beers yet; there are a lot to choose from. But it will involve the following:

1. Saison Dupont (the gold standard)

2. Ommegang Hennepin (the American Contender)

3. Le Merle - (The American interpretation)

4. 8 Wired - Saison Sauvin (A New Zealand version)

5. Another surprise

As always you are there to learn. There will be history, glassware lessons, food pairing suggestions, a cheese plate to nibble on and prizes. The same format as always: bring a pen, your palate and $20. First come first serve. This will be around 18-20 spots for this event.

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beer School #? "Baby Got Bock"

I forget how many beer schools there have been. Some are documented, some are not. This was all about the wonderful world of bock beer. 18 craft beer geeks descended on Clive's Classic Lounge for an evening of great beer.
What is a bock beer anyways? Think of it as a dark German lager with a kick. We don't tend to get many bocks on the West Coast. If we are going to drink something dark, it will most likely be a stout or porter. We do love our hops; perhaps it is time to get in touch with our malty side. This is what bocks deliver in abundance: rich, dark and sweet malts. Let's explore this classic beer style and maybe a malt amour will mature.

The bock beer style began back in 14th century Germany. At this time the brewing powerhouse was not Munich, but Einbeck in the North. From Einbeck, beer flowed south into Bavaria and Munich. In the local dialect this beer was called 'Oanbock', which was shortened to 'bock'. For some strange reason goats are often found on bock beer labels. 'Bock' is also the German word for billy goat. By definition a bock is a dark, sweeter lager with low bitterness (20ish IBU) and a bigger alcohol content (6-7% ABV). It will certainly appeal to the beer drinker with a sweet tooth.

Luckily there are a few bocks in the Garden City. Hoyne Brewing has the Big @#$# Bock year round. Hoyne is restrained with the malts, but there is plenty of richness to appeal to a beer lovers sweet side. When you pair bocks with food, think sweet and rich. Wild game, pork and roasted foods all work with bocks. Anything caramelized will mesh nicely. Caramelized onions, seared portabello mushrooms on whole wheat pasta drizzled with sweet balsamic crema; now this meal calls for a bock.

Did I mention that there were multiple variations of bocks? The helles (pale) bock was brewed in response to the pilsner phenomenon that was sweeping through Europe. At first, Munich brewers swore they would never brew a pale beer. Spaten blinked first and brewed their first Helles in 1894, over 50 years after Pilsner Urquell was unleashed. No one said old world brewing was a dynamic industry. Helles bock still retains a thick, chewy maltiness but the hop bite is curtailed. Maibocks and helles bocks are very similar styles; maibocks are generally released in spring (May) and can be slightly hoppier and marginally darker. The food pairing for lighter bocks are similar to pilsners. Spicy foods and sea food are optimal. Our example of a helles bock was the Rogue Dead Guy; surprise it's a maibock. The Dead Guy is a tad hoppier and less malty that one would expect from a helles bock, but it is brewed for the North American palate.

Dopplebock: double up on an already strong beer? The 'dopple' part is not a literal description. But yes, the ABV of dopplebocks is raised (7-10%) and so are the malty flavours. The original dopplebock is the rich and caramelly Paulaner Salvator. There are many imitators and they use “-ator” ending names in homage. Victoria has had no shortage of these brews; we like our strong beers. Instigator (Phillips) and Navigator (Lighthouse) are local favourites, while Captivator (Tree Brewing) is imported from Kelowna. The food pairs are similar to a traditional bock. This sweeter beer can also be enjoyed with deserts. Imagine this caramel malty beverage with crème brulee. 

More variations of strong bocks are always welcome. The Aventinus wheat-dopplebock is truly world class. With the inclusion of at least 50% wheat malt, you get a beer with all those wheat tastes we love. Dark, rich, raisiny with spicy cloves, caramelized bananas and cream of wheat. If you can find the eisbock version of this beer, purchase several without hesitation!

What was once an accident is intentionally enjoyed every year. The eisbock (ice/frozen bock) beer style is made using a technique called freeze distillation. Beer is frozen which causes water-ice crystals to form. This ice is removed to further concentrate the alcoholic beverage. Fort Garry Brewing in Winnipeg makes the other Canadian eisbock. There are few foods that was stand up to the thick, chocolatey maltiness of an eisbock. Grilled game, duck, caviar and rich Stroganoff are big foods that can handle a big beer. A brandy snifter of Hermannator and a caramel flan or chocolate cheesecake with ginger/plum sauce would be a decadent end to a meal.

Looking forward to the next beer school, "Pucker up Buttercup". This will be a sour beer bonanza.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beer and Chocolate Pairing Night

Beer school is rarely this well attended; perhaps every event should involve chocolate. Chocolate and beer pairing is a little different from food pairing. It is important to match the sweetness of the chocolate with your beer choice. With food, this is not an issue. Another possibility is to match flavours within the chocolate with your chosen beer. This is getting easier with brewers experimenting with adjuncts and flavours enhancers. Here is a summary of the treats beer school attendees enjoyed. Thanks to Rod Phillips at Liquor Plus for helping me track down these great craft beers.

Handmade Bernard Callebaut white chocolate with Rice Krispies and dried cranberries
Paired with Hoyner Pilsner

I have always wanted to try a pairing with white chocolate and beer. People thought this was the beer pairing of the evening. The sweetness and creaminess of white chocolate meshed well with  similar characteristics of the Bohemian Hoyner Pilsner. The Hoyner was not overly hoppy, but the hoppiness was comparable to the tartness provided by the dried cranberries. Thank you Hoyne Brewing for participating in our event and furthering the fact that craft beer is not just for dinner anymore.

Purdy's milk chocolate hedgehog
Paired with Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar

This was everyone's least favourite pairing of the evening. The hazelnut in each beer was fun, but that was about it.

Purdy's dark cashew caramel
Paired with Russell Wee Angry Scotch Ale

Those who liked caramel, loved these two together. Russells Wee Angry had mild caramel notes which was mirrored in the Purdy's chocolate. The cashews in the chocolate brought out the light roasted/peatiness in the Russells. A match made in beer heaven.

Purdy's ice wine truffle
Paired with Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller

This was the bold choice: two very strong tasting delicacies. Both the Old Cellar Dwellar and the ice wine truffle can be hard to enjoy by themselves. They worked perfectly as a pair. The vineous richness of the truffle was almost equal to the warmth provided by the OCD. Conversely the intense, citrus, piney and resin from the OCD only made the luscious dark chocolate better.