Photo by Greg Clow from Flickr.
Yesterday, Torontoist got to go check out what’s brewing with the Ontario Craft Brewers at the absolutely gorgeous LCBO that’s been built into the old Summerhill-North Toronto CPR station. (Seriously. Go check it out. It’s beautiful.)
If you haven’t heard of the OCB, it’s an association of 29 small Ontario breweries dedicated to the craft of beer-making and to providing an alternative to the rather bland Molson-Labatt monopoly of the beer market. A lot of these breweries are local or pretty close to Toronto and try to use local ingredients, so if you’re concerned about the carbon footprint of your brew, you may want to check them out. They just released a Discovery Pack––a six-pack sampler of six OCB breweries.
The folks from the OCB are also hoping to promote the lifestyle aspect of beer that wine has hijacked over the years. Not just something for chugging while watching hockey, beer can be classy. Pairing beer with quality food hasn’t quite gained steam in this city (with the exception of the very lovely Beer Bistro), so the OCB is trying to kick-start that trend. Hey—it’s more versatile than wine.
Dvira Ovadia, a decorator, showed how to set a spiffy table setting with several kinds of beer glassware—including a six-glass beer-sampler board for every guest! Chef Ezra Title of Chezvous Dining, a man who specializes in cooking with fresh, locally grown ingredients, gave some amazing examples of what you can do by putting beer into recipes. Easily the best beer recipe we tried was a Braised Beef Short Rib Shepherd’s Pie made with Red Leaf Lager and Walkerville Blonde.
Check out some of the really tasty recipes and what we thought of the beers, all after the cut.
The OCB has a lot of darker beers coming out this season—there’s nothing like a cold stout to warm your belly, fill you up, and make you jolly. Our absolute favourite was actually the Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale, which was a delightfully spicy and relaxing drink and the closest thing we’ve ever had to a pumpkin pie-flavoured beer. Trust us, it works. Another favourite from Toronto’s own Great Lakes Brewery was the Great Lakes Winter Ale (pictured right), which was a darker beer that tasted almost like a light stout, with strong, spicy overtones and a chocolatey aftertaste.
King Brewery offered up their King Brewery Dark Lager, which was fairly plain and average-tasting, though it had a nice hint of chocolate. It felt like someone tried to add just a tiny bit of Christmas Spirit to a regular lager, but it didn’t work out too well.
Ottawa’s Scotch Irish Brewing has come out with a tasty little porter in a stubby bottle. The Black Irish Plain Porter is a dark brew that has a very robust taste and some strong, but very pleasant, hints of chocolate and espresso. This a brew we’d love to sip in a pub during a snowstorm.
While Torontoist loves rhyming names, a clever name wasn’t enough to make us like Barley Days Brewery’s Wind and Sail Dark Ale. It’s an underwhelming, milder stout that had some caramel tones, but otherwise lacked any substantial flavour—that is, until the unpleasant aftertaste.
Niagara’s Best has put out a Blonde Premium Ale, which is average for a blonde ale. We recommend their lager—it’s a much better brew. On the other hand, Walkerville has put out an Amber Lager, a refreshing, light, and tasty beer with a very full body and a crisp finish. If you’re looking for refreshing beer for the wintertime, check this one out.
A refreshing twist on a winter beer comes from Oakville’s Cameron Brewing. Their Dark 266 is a light-tasting dark lager with nutty overtones that would be great with some fine dining—it wouldn’t overpower food and is light enough that it doesn’t fill you up before you can finish your meal.
Mill Street easily has put out the oddest seasonal offering of the bunch. The Mill Street Barley Wine has a sweet, almost cider-like taste. It was pleasantly spicy and really warmed our belly. Check this one out if you can’t decide whether to drink beer or wine—it’s a surprisingly good compromise.
Finally, there’s Wellington Brewery’s Wellington County Dark Ale, another lighter-tasting light beer. Not quite as heavy as a stout like Guinness, the beer is very smooth and feels like it would pair well with a lot of red meat.
Red Leaf Lager Braised Beef Short Rib Shepherd’s Pie
This was our favourite of the beer recipes. It was made using some incredibly delicious beef short ribs from Kerr Farms. Plus, you get to boil sweet potatoes in beer!
- 4-4.5 lbs. beef short ribs
- 1.5 Tsp unsalted butter
- 1.5 Tsp olive oil
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced into half-inch pieces
- 2 celery stalks, diced into half-inch pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 Tsp sugar
- 1 cup Red Leaf Lager
- 1 quart stock (chicken, beef, veal)
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 quart sweet potato puree (recipe follows)
- Parmesan for sprinkling
Preheat over to 275 degrees. Season ribs generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tsp butter and 1 Tsp oil in a 12-inch pan on medium-high heat. Brown ribs on all sides and transfer to a baking dish that easily accommodates them. Discard used oil and add remainder of butter and oil.
Turn heat to medium and add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauttee for 5 minutes. Deglaze with Red Leaf Lager and reduce by half. Pour vegetables over ribs, add stock, thyme, bay leaf, and season again with salt and pepper. Cover with parchment paper and place something ovenproof on top to weigh the ribs down. Place short ribs in the oven and cook for approximately 5 hours.
When ribs are very, very tender, remove from liquid using a spatula and tongs and cool to room temperature. Strain liquid and reserve it and vegetables.
Preheat over to 375 degrees. Once ribs are cool, shred with fingers and add vegetables. Use some cooking liquid to moisten. Press the mixture into an 8×8 inch pan and cover with sweet potato puree. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for twenty minutes. Allow to rest 15 minutes prior to serving.
Walkersville Blonde Sweet Potato Puree
- 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 bottles Walkersville Blonde
- 1 Tsp unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- A pinch of cinnamon
- A pinch of nutmeg
Place sweet potato in a pot and cover with Walkersville Blonde. Season with salt. Bring pot to a gentle simmer on medium-high heat and cook until tender.
Puree in a food processor with remaining ingredients until smooth.
Photo courtesy of the Ontario Craft Brewers.