Barley Mowat 

August Jack

with 7 comments

It was with great interest that I learnt of the impending opening of a beer-focused tapas bar mere blocks from Sharon’s apartment in Kits. Prior to this opening, if we wanted an evening out at a restaurant with even slightly decent beer, we had to choose between the Manchester, Bimini’s or, more recently, Ceili’s. Needless to say, we cook a lot.

August Jack promised to change that, so I eagerly accepted their offer of a fully comp’d evening to take their new menu for a spin. I won’t bore you with a course by course rundown of what I was fed; enough beer bloggers went through the August Jack that ten seconds of Googling will get you quite a few detailed takes. However, I will run down what was good, what was okay, and what was worrisome.

The Good

The food ranges from quite good to excellent, and let’s face it, that’s sorta why you eat out. All five menu items I sampled were well structured & balanced dishes, prepared with care, and all priced at a very reasonable level. In particular, the mussels were fantastic. The Pan Seared Beach Oysters offered a very BC-take on our local meaty oysters, and had a rich earthy flavour that took me back to my days growing up on the coast, filling my insatiable oyster craving via my proximity to the beach. Of course, you have to take great food with a grain of salt, as the restaurant was fully aware that over 3/4 of their clientele that evening were reviewing the grub. Anything less than awesome would have been a disaster.


Pictured: Food of some sort.
What do you want from me? I’m a beer blogger.

The Meh

The beers chosen to pair with each meal were a confused lot. Take the opening salvo: inviting a bunch of beer geeks to your new restaurant and thrusting Steamworks Pale Ale in their faces upon arrival is a ballsy move. This is arguably the worst craft pale ale in the province, and using it as your lead move in a beer-pairing restaurant is questionable at best.

Then take the oysters. Why, oh why, would you skip down a tap list that includes Storm’s amazing Black Plague stout and elect to pair your oysters with Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly? Yeah, I get it; the coriander in the beer is supposed to pair with the tarragon and portobello slices. It makes sense on paper, but it just didn’t work on the plate. Stout with oysters is Beer Paring One-Oh-Freaking-One, and they missed it.

Some of the pairings did work, especially the Odin Kolsch/mussels pair, but overall there were enough misses or questionable decisions to make me not trust the menu’s pairing recommendations… in a restaurant staking its reputation on beer pairings.

The Worrying

A glaring menu omission can be found on the draught list itself. Where are the serving sizes? The beer stats (ABV, IBU, FG)? Tasting notes? The theme of the restaurant is pairing food with beer, but somehow no one thought to put together a couple of lines about what flavours the beer actually has?

However, no aspect of the evening was more concerning than the wait staff’s decision to seat a party of sloppily intoxicated, rowdy 20 somethings in the midst of two tables of mid-review bloggers. I get it; the restaurant was empty and man those folks looked like they’d leave a bit of money behind, but August Jack needs to decide what kind of restaurant they want to be and stick with it.

Conclusion

Overall, my evening at August Jack was a pleasant one, and it does take time for a new restaurant to find its groove. The planned draught expansion, and the beer bottle cellar will take time to build out, but should add an extra level of complexity and quality to a solid start.

Overall, though, the restaurant really does seem like an endeavour from someone for whom craft beer is not a passion, but rather a sound business investment (see owner Chris Hall’s other restaurant, the Sin Bin to back this theory). But you know what? Craft Beer in Vancouver has grown to the point where it really IS a sound business decision, and I’m okay with that.

Will I go back and pay this time? Absolutely. Should you? Yup.


As I am wont to do, I crawled outside the foundation and into their cellar. It’s not loaded with awesome beer yet, but it will be.

Written by chuck

September 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Bars

Tagged with

7 Responses to 'August Jack'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'August Jack'.

  1. Seriously? This is supposed to be a beer cellar and they are LAYING bottles down?

    Sounds like Vancouver still has a few things to learn.

    Ryan

    3 Sep 13 at 16:22

  2. Actually, I still consider lay down/stand up an open debate. See here:
    http://barleymowat.com/2013/07/23/stand-up-or-sit-down/

    chuck

    3 Sep 13 at 16:24

  3. I agree with your take – good food, but the pairings could use some work. The pan fried oysters served with delicate beer is a mistake, stout is the obvious option.

    Erik

    3 Sep 13 at 20:16

  4. I visited a certain Mecca of beer this weekend for the first time in about a year or so and realized that they also have no beer tasting notes and no stats, except for alcohol content on certain beer and a number of hops for each beer.

    I think it’s time for a certain establishment to up their game and not rest on their laurels.

    KWL

    9 Sep 13 at 11:25

  5. @KWL – A very valid point. Tasting notes might be difficult because of the menu turnover (and they aren’t a pairing bar) but just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect it of them.

    chuck

    9 Sep 13 at 13:21

  6. Also, should we not expect a little more than “Ian Hill’s IPA” as a beer choice? What is that going to mean to probably 90% (this is a wild guess) of those trying to decide what beer to choose?

    I do see your point about turnover, but how hard is it to type up a few notes and include alcohol content, serving size, and IBUs when a new menu comes out? Beer tasting has reached a whole new level in the last few years and the one place that started the craft revolution in this city so to speak, I feel, is dropping the ball on this.

    KWl

    10 Sep 13 at 10:02

  7. I definitely think ABV and service size should be indicated more clearly. They’ve improved, but it’s still not 100% obvious which of the “large” sizes your beer will come in.

    IBUs aren’t always known for local brews, especially one offs, so I’ll give them a slide there. The hop cones almost have this covered in any event.

    Re: names of beers. This one is trickier. For example Iain’s. The beers are sometimes brewed at YBC but not served there, so does that really make it a YBC beer or perhaps just Iain’s? I like the personal touch that using the brewer’s name creates (especially when the beer doesn’t actually have a proper name) but yes, it can absolutely be less than clear for newer folk where the beer actually came from. “Who is Tak?” is something I’ve definitely overheard before.

    chuck

    10 Sep 13 at 10:08

Leave a Reply