Stella's is now BierCraft
People always tell me to go to Stella’s Tap and Tapas Bar on Commercial Drive in Vancouver (there is a new one on Cambie too). They rave about the awesome beer selection, but I’d never considered Stella’s a destination worth seeking out. I’d go to their website to check out their beer menu and not be particularly impressed. What they have on tap is pretty solid, but not enticing enough to warrant a special trip. Turns out there is a whole other beer menu on the website under the Fresh Sheet tab that I’d been completely missing.
I finally made my first visit to Stella’s after work on Friday with some coworkers. The Fresh Sheet beer menu at Stella’s is even more impressive than the one on their website. I was delighted to find a six page menu listing many fine Belgian style beers. There were so many that I had a hard time deciding what to have. I ended up choosing Troublette, a witbeir from Brasserie Caracole, which was lovely.
I’d tried many of the sixty odd beers on Stella’s menu, but there were a few rare gems that I’ve never even seen available before. I’ll definitely be making the pilgrimage to Stella’s a few more times now. The appetizers we shared were delightful and where we sat on the patio offered entertaining views of Commercial Drive‘s funky residents. I know most Vancouver beer enthusiasts already know and love Stella’s, but I highly recommend making the trip if you haven’t yet.
Does beer pair with strawberries and waffles – well, not really. With the short seasonal availability of fresh local strawberries, I have been trying to find ways of incorporating them into every meal, snack or a bored moment in my life. Eating out of boredom is healthy, isn’t it?
As I posted previously, yesterday was strawberry, waffle and beer day. Growing up, waffles were never a breakfast food, I was raised thinking that waffles for dinner was perfectly reasonable. Some people seem to find breakfast for dinner a bit odd, those people are truly missing out. Although eating waffles for dinner was a normal childhood occurrence, beer was never included.
We tried a myriad of different fruit beers with the waffles only to find that beer and waffles just do not work all that well together. We worked our way through Swans Berry Ale, Wittekerke Rose – “the fruity pink beer”, Lindemans Framboise, Morte de Subite Kriek, Lindemans Peche(Peach) and Morte de Subite Geuze. Unfortunately I was unable to find strawberry ale. Not one of the beers truly complemented the meal – the beer was either too grainy or too cloying. The Framboise was over the top sweet and overpowered the strawberries, in contrast Swans Berry Ale tasted too much like beer. The berry ale also had a distinct cheese flavour and reminded me of eating raspberry jam with processed Kraft singles on top of my grandma’s homemade bread – good memory, bad flavour. The top beer of the evening was Wittekerke Rose, described as “the fruity pink beer… with a sensual body” I kid you not; it really says that on the label. The beer flavour was subdued as was the fruit flavour – perhaps this is why it didn’t taste terrible with waffles and strawberries.
In hindsight, my approach for selecting the beer was critically flawed. When eating a sweet meal, fruit punch is probably one of the last drinks to reach for. Instead, a drink that helps to balance the sweetness, my choice has always been milk, is a more appropriate choice. Drinking a fruit beer with waffles is no different than drinking fruit punch with waffles.
I think it would be a real struggle to find a beer that works with a sweet fruity meal. Finding a beer that cuts through the sweetness of waffles and strawberries while providing a complementary contrast would be a struggle for even the most knowledgeable beer aficionado. This may be the one meal where beer stays in the fridge.
I am going to The Vancouver Club for a wedding this weekend. I’ve walked by the building before and it looks quite nice, a lovely place for a wedding reception. I’ve never been to The Vancouver Club and most of what I’ve heard of it comes from rich, old men I’ve met through work. From what I gather, it is an elitest place where business people go to talk about how great the are. Seriously, if the general clientele mirrors the few members I’ve met, then this place is snob central. The dress code posted on their website seems to validate my conclusion. Anyway, I’m wondering if this place is going to have any good beer? I’m sure they’ll have wine and spirits that cost a lot, but will they display good taste or will the ‘premium import beer’ on the menu be Stella Artois? I’ll find out and report back.
In any case, I have a backup plan to get myself some tasty craft beer on Saturday. Conveniently, The Railway Club is located equidistant from the ceremony and reception venues. I’m planning on popping in for a pint of their Railway Boxcar Bitter, brewed exclusively for The Railway Club by Phillips Brewing. They also have some other fine beers on the menu, Central City ESB being one. A few pints before the reception might improve the quality of the speeches later on, who can tell these things?
Yep, the first annual Whistler Beer Festival will take place next year at the earliest. Apparently their brewmaster, who was organizing the whole thing, almost died in a mountain biking accident. Godspeed on your recovery sir. Get well soon. I found out today when I asked Gerry at Brewery Creek if he was going. He told me about the accident, but implored me to ask the honourable Rick Green for more info. Rick confirmed the bad news. I’m pretty choked because Rick had already posted the proposed beer lineup on the now removed Facebook event. It was stacked with mouthwatering beer offerings that I was excited to try.
What to do now? Well, we already booked ourselves in Whistler, so we are going anyway. A weekend in Whistler isn’t the worst thing in the world to suffer through, so don’t feel too sorry for us. I called the Whistler Brewhouse today and was please to find them very apologetic. We’ll be redeeming our tickets for fresh beer, which I hope they won’t be out of by the time we make it up there! Their Wolf Creek Bitter and Grizzly Brown Ale are killer, plus they usually have a solid seasonal or two. We might also amuse ourselves by checking out some of the trails, lakes, and nightlife. And a stop at Howe Sound Brewing on the way back down might provide a fitting end to our weekend. I guess we’ll be all right.
Good news, delicious red-centered BC strawberries are now in season. Strawberry season in BC signifies the start of BC’s bountiful harvest. For those British Columbia who choose to eat large, watery California strawberries all year round, I beg you, please switch to local berries. Local BC strawberries are far juicier, sweeter and overall more flavourful than generic imported strawberries. They are only available for a few weeks, so get your fill while they are still here.
Fresh local strawberries mean one thing in my house, waffles with strawberries. Now here is the challenge, pairing beer with waffles & strawberries. Beer has such a diverse flavour profile from style to style, that I image there must be a beer that works with strawberries.
My first thought is to match this seasonal breakfast-for-dinner or “brinner“, with one of the many local fruit beers available. BC brewers offer a good selection of beer brewed with the inclusion of fruits such as Peach, Raspberry, Blackberry and Pumpkin . Unfortunately I have not been able to find a single brewer in BC offering a strawberry beer. A friend and former brewmaster told me that strawberries impart an unpleasant flavour post ferment, but this cannot be true. Abita Brewing in Louisiana brews what is rumored to be a good strawberry beer. Unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to find Abita’s Harvest Strawberry Lager in BC.
The other option I am considering is a Belgian fruit geuze, a wild fermented lambic beer brewed with fruit – the fruit helps add sweetness to the beer. An aardbei geuze, a strawberry geuze, seems an obvious choice. The only problem could be the geuze overpowering the fresh strawberry flavour. I want the beer to complement the fresh strawberries, no compete. A Belgian Fruli, a Belgian wit beer with strawberry juiced added is also a good option, but from what I have read, Fruli is closer to strawberry soda than strawberry beer.
Please feel free to make recommendations on beers that complement strawberries. I will be making a trip to Brewery Creek and possibly Firefly tomorrow to see what I can find. This Wednesday will be the big strawberry waffle day, I’ll keep you all posted.