Brew 2.0: A Beer Tasting at the Air Canada Centre

by Joey deVilla on July 2, 2008

Brew 2.0 sign

Meghan Warby, who blogs at 2nd Floor Living Without a Yard and who works for PR firm Hill and Knowlton, invited some Toronto bloggers to the Air Canada Centre last Thursday to take part in Brew 2.0. It was an event hosted by Molson where they would showcase their beers and introduce a new brew in their lineup. I was among those Toronto bloggers invited, and not being the type of person to turn down an invitation for free beer, I accepted the invitation and brought the Ginger Ninja along as a fellow beer aficionado and my guest.

Among the other bloggers invited were Rannie “Photojunkie” Turingan, Alexa Clark, Eden “Bargainista” Spodek and my coworker Rachel “Drinks After Dark” Segal (be sure to catch Rachel’s review of the event, titled A Lesson In Beer: Brew 2.0).

Introductions

We were introduced to:

  • Brewmeisters Ian Douglass and Bryan Eagan
  • Draught Prophets‘ beer-pouring expert Steve Reilly
  • Adam Moffat, Manager of Marketing and Brand Public Relations for Molson

We were also introduced to some of the ingredients that went into Molson’s beers, such as the hops, which we were invited to smell and taste:

Hops on display at Brew 2.0

This was followed by quick a primer on beer, which included this family tree:

\"Family Tree of Beer\" slide

I was eager to sample Rickard’s White, which I’d never tried before. It’s a pretty nice white beer in the same vein as Hoegaarden’s. It has a creamier mouth feel than Hoegaarden, which I like, but Hoegaarden edges it out slightly in taste. Still, it’s probably easier to come by, and by following the recommendation of tossing in a slice of orange puts its flavour back in Hoegaarden’s league. I put away a couple of pints of the stuff before the tasting began.

Ingredients of Rickard's White

Beer-Food Pairings

Once the introductions were complete, it was time for the main event, the beer-food pairings. While a lot of people are now familiar with the idea of pairing wines with foods whose flavours complement them, the idea of pairing food with complementary foods is still a new one to many. In this session, we were presented with a number of dishes matched with cocktail tumblers filled with matching beers. Since it was around dinnertime, I was really looking forward to this part of the evening.

Pairing 1: Molson Canadian and Chicken Skewers

The first food the waiters brought from the kitchen were these chicken skewers:

Chicken skewers

They were paired with Molson’s flagship beer, Molson Canadian.

(American readers who started drinking in the 1980s may think of Molson Golden as the flagship beer, since that’s what Molson promoted most in the U.S. for a long time. These days, they seem to be promoting Canadian as their primary beer in the U.S. as well.)

Canadian is a pretty standard “macro” beer, the sort of thing that just about every bar will carry. If you’re American, it’s about as common and findable in Canada as Bud or Miller Genuine Draft in the U.S.. I’d definitely pick Canadian over Bud and most U.S. “macro” beers any day.

Joey, chicken skewers and Molson Canadian

Canadian is a pretty straightforward beer that I normally associate with burgers, wings and fries in sports bars that only carry macros. It works pretty well with a nice simple dish like the chicken skewers.

Pairing 2: Coors Light and Sliders

“Sliders” isn’t a term that’s in popular use here in Canada. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s used to refer to mini-hamburgers. The White Castle chain uses the term a lot.

Sliders

These sliders are what we Canadians call “banquet burgers” — for my American readers, that’s just shorthand for burgers with bacon and cheese. They were quite tasty, but alas, they were paired with…Coors Light!

The only positive thing I can say about Coors Light is that it’s inoffensive — it at least doesn’t have that “off” taste that pervades Labatt’s Blue. Coors Light is, to borrow the Monty Python line, like making love in a canoe: it’s fucking close to water.

Joey, sliders and Coors Light

Still, Coors Light managed not to detract from the flavour of the delicious sliders. I switched to the extra tumbler of Canadian that one of the waiters had left on the table and the classic burger-and-beer pairing improved dramatically. A Creemore would’ve been my preferred pairing.

Pairing 3: Heineken and Sweet and Sour Fried Oysters

These were really tasty. I lucked out and got a double serving of these because the waiter left an extra dish of these at our table:

Fried Oysters

Heineken is my choice when I’m at a bar where only domestic macro beers are available. It’s got a little bit of “bite” and worked surprisingly well with the sweet and sour friend oysters.

Joey, fried oyster and Heineken

Tis was one of my favourite combos. I wonder if The Clam Box carries Heineken…

Pairing 4: Veggie Tacos and Corona

Next up: veggie tacos. For the first time ever, I think I ate something that had too much sour cream! These might as well have been nachos and salsa.

Still, I couldn’t resist posing with the nachos…er, tacos:

Veggie tacos

Because tacos are Mexican, they were paired with a Mexican beer. Unfortunately, that Mexican beer was Corona, the Mexican answer to Labatt Blue. The only thing I can say in its favour is that it’s marginally better than Coors Light.

