For every word written about beer I'd bet twenty are dedicated to wine. So, it can be tough when sitting down to do the former to not reference the latter. But here, with Toronto Beer Week falling right in the middle of our month of local wine and an event about pairing food and drink it's just too hard to resist making the comparison. The Brewer's Master Class dinner and seminar put on by Brewer's Plate at La Palette last week convincingly made the point that beer pairs just as easily with food as its vine-grown cousin.
Chef Brook Kavanagh and his kitchen team at La Palette designed five taster-sized courses for the sold-out event that packed the back half of the Queen West restaurant. The pairings alternated between beers from Etobicoke's Black Oak Brewery and Beau's All-Natural from Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
With the changing September weather it made sense for us to open with a light, citrusy ceviche paired with Black Oak's Summer Saison. This seasonal release is brewed with orange zest and coriander that helped highlight the dish's lighter flavours.
Course number two continued the hot weather theme by featuring a sweet fig wrapped in house-cured duck breast with peppery arugula. The beer side had started to swing to the autumnal by offering Beau's Oktoberfest Night Marzen. This standard-bearer style for the annual Bavarian drink-up is called Marzen because it was traditionally brewed in March and lagered over the summer. The example from Beau's uses by-the-book Munich malts and Noble hops and shows sweet, bready notes and that distinct-to-lagers refreshment even if they were only able to get three months of aging on it.
By the middle of the dinner the Berkshire pork pie, topped with chestnuts and autumn berries loudly announced that we were well into Fall. The Black Oak Nut Brown–the darkest beer so far that is full of roasted, nutty flavours–helped to underline the point.
For the first of two dessert courses we were given a tour of everything delicious that can be made from the official vegetable of October: the pumpkin. To eat we had a chocolate-dipped cinnamon cone filled with a deftly-spiced pumpkin puree and the Pumpkin Weiss O'Lantern from Beau's to drink.
The second sweet course offered a bruleed cheesecake and an innovative beer pairing. The bitterness in the popular Pale Ale from Black Oak contrasted with the sweet cheesecake but also tied together nicely with the slightly acrid flavours of the burnt sugar crust.
Brewer's Plate is a beer-fueled event held every April that raises funds for local, food-related community organisations like Green Thumbs Growing Kids and Not Far From the Tree. Events like this month's dinner help keep the connection going all year.
Written by David Ort
As one of Spotlight’s contributing editors, David enjoys turning his mind (and keyboard) to a wide variety of topics ranging from recipes to restaurants to craft beer. When he’s not writing for Spotlight Toronto, David shares his thoughts on new restaurants and beer at PostCity.com and all things food and drink on his own site, Food With Legs.