It’s Charlie, Angels. Time to drink some beer. (My apologies to ‘groundbreaking’ 1970s television.)
No Farrah Fawcett hairdos were in sight as I met up with my fellow members of the Toronto chapter of Barley’s Angels for an evening of beer and food at the Town Crier Pub. The session, lead by Guy McClelland, of McLelland Premium Imports, showcased a variety of beers from Germany and Belgium, along with fantastic food pairings.
Sidenote: Guy is an actual beer knight. It’s an honour bestowed by the Belgian brewmasters’ guild to those who have “rendered loyal service to the brewing profession.” Really. You kneel down and get tapped on the shoulder with a mash staff and everything. Oh, those Belgians…
We started with a style of beer popular in Europe that’s just now making headway into North America. Radler Grapefruit, a name which has its roots in the German word for bicycle, is a low-alcohol, biking-friendly beer. At 2.5% alcohol, it’s perfect for anytime you want to enjoy a cold, fruity beer but are worried about being a little too tipsy to bike back home. Basically, this beer cocktail consists of Stiegl lager combined with tart grapefruit juice, cutting both the alcohol and calorie content and making for a really refreshing alternative, particularly for those who shy away from traditional beer. This may be available in Ontario soon, either through the LCBO or The Beer Store. This is a beautiful patio beer – light, fruity, and its low alcohol means more time spent sipping in the sun.
Next, we hit the keg for a glass of Fruli paired with a summery beet salad. Not only was this course paired with the fruity strawberry flavoured beer, but the chef sautéed the beets in Fruli and added it to the vinaigrette dressing. The natural sweetness of the beer played nicely with the sweetness in the dressing and beets and contrasted well with the tart goat cheese and onion in the salad.
Next up: Erdinger two ways – Weiss and Dunkel – paired with spicy German chicken sausage wrapped in Failan ham and a side of traditional mustard. Although the darker Dunkel was the beer of choice for the course, both shared their charms with the dish. With the Weiss, as pictured above, its light taste cuts through the fattiness and heat, while the Dunkel adds a contrast of sweetness to counter-balance the spice.
While poutine may be considered classic Canadian pub food, this miso gravy and cheese curd version played well with the light-yet-potent Delirium Tremens. Still not available in the LCBO due to its name (that’s the Belgians’ tongue-in-cheek humour), this triple-fermented, high-alcohol brew meshed well with the cheese curds, in particular. The squeaky delights of the cheese were cut through with the straight-forward Belgian brew.
Which brings us to the final beer pairing of the night. If you’re looking for a sophisticated brew to serve with red meat, look no further than Affligem abbey ale. The falling-off-the-bone beer braised short ribs were a perfect accompaniment to the smooth, tasty ale and the chalice-style glassware adds extra elegance.