This was my least favourite of the pairings, but things were looking up.

Pairing 5: Rickard’s Red and Steak Skewers

Rickard’s Red, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, can be classified as a “red ale” (hence the name) or an “amber ale”. It’s a little richer than your typical macro beer, with a flavour that can be described as “bready” or “nutty”. It worked quite well with its paired food, steak skewers:

Joey, steak skewers and Rickards Red

I think that Rickard’s Red would work well with ribs as well.

Pairing 6: Rickards White and Citrus Shrimp

Next on the menu were these tasty lime-infused grilled shrimp. I liked these a lot, and was quite thankful that the waiter left an extra dish of these at the table:

Citrus shrimp

The citrus shrimp paired perfectly with Rickard’s White, especially when it had a slice of orange added. I can see the White going well with a lot of grilled seafood.

Joey, citrus shrimp and Rickards White

Pairing 7: Creemore Springs and Bratwurst

They saved the best for last! My favourite of all the beers made by Molson is Creemore Springs Premium Lager, known simply as “Creemore”. Creemore was created by the Creemore Springs microbrewery located in — naturally enough — Creemore Springs, Ontario, and it gained popularity through word of mouth rather than by advertising. Unlike most macro beers, it earned its popularity, one beer lover at a time. There was some concern when Molson bought out Creemore Springs Brewery in 2005, but as far as I can tell, the only result has been increased availability. They don’t seem to have messed with the recipe.

Creemore is an all-malt lager with a deep amber colouring and rich, malty, rye-bready flavour with a little bit of a citrus bite. It’s a lager for people who think of lagers a being a bit lame.

Bratwurst

They paired it with the brats in the picture shown above, and it was a perfect match. This was another one of my favourite combos of the evening and ended the tasting session on a high note.

Joey, bratwurst and Creemore Springs

All in all, it was a great session. I had fun, and even learned a little bit about matching beer and food flavours. By way of saying thanks, I provided a little entertainment with you-know-what:

Joey deVilla playing accordion at Brew 2.0

Pouring a Better Draught

Showing the innards of a keg

After the tasting session, we were broken into two groups: one that toured Air Canada Centre’s mini brewery and one that saw a presentation on pouring the perfect draught. Afterwards, the groups would switch places. I was in the group that saw the presentation first.

Steve Reilly from Draught Prophets, a company that helps bars and places that serve draught beer serve it properly, made the presentation. He started with a slide of this guy:

Barney Gumble slide

…and went on explain ways to serve the best possible draught beer. He explained the difference in shelf life between pasteurized and unpasteurized draught beer:

Slide showing shelf life of pasteurized and unpasteurized keg beer

(It doesn’t last as long, but the unpasteurized stuff tastes a little better, since it wasn’t heated.)

He talked about conditions that made draught beer better:

\"How to serve draught beer\" slide

…and showed us this slide, which showed good vs. bad beer glasses:

Slide showing good vs bad beer glass characteristics

In the photos above, the beer glasses on the left are the good ones; they’re clean. A clean glass gives a better head because it doesn’t have oils that interfere with its formation. The foam in a clean glass also creates “lacing” or stripes, as seen in the good glass in the pair of photos in the lower right-hand corner of the slide.

One way to keep your glasses clean and oil-free is not to touch their insides, which a lot of people do when carrying empty ones in threes or fours.

A Tour of the Brewery

The brewery at the Air Canada Centre

After Steve’s presentation, we were taken on a tour of the brewery. That’s right, the Air Canada Centre has its own brewery, which produces some of the beer served at the adjacent bar, Lord Stanley’s Mug. It’s an impressive room, lined with steel and copper tanks:

Copper kettle for \"Rickards Lauter Tun\" at the Air Canada Centre brewery

It’s probably the best-smelling room in the building. Maybe that’s not so impressive considering that it’s a sports arena, but still, there’s nothing quite like the beautiful bready smell of beer brewing.

Silver tanks at the Air Canada Centre brewery

We were shown the path that ingredients take, from the ingredients storage area shown in the photo below, all the way to the tanks:

Bags of brewer\'s yeast in the storage room at the Air Canada Centre brewery

In addition to producing beer for Lord Stanley’s Mug, the mini-brewery is also a test kitchen for new beer recipes.

A giant kettle in the Air Canada Centre brewery

Introducing Kasteel Cru

The final part of the evening was devoted to showing some new Molson products. One was the Heineken mini-keg, while the other was that new label for Coors Light that turns blue when the beer is cold enough.

Introducing Kasteel Cru

What interested me was Kasteel Cru, a new beer that was developed in the U.K. and soon to hit stores here. It’s made with champagne yeast, which as the name implies, is used to give champagne its bubbles. Kasteel Cru’s carbonation is more like champagne’s than beer’s, and its colouring is quite similar.

Taste fatigue — not to mention the fact that I’d helped myself to a few extra pints of Creemore — meant that I’m going to have to give Kasteel Cru another taste before passing judgement on it.

Kasteel Cru label

A Little Disclosure…

In addition to free beer and food, I was also given a coupon good for 12 free bottles of Molson beer and a Molson-branded USB key (1 GB capacity).

Finally…

I’d like to thank organizers Meghan Warby and Tonia Hammer for putting together this event, as well as Ian Douglass, Bryan Eagan, Steve Reilly for doing the presenting. It was also good chatting with Adam Moffat about beer and “park parties” in Sherwood Forest Park, an important element of any delightfully misspent youth in Toronto. I had a blast, and even learned a little something. Please feel free to invite me to more of these events!

Related reading

A Lesson in Beer: Brew 2.0: My co-worker at b5media, Rachel Segal, wrote about Brew 2.0 in the blog Drinks After Dark.

How About Some Brew 2.0? An article about Brew 2.0 at Molson’s own community blog, Molson in the Community.

Tip of the Day – Serving Beer the Right Way: Eden Spodek writes about Brew 2.0 in her blog, Bargainista.

BeerAdvocate’s review of Creemore. Their verdict is like mine: it’s the good stuff.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tonia July 2, 2008 at 9:25 am

Hey Joey!

Happy to hear you enjoyed the event — really glad you could join us.

Lovin’ the photos — I have a few more of you taken during your fantastic performance and will send them your way.

Cheers,
Tonia

Maria July 2, 2008 at 9:30 am

Thanks, very informative.
A few months ago I blogged about a book that explains the whole process of beer (and wine), and food pairing with beer (and wine), it’s called He Said Beer, She Said Wine, here’s the link to the post: http://www.nakedknitgirl.ca/?p=3688
Also, very interested that they invited Rannie to the tasting, he doesn’t drink, and certainly not beer. Oh well.
OK, one extra thing, sorry… it seems like the tacos were hard???? what the heck??? those are NOT Mexican tacos, those are Texan, so they should have been paired with a Texan beer or something. Mexican tacos are soft, like the ones we had at my house during my party. I have tons of pictures of the real tacos on my blog, here’s an example: http://www.nakedknitgirl.ca/?p=2770
Mmmh, now I’m hungry!

Brian Gadell July 2, 2008 at 11:22 am

Hi, long time reader, first time poster…

As a native St. Louisian I take offense at your characterization of a “slider” as any miniature hamburger. A “slider” is a WHITE CASTLE’S hamburger. All others are imitators and fakes.

Thank you, that is all.

Joey deVilla July 2, 2008 at 12:00 pm

@Brian Gadell: Hey, Brian!

I make a distinction between “Sliders” and “Slyders”.

White Castle owns the trademark on the “Slyder” spelling: it’s what they call them on their menu. When referring to the one true mini-burger, the White Castle mini-burgers, I use the term “Slyder”.

I used “Slider”, which is not a White Castle trademark, as a pretty convenient and far more wieldy term than “mini-burger”. It does not refer to the One True Mini-Burger. I think of it as being akin to the same way that we use the word “Kleenex” to refer to any “facial tissue” or “Band-Aid” to refer to any adhesive bandage. For that matter, consider the way “Coke” is used to refer to any kind of soft drink in Georgia.

That said, I must commend you on defending White Castle. They’re tragically underappreciated in the burger world. which is a shame considering that they’re the company that elevated the hamburger from just one step above eating cat food (that’s the way they were viewed in the early 20th century, especially during the Depression) to the beloved sandwich it is today.

Wendy July 2, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Mmmmmm…delicious semantics!

I’ll take a pitchah of the finest lagah in the house!

Wendy July 2, 2008 at 12:48 pm

(Of course, if you really want to get into it, that last is pronounced “lagah rin the house”.)

Adam July 2, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Great post! Glad you could join us and supply some great tunes. Plus, always fun to reminisce about the good ol’ days sneaking beers in Toronto’s parks. My soon to be wife from Belleville always has a good laugh at that image. The urban bush party 😉

Cheers!

meegs July 2, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Joey! What an amazingly accurate account of the evening (considering the # of beverages…). Thanks so much for the link love – but rest assured I did only the easy stuff – inviting our fav bloggers to an event where Adam & Tonia did all the real work! Hope to see you again soon & keep on rockin’ that badass ‘cordian.

your fan
meegs

Eden Spodek July 2, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Great post and great pics Joey! I felt like I was there again. I had a few sips of Corona, Rickards White and the Kasteel Cru – not much compared to you but lots for a non-beer connaisseur like me. Guess I should have tried the Creemore. Nice chatting with you and Wendy too.

Cheers!

Paul July 2, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Yeah, I woulda skipped the Canadian, Coors Light, Heiniken, Corona, and Rickards completely. It’s gotten so that I can’t even stomach the smallest sip of the macro brewed beers. Doesn’t matter if it’s Molson or Labatt. They all taste like crap.

Matthew C. Kriner October 2, 2010 at 12:27 am

helped me a lot!

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