Barley Mowat 

Archive for February, 2012

Credit Where Credit Is Due (YBC Cask)

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I’ve been a bit critical of YBC’s cask nights in the past, pointing out that they’re essentially taking the lazy route out and just dry hopping whatever ale they have lying around and calling it a day. For months and months their cask lineup switched between Pale Ale and IPA dry-hopped with a constant march of hops, with the odd stout thrown in for fun.

Thus, it’d be highly remiss of me to not mention today’s YBC cask, which breaks from that trend and is an honest-to-goodness interesting cask. The cask before us is a Pilsner dry-hopped with Spalt.

I know, I know, it’s not on the surface different from what I was just complaining about. But let me ask you this. Have you ever had a dry-hopped lager? Or a cask-conditioned lager?

Now take it to the extra bit of interesting, where that same beer will be re-dry-hopped with different strains for the next two weeks. Sad YBC couldn’t do all three at once for comparison, but the approach is still nice.

This could be very interesting. Plus, there’s a dynamite hockey game up on the big screen tonight, so YBC might be The Place To Be this afternoon.

Footnote: I should also note the other cask tonight: A chai tea infused winter ale from Central City at Cafe Barney on Main Street. That sounds deliciously insane, but YBC gets my cask vote. No, this has nothing to do with my living four blocks away and behind oh so lazy. Shut up. No. I think YOU’RE lying.

Written by chuck

February 23rd, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Bars,Breweries

Tagged with

Beer Versus Wine

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Tonight I’m off to a super secret underground restaurant. Like all such places, it’s in Gastown. Underground restaurants, for those not in the know, are basically restaurants running on the sly. They’re typically tiny, and mostly run from the chef’s own home. They exist primarily to help often-struggling chefs line their pockets (no tax), and also to serve as a venue for a chef to branch out a bit from the market-dictated dynamics of a commercial kitchen.

Despite being completely illegal, these places are rarely shut down. That is, unless they also happen to anger our iron-fisted booze overlords by selling liquor with their food. For that reason, tonight I will be bringing along my own beer. Inspired by the recent Alibi/Driftwood dinner, I have carefully picked out five excellent beers to pair with the menu.


This should be easy! Why is everyone so quiet?

But why stop there? Let’s make this interesting. Let’s pair a both a beer and wine flight with the meal and see which one comes out on top! My friend and periodic co-blogger here Jenn has picked the wines, and I’ve done the beers. It’s a 9 course meal, so we’re obviously not serving 18 drinks. Both beers and wines will have to serve double duty for some consecutive courses. Here’s the lineup:


Marinated Beetroot Salad
crushed candied hazelnuts, goats cheese mousse, pickled beet jelly, wild watercress
Driftwood Eponymous Ale & Villa Wolf Riesling ’10 (Germany)

Qualicum Beach Scallop
smoky bacon & sea urchin mousse
Hoyne “Hoyner” Pilsner & Villa Wolf Riesling ’10 (Germany)

Hand-Made Ravioli
dungeness crab, sunchoke veloute, tomato confit
Hoyne “Hoyner” Pilsner & Domaine de Vaugondy Vouvray ’10 (France)

Fraser Valley Quince Sorbet
riesling jelly, baby mint leaves
North Coast Le Merle Saison

North Arm Farms Salsify
braised black salsify, trumpet mushrooms, quails egg, crispy pheasant leg
North Coast Le Merle Saison & Les Armoires Julienas ’10 (France)

Crispy Skin Lois Lake Steelhead Trout
roasted carrots, carrot puree, pickled cucumber, shaved radish
North Coast Le Merle Saison & Les Armoires Julienas ’10 (France)

Sous-Vide Pemberton Medows Tenderloin
braised shortrib, rutabaga fondant, horse radish potato, jus
Hoyne Down Easy Pale Ale & Santa Julia Magna Blend ’00 (Argentina)

Chocolate
single plantation chocolate, chestnut ganache, milk sorbet, chocolate soil, hazlenut brittle
2 year flight of Driftwood Singularity Russian Imperial Stout: 2011 and 2012

Petis Four
So still drinking the Singularity

Would you guys have done anything differently?

Written by chuck

February 18th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Nigel, Jason, and me (Driftwood/Alibi V-Day Dinner)

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You know me. I call it like it is, and I don’t care whose feelings get hurt along the way. If your beer sucks, I don’t say “it could be better”, “not the strongest contender”, or give it a 5/10. I say “it sucks”. Or maybe the less subtle “why the fuck are you foisting this awful swill on me?”

I don’t just do this because I’m an awful person (although I undoubtedly am), I mainly do this so that when I eventually say something is actually good, you’ll take notice; it’ll have weight.

So listen closely when I say that last night’s Alibi/Driftwood dinner was sublime. Nearly everything was perfect, from atmosphere to food to liquids to company.

Of course, it had better damned well have been great, what with the $100 price tag and all. Heck, even some of my very beer-focused friends shyed away from this event on price alone, and one of them backed out for the simple reason that he never, ever, eats at the Alibi Room.

He does not hold this odd position without cause. The Alibi’s kitchen is just as capable of serving up raw chicken wings or awful meat pies as it is of delivering a damned tasty burger. So when we start talking high-end dishes paired with beer, I start getting a bit nervous about what, exactly, is going to come out of that kitchen.

Let’s go over the whole meal bit by bit, keeping a keen eye on both food quality and perceived value. I think you’ll be surprised where we end up, especially considering I’ll be pricing each item at a “holy fuck that’s cheap” number.

Course 1
Food: House Made Duck Liver Paté with Pickled Asian Pear & Crostini
Beer: 16oz Sleeve of Driftwood Ale


As crazy as it sounds, the dead bird isn’t the best part here.

Right out of the gate we knew this was not a normal night at the Alibi. Everything was obviously that-day fresh, and house made. The paté was superb, but the asian pears stole the dish. Even the crostini, an item you wouldn’t think twice about, was awesomely delicious and rich.

As for the beer, Nigel was right. This is an underappreciated ale. The pairing was ridiculously good, as the earthy tones of the crostini played off the malt while the smooth paté played counter to the hops and the pears cleared out your palate for the next bite.

Value: $5 beer, $5 food

Course 2
Food: Salad of Ambrosia Apples, Walnuts, Shaved Fennel, Dried Cranberries, Chevre, Frizee & Radichio with a Honey Ginger Vinaigrette
Beer: 10oz Glass of “Bird of Prey” Flanders Red


There be cheese in them thar vegetables.

If this course was described like food ingredients at the grocer, Chevre would be the first item in the list. Again, everything was crazy fresh and of very high quality. The pairing of the dressing with the sourness of the BoP was perfect, and the radichio brought out the hops from an otherwise sweet brew. The Alibi crew wandering around offering full refills of this rare beer also didn’t hurt.

It should also be mentioned that the salad portion size was ample. In fact, all of the courses came with more substance than I would have expected.

Value: $10 beer, $7.5 food

Course 3
Food: Roasted Breast of Yarrow Meadows Duck with Stewed Cherries. Served with Duck Confit Turnip & Potato Perogies, Braised Onions, Sweet & Sour Jus
Beer: 16oz Sleeve of “Fat Tug” IPA


Ever wanted to lick a duck? Uh… yeah… me neither…

Hey, not even the best night is perfect. The limitations of the kitchen were evident on this plate. Again, everything was fresh, delicious and prepared perfectly, but sadly the task of plating and serving 40 people the same dish in a short period of time was a bit harder than achievable. Alas, this one arrived lukewarm, and provided some insight into why the other four dishes were cold plates.

Even so, it was delicious. Shockingly, the star of the show was not the duck, but rather the perogy (which was nice n hot). The pairing was a bit of a mystery to me, though, as the Fat Tug walloped the subtle flavours of the duck. I guess the IPA’s rich mouthfeel was meant to go with the duck’s fat, and the hops could be paired with the perogy wrap and root veg, but overall it didn’t shine. Easily the worst pairing of the night.

Value: $5 beer, $12.5 food. Yes I just valued a duck entree at $12.50. Think about that for a second.

Course 4
Food: 2011 Singularity Chocolate Truffles (x4)
Beer: 10oz Glass of 2012 Singularity Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout


No, they aren’t salty.

Everything about this dish was perfect. Chocolate truffles are a natural choice if you’re going to make desert with your Imperial Stout instead of drink it, and the pairing actually brought out some of the otherwise-completely-hidden Singularity-specific flavours in the chocolate.

Value: $7.5 beer, $5 food

Course 5
Food: Artisan Cheese Plate
Beer: Flight of OCD (08/09/10/11)


Pictured: Best argument for not killing and eating a cow.

The star of the show. A full pint of barley wine spread over almost half a decade. The mere notion of doing a four year OCD veritical is so insane it’d be easy to forget the cheese in the mix. Nigel did not disappoint here, as three oustanding raw cheese monsters were specifically selected to balance out the hop and barley madness sitting across from them. This was hands-down the best pairing of the night.

Value: $12.5 beer, $7.5 food

Atmosphere

I remember my first time at the Alibi; craft beer was just getting going in Vancouver, but I’d been to the states and seen places like the Toronado in San Francisco. The fact that Vancouver only had Steamworks, Dix and the YBC to sustain us was rather depressing until my buddy Jer told me about a new, magical place in the downtown east side that had 13 craft beers on tap.

I couldn’t believe it. Good beer would not have to wait until I returned to the US, or made a day trip over to Spinnakers. It was… magical. In many ways, the Alibi still has that feeling of deliverance to it, but now, of course, it’s packed to the rafters day in and day out with the craft beererati.

Closing down the whole restaurant kept the swarming beer hoards at bay for the evening, allowing us to pretend it was really 2006 again, and this fabulous place was still our little secret. The tables were not crowded, service was prompt and friendly, and Nigel was relaxed enough to stop and chat with tables at length, rather than having to dash off to fire-fight something elsewhere in the bar.

As well, Jason from Driftwood was in a much more relaxed mood than when I visited him on the island (when he was, you know, brewing beer). Not having to constanly worry about an imminent beer containment failure let the man’s beer obsession come to the surface for all to admire and appreciate. He’s one of us, after all.

I don’t know how much closing down shop cost Nigel in lost sales on a Tuesday (and Valentine’s at that), but considering the Alibi is at least a 100 seat restaurant/bar, and is open long enough to rotate out each seat 2 or 3 times, the missed revenue had to have been much more than the $4000 he received for this night.

Value: $0 (despite being awesome, most folk don’t put a price on atmosphere)

So where does that leave us, value-wise? Well, add it all up and we get to… $77.5. Throw on tax and a decent tip (18% pre tax) and we get to $100.75. So yeah, bang-on value-wise if you like things so cheap you can hardly credit your eyes. And a jaw-dropper of a deal otherwise. I would have paid $160 for this experience and not blinked.

Written by chuck

February 15th, 2012 at 6:54 pm