About 500 people ate and drank their way around Roy Thomson Hall’s gallery last night in the name of charity. The Brewer’s Plate matches 14 of the city’s top chefs with an Ontario craft brewery and challenges them to create the best possible pairing. Sure, $125 per ticket ain’t cheap—but it’s the best-value charity function we’ve seen in Toronto. There was so much delicious fare we couldn’t taste everything, and beer so plentiful even a frat boy would be challenged to try it all. Plus, all the dough went to Green Thumbs Growing Kids, which teaches inner city kids how to grow their own veggies.
Here’s what we took away from the evening:
1. Ballantine and date beer is delicious
The best pairing of the night has got to be this one: a squaw stuffed inside a guinea fowl, stuffed inside a partridge, stuffed inside a pheasant, stuffed inside a goose. La Palette’s Brook Kavanagh put it on a bed of soft lentils and poured a birdstock-and-beer reduction using Beau’s Brewery’s Mates With Dates, a fruity brown ale made with three strains of yeast, dates and cane sugar. The big malt profile and fruitiness of this brew stood up to the gamey ballantine, while the hops and carbonation scrubbed and dried the palette, readying it for the next bite.
2. How to make beer porn
“Slowly pull them out,” a videographer directed a Muskoka brewery rep. “Now jam them in there!” “Good. Let’s do it again.”
Making beer porn is a lot like making the real deal: lots of takes, close-ups and shiny parts dripping with sweat. Only in beer’s case, what’s being jammed in and pulled out are the beer cans in beds of ice.
3. Salmon and Pilsner don’t go together
Denison’s Brewery owner and brewmaster Michael Hancock admitted that, while Gladstone Hotel chef Michael Smith’s dishes (a banh mi made with bread baked in Weissbier, and a purple carrot cake topped with a raisin-Dunkel beer jam) made his beers sing, he doesn’t always agree with “classic” beer and food matches.
“Like Pilsner and salmon. It doesn’t work. The salmon tastes fishy and the Pilsner tastes really bitter—and you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who think it works!” said Hancock.
4. Hot, spicy food washed down with an India Pale Ale makes for a classic pairing
The hop-forward India Pale Ale packs a bitter punch of grapefruit or pine, and works to ease the ear-wax-melting burning sensation of seriously hot dishes. Cava’s Chris McDonald’s proved this point once again. His dish—a fresh corn tamal containing lamb shank braised in Cameron’s Auburn Ale and andouille sausage, topped with tomale sauce, ancho chili and rhubarb—packed a mighty hit of spice that was perfectly matched to Cameron’s new spring beer: RPA (Rye Pale Ale), a chewy brew with grapefruit and earthy bitterness made with rye malt.
5. Even at the most refined beer event in the city, there’s always room for malt liquor
When a Great Lakes Brewery’s LCBO rep, Rob Hern, told brewer Mike Lackey about his idea to make a malt liquor craft-beer style, the brewer got to work. Alcohol content in American malt liquors is usually amped up by using tons of corn syrup as the malt, plus more sugars to try to mask the harsh alcohol, along with cheap, astringent hops for bittering.
Lackey designed his “Malt Liquor for Fine Gentlemen” by using better ingredients: a Pilsner barley malt, Cascade hops, and unrefined turbinado sugar. The bottle comes in a brown paperbag and Hern’s tattoo artist designed a label—one bottle of the small batch of beer was put on sale at the Great Lakes Brewery for $19.99 and, within two days, a curious patron had bought it.
Near the end of the night, Lackey took a few swigs and passed the bottle around to a handful of Toronto beer nerds and writers who downed it in a few minutes. Classy.