Obviously I know that almost all beer has hops in it, but not necessarily the high levels you find in the pacific northwest. When I moved to London I thought I’d be moving to a beer mecca, cask beer everywhere! I actually feel like I’ve taken a step down beer-wise. While there is a thriving pub culture here that I very much enjoy, I can’t say as much about the quality of the average beer. The majority of cask ales have been open a bit too long and taste a bit stale. Even the freshest cask of English ale can only be described as a mild pale ale by west coast standards. We’re blessed in Vancouver to have been influenced by the hopheads of Oregon, Seattle, and Northern California and it tastes good.
Sweet, sweet Central City IPA
I didn’t realize quite how much I missed a 60 IBU West Coast IPA until I had a slew of visitors gift me fantastic bottles from the motherland. Amongst my blessings I counted Central City IPA, Granville Island Imperial IPA, and Deschutes Hop Trip. They were delicious, thanks for asking. Of course there are British exceptions, such as the brilliantly hoppy offerings from Brewdog in Scotland, but I can definitely say that UK brewing lacks the adventurous extremes of the North American west coast and Belgium. Lucky for me, I’m making a quick return to Vancouver next week. Canucks woooo!
I knew that I missed hockey, but (again) I didn’t realize how much until I was reminded of it’s absolute awesomeness. Game 4 of the Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks series was at noon pacific time, meaning it was on in London at 8PM. I seized my big chance to watch live hockey for the first time in over a year at the Maple Leaf pub in Covent Garden, as did every other hockey starved Vancouverite in London. I can honestly say it was one of the best atmospheres in which I’ve ever watched a hockey game. The place was packed out with fervent Canucks fans decked in blue and teal, complete with UK levels of alcohol consumption, which resulted in really good times. What choice do I have but to come home for the parade?
At the Maple Leaf for game 4
Hank didn't touch it, we're good
Steak tastes better with wine than beer. I do not care how passionately Garrett Oliver argues that the rich roasted malt flavour in an English Porter compliments the charred caramelized exterior of a grilled piece of beef. Cabernet Sauvignon is king when it comes to steak. Beer is certainly not offensive alongside steak, but it is just not number one. Steak Sandwich on the other hand, is a whole different story.
A steak sandwich is beautiful thing and can be tasty a pub staple. But sadly this sandwich is often times massacred by a passionless line cook who places a thin cheap slice of beef on a soggy piece of garlic bread which is than called a steak sandwich – tragic. A proper steak sandwich, that combines crispy fried onions, toasted bread, a 21 day dry-aged (minimum) piece of beef and perhaps a thin layer a blue cheese compound butter with hint of grainy mustard, stands firmly in a beer territory. Wine simply cannot handle these diverse flavour combination, but beer can.
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world’s most talented brewmasters; many specializing in hop heavy ales. The relatively new style of beer known as a Cascadian Dark Ale is the perfect match for a Steak Sandwich. The Cascadian Dark Ale is in essence a brown ale or porter combined with the hop profile of an IPA. The roasted malt flavours in this new beer compliment a charred steak while the crisp hop flavours balance the power of blue cheese and the sweetness of fried onions. The Cascadian Dark Ale was brewed for the steak sandwich.
Over the weekend I decided that it was time to work towards creating the ultimate steak sandwich. Here is the recipe from my first attempt:
- Thinly slice an onion into rings (a shallot may work even better) and coat with a mixture of half flour and half cornstarch. Let the rings sit until ready for frying.
- Heat frying oil to 360 F in a pot with high sides and fry the onions until golden brown.
The Compound Butter
- Mix together half room temperate butter and half blue cheese.
- Season the steak with salt and pepper (be heavy handed with the salt and pepper) and grill to medium rare. My choice of steak for this is the T-bone as it combines both the strip loin and the tenderloin and when sliced and mixed together the flavours and textures of the two cuts work well together. If the steak is not dry aged for at least 21 days it is no good. My butcher in Langley, Heritage Meats, dry ages their beef for 30 days and although it is pricey, it is worth it. If your butcher can’t tell you how long they hang their beef I suggest you shop somewhere else.
- Let the steak rest for 3-4 minutes and thinly slice the steak. Pour any resting juices over the sliced steak.
- Grill slices of quality bread (not Wonder Bread) over high heat until lightly charred. Rub a clove of garlic over the grilled bread – this will give a nice garlic flavour to the bread.
- Thinly spread the compound butter on the bottom of the toasted bread. Spread a very thin layer of grainy mustard on the top (the lid) of the sandwich.
- Place the steak slices on the bread with the compound butter.
- pile the crispy fried onion over the steak
- pile fresh arugula or any other flavourful salad greens over the onions
- Close the sandwich and enjoy – some people like an open faced sandwich and omit the lid, which is fine I suppose.
- Enjoy with any dark hoppy beer. My choice was Deschutes Hop in the Dark