Sunday 12 February 2012

Beyond the Darkside: Garrison Beer Pairing Dinner

On Thursday, February 9, Garrison Brewing and Durty Nelly's Irish Pub in Halifax held their third annual beer pairing dinner. The dinner featured three courses - an appetizer, main, and dessert - that showcased local ingredients, all matched and infused with Garrison's craft beers. Hosted by Durty Nelly's co-owner Joe McGuiness, with introductions to each course and tasting notes from Garrison's brew master Daniel Girard, the dinner provided a great opportunity to learn more about the nuances of beer pairing and tasting.

This was our first beer pairing dinner, and we weren't entirely sure what to expect. It got off to a great start, though, as we arrived and were immediately offered a glass of Tall Ship Amber Ale, 'for mingling.' The light caramelization and hop character of the Tall Ship provided a great starting point for the evening, and our glasses were barely empty when the first course began, accompanied by a glass of Hopyard Pale Ale. It was interesting to hear Girard refer to Hopyard as a 'beer of the future,' noting how its bitterness and citrus character placed it among similar beers on the rise from the US west coast.

Edible baskets, so hot (and sour) right now!

The first course offered was a hot and sour Hop Yard broth with shrimp, scallops, and mussels in an egg noodle basket. While the broth didn't taste like the beer, it melded wonderfully with the hot and sour aspects into something truly memorable. The seafood was properly cooked and individual flavours weren't overpowered by the broth, which can easily happen (especially with shrimp). The Hop Yard made an excellent pairing as the hoppy bitterness balanced the spicy notes of the broth and richness of the seafood. The egg noodle basket made for great presentation, but was somewhat awkward to eat. If not submerged in broth, the noodles stayed uncooked and crunchy. Regardless, the first course was great and left us keen for more.

All my braises will now contain Irish Red.  You're next, brisket!

We didn't have long to wait, as glasses of Garrison's best-selling Irish Red Ale arrived quickly. Shortly thereafter appeared the main course of Irish Red braised beef rib with toasted barley risotto, wild mushrooms, and a trio of caramelized onions and candied brussel sprouts. The dark caramel and Munich malts used in the Irish Red impart a sweetness that paired perfectly with the beef, both as a primary flavour from the braise and in the accompanying glass of beer. Taking into account that it was also 'fall off the bone' tender, this made for one fantastic rib. The risotto was on the salty side, but the added texture the barley provided was enjoyable. And serving a course with a barley base at a beer dinner? Awesome. To top it off, the brussel sprouts were so good that Earl even ate them... and as a long standing detractor, that's saying something.

Stout easily replaced after dinner coffee. Warning: Stout should not replace mid-morning coffee.

Two disparate, but complementary, beers heralded the arrival of dessert: Martello Stout, full-bodied and dark in colour, with strong toffee notes; and Raspberry Wheat, light, fruity, and refreshing. The dessert itself was comprised of four parts, including a cold raspberry-blueberry soup with the Raspberry Wheat as a base, a whipped espresso-Martello Stout shot, a bottle-shaped cookie, and two panna cottas (one white chocolate, one dark). While beer soup is not something I'd usually want to try, this rendition was bright and refreshing, and proved to be excellent for bottle cookie dunking. The shot provided great contrast, with a hit of creamy sweet coffee flavour. Both beers paired well with everything on the plate, and even tasted great when mixed together; chocolate raspberry coffee anyone?

In our opinion, this event was a tremendous success. We enjoyed the opportunity to hear Garrison's brew master discuss their beers so candidly, and to tie in key considerations for pairing beer with food that promote their mutual enhancement and enjoyment. The setting was surprisingly intimate for a relatively large pub, the service fast and friendly, and all attendees seemed laid back and just looking to enjoy a night of good food and beer. The $50 price tag for the dinner seemed a bit steep at first, but considering that one received the equivalent of four beer, three well-thought-out and delicious courses, stellar service, and insight from Garrison's brew master, it now seems like a pretty great value. Did we mention that taxes and tip were included in that price, and that there was live music afterward?

At the end of the evening, we left a little wiser, completely full, and perhaps a little tipsy. We also left really looking forward to next year's dinner.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't have thought that "Durty Nelly's" was a mecca for gastronomic prowess. Well played Durty, well played.