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).
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:
This was followed by quick a primer on beer, which included this family tree:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Pouring a Better Draught
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.
…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:
(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:
…and showed us this slide, which showed good vs. bad beer glasses:
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
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:
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.
We were shown the path that ingredients take, from the ingredients storage area shown in the photo below, all the way to the tanks:
In addition to producing beer for Lord Stanley’s Mug, the mini-brewery is also a test kitchen for new beer recipes.
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.
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.
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).
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!
BeerAdvocate’s review of Creemore. Their verdict is like mine: it’s the good stuff.