|Brewmaster Joel Manning|
"Give a man a beer," he started, quoting his wife, "and he'll waste an hour."
"Teach the man to brew," he continued, "and he'll waste a lifetime."
Joel Manning has hardly wasted his life.
As Mill Street's brewmaster, Joel has made some amazing beer and has raised the Canadian craft-beer industry to unparallelled limits. And last Thursday, he shared his knowledge and some of his great creations with 100 guests at the tenth-anniversary brewmaster's dinner at Ottawa's Mill Street Brew Pub.
Joel, in addition to being a master brewer, is also entertaining and knowledgeable, sharing his wisdom behind beer and giving samples of some Mill Street creations that were available only at this pairing with some culinary genius. We also partook in some vintage barley wine (yes, it's beer too). The brewmaster's dinner was a 10-course evening that paired 10 beers: some of which I made notes; others, I didn't because I have either reviewed them in the past or have spoken about as favourites of mine and needed no further praise.
Our amuse bouche was an interesting starter: elk tartar with juniper berries and herbs on crostini. While I enjoyed this course, my description of the elk doesn't sound appealing: there was a sliminess that coated the tongue and made everything slide down. The herbs were a great balance to the beer and the food and drink were a great match. I liked the elk and would have it again, but I'm not sure I would seek it out in the future.
This beer was paired with a shaved asparagus and fennel salad with baby arugula and grape tomatoes. The dressing was a citrus vinaigrette with orange wedges and pine nuts. Although I don't tend to like asparagus, I didn't taste them in this shredded fashion and I enjoyed this salad. I did, however, find the citrus in the vinaigrette to be a little strong for the lager, but this was a fresh course that I would gladly eat again.
The food pairing was awesome: a Thai-inspired shrimp and scallop ceviche in coconut water with Thai chillies, lime juice, Thai basil, and an infusion of kaffir lime.
Next came the first of three barley wines: this one, from 2005. This seven-year-old ale was the colour of iced tea, with a hint of red. There was no head. A brandy-cherry bouquet reminded me of a liqueur, rather than a beer. In the mouth, all thoughts of beer left my head. At 10.5 percent ABV, this was a boozy beverage. In a way, it reminded me of Calvados.
|2005 Barley Wine|
|Pan-seared fois gras|
To keep us moving, we moved into a soup course that was served with my favourite beer, Tankhouse Ale. I just love this hoppy, satisfying ale. I could drink it all day. And the soup was perfectly paired.
Tankhouse goes well with spicy dishes, so it was no surprise that the chef served us a roasted Pablano pepper soup with chili oil and cumin crème fraiche. Smoky and zesty, this was an absolutely perfect pairing. I loved it.
|2007 Barley Wine|
But this barley wine is no slouch. It won a gold medal in 2007 and gave Mill Street the honour of being awarded the Canadian brewery of the year. But at 11.2 percent ABV, you don't want to drink too much in one sitting.
I called it a fizziness. I could not duplicate the sensation with the sorbet and the 2005 barley wine. So this course was again a perfect match.
Matched with this porter is a meal that I'd like to see as a regular addition to the Mill Street menu: a coffee-crusted pork tenderloin with a light cream sauce and served with a celery root purée and fried Brussels sprout leaves. The pork melted in my mouth, and the cream sauce turned the porter into a sweet café au lait. The celery root was light and creamy, and cleaned the palate. It was an awesome creation perfectly matched with the coffee porter.
|2012 Barley Wine|
This barley wine was served with a cheese course: Québec blue cheese and blackberry compote, with a goat cheese crostini. I took a small bite of the blue cheese, but I'm not a big fan of it. I find it too strong with a creamy texture that I don't like on my tongue. But I did appreciate it for what it was with the barley wine. They were well-matched. I really liked the goat cheese. I found the savoury flavours brought out more of the nose of the ale and helped me gain a better appreciation for this style of beer.
In my books, too much to drink and drive. The most that I had of one glass was just over half, and that was the Tankhouse. Of the high-ABV samples, no more than a mouthful. I drink responsibly, folks.
The final course was a treat: a chocolate cookie with a caramel centre, served with a Cobblestone Stout and espresso ice cream. It was pure heaven, though for me I could have done without the firm caramel centre.
This was a dinner to remember. Mill Street gave its lovers a great evening with amazing food and fabulous beer, perfectly matched. It was a great way to celebrate 10 years of the brewery and to wish it many more years of success.
I look forward to future brewmaster dinners. If you haven't attended one yet, do yourself a favour and go to the next one.
And, on a completely unrelated issue, but a note that is worthy for my beer post, I wanted to let you know that I'll be starting a new blog that is completely dedicated to beer. It is called Beer O'Clock and the format will be slightly different from my weekly review on The Brown Knowser. It will be just my tasting notes and opinion of the beer. Just the facts.
See for yourself on December 1.