This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our Eastern Canada craft beer guy, David Ort, as he talks about beer and... food! They go so well together. Today he looks at two brews - one from Ontario's craft beer scene and one from Quebec's craft beer arsenal.
We use the term “craft beer” much more than we think about what it means. To brewers it means “our beer -- and maybe some of our friends’ beers.” Bars are (gradually) coming to think of it as a category with some very attractive opportunities for mark-ups. Consumers, with their inherent diversity, naturally have a wide variety of definitions for “craft beer” but I think the common ground is that it’s beer that deserves thoughtful attention.
Macro-brewed and standardized international lagers are made to be indiscernible from each other, but craft beers demand that we sit up and consider their distinguishing characteristics. “What’s that citrus flavour in the foreground?” “Which herbal note lingers on the finish?” “How can I pair this beer with food?”
All of those are great questions, but it’s the third one that I want to focus on today. Just like wine, beers have aroma and flavour characteristics that complement food in such a way that the combination is better than the sum of its parts.
This month the two beers I have selected both go very well with food — for opposite reasons. L’Ours from Quebec, is a sour saison with a bit of rye, and is a great all-rounder that will be at home with a variety of dishes. By contrast, Russian Gun is a specialist; dessert is its wheelhouse.
Le Trou du Diable L’Ours
L’Ours from Le Trou du Diable is a hazy, light orange-gold with a small white head. The aroma combines a vinegary, barnyard funk with orange and lemon citrus. The taste shows more of the oak and peppery rye characteristics with a repeat of the slightly sour and acidic notes. Cheese, shellfish (especially dishes like fried clams and oyster po’boys), and roasted chicken will all go excellently with this beer.
The name (L’Ours means “The Bear” in French) could be a reference to the fact that this is a blend of 20% rye beer that has been aged (or spent time hibernating) in Banyuls barrels with fresh saison.
ABV 6.5% Available in QC
Grand River Brewing Russian Gun Imperial Stout
The almost black body and creamy beige head give Russian Gun away as a powerful stout. It has a malty-sweet aroma with lots of chocolate and coffee. The flavour contributes more of those roasted elements, plus ones that remind me of toasted fruitcake and a slight hint of licorice.
Russian Gun will be comfortably at home beside a range of desserts that aren't too sweet. Think chocolate cheesecake, chocolate-dipped biscotti, or a cake-style brownie that has a ganache sauce rather than a sugary frosting.
There is also an interesting story behind its name. Double-strength stouts are sometimes known as Russian Imperials because they try to imitate the style of beer that was a popular export from England to Russia in the 18th and early 19th centuries. But the namesake for this beer is the cannon given to the town of Galt, ON (near the brewery) for supporting Britain’s Crimean War efforts against Russia.
ABV 8.5% Available in ON
In one case we have a beer that will go with almost any food (except maybe dark, particularly meaty stews) and the other is really best kept for chocolate desserts, which, by the way, is a big problem area for wine pairing. Either way, I hope you agree that they are worth pausing and considering: What makes this beer so delicious and how can food make it even better?
David Ort writes about food, travel, and craft beer for various online and print publications. His first book, The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook, is in bookstores and available for purchase online. For more of his thoughts on all things edible and potable follow him on Twitter or get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.