Ensemble Tap’s bier pairing dinner for July featured 4 American biers thanks to Beerthirst, paired with some fantastic culinary creations from executive chef Brad Hendrickson.
The first bier served was Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA, a 6.3% IPA flavoured with jasmine flowers, from Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Co.
The accompanying dish was a Dungeness Crab Salad with cantaloupe, zucchini, lime and jasmine cream.
The bier is a relatively clear amber with a small pale head. The aroma is jasmine, candi sugar and apricot. It is reasonably well balanced on the palate, with some sweetness and a light bitterness. The flavour is heavy on the jasmine, with hints of summer fruits – peach, apricot, melon. Overall it was surprisingly tasty and refreshing.
The crab salad was quite tasty and slightly sweet with a some great flavour coming from the slice of cantaloupe (which looked a bit like a Kraft Single) and a bit of a sweet floral taste from the jasmine. These elements complimented the floral notes of the bier to make a great pairing.
The next bier was Green Flash Le Freak from San Diego based Green Flash Brewing Company. This is a 9.2% Belgian Tripel/Imperial IPA cross.
The accompanying dish was Roasted Potato Gnocchi with smoked pork belly, mushrooms, and tomato concasse.
The bier pours a clear orange with a sizeable pale head that leaves a lot of lacing, and has noticeable carbonation. The aroma is orange marmalade, coriander and a hint of grapefruit. It has a creamy mouthfeel with a background sweetness and a hoppy finish. The taste is apricot, grapefruit and touch of pine. Green Flash manage to successfully combine the elements of a Belgian Tripel with an IIPA, which is quite an achievement. Overall the bier was enjoyable but I found the bitterness grew to be almost overwhelming by the end of the glass.
The gnocchi with pork belly was absolutely divine – roasted pork belly and potato is always a winning combo, extra points for mushrooms as well. The earthiness, roastiness and meatiness of the dish brought out the citrus elements of the bier and mellowed the hops a little to make a pretty decent pairing.
Beer number 3 was Bear Republic Racer 5, a 7% IPA from Californian brewery Bear Republic Brewing Company.
The accompanying dish was Fraser Valley Braised Pork Cheeks with crispy tofu, ginger confit, pork-dashi broth, and green onion.
The beer is a slightly hazy pale amber with a small pale head. The aroma is quite hoppy – spruce, pine and some citrus. The taste is pine and grapefruit with a little candy. I’m not a big fan of the hops that were used in this one (Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial), finding them a little too in your face with the pine and citrus. There didn’t appear to be a lot of substance behind the hops.
The Braised Pork Cheeks were tasty with a lot of umami flavours. Pairing wise I couldn’t really detect much harmony happening, so this ended up being my least favourite pairing of the evening.
The final bier was Alameda Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA from Portland’s Alameda Brewhouse, clocking in at 8.2% ABV.
The dessert was a Lemon Mousse with fresh raspberries, candied lemon zest, and lemon-schezuan pepper cake.
The bier is a cloudy dark orange with a tiny pale head. The aroma is passionfruit and a touch of pine. It was somewhat subdued on the palate with a short finish and some lingering bitterness. The taste is passionfruit, grapefruit, pine and lemon peel.
The dessert had a delicious tartness from lemon and raspberry – I absolutely loved it. Pairing wise it toned down the pine of the hops which made the beer more enjoyable. However, I found the lemony tartness of the dish so appealing I ended up abandoning the bier to just enjoy the dish by itself.
To summarize, this bier pairing dinner was very well done, with some outstanding dishes that, for the better part, paired well with the biers. The only exception was the Braised Pork Cheeks with the Bear Republic Racer 5. For some reason this pairing just didn’t click for me, although I should say that I did thoroughly enjoy the dish. I think the most harmonious pairing was probably the Elysian Avatar Jasmine IPA with the Dungeness Crab Salad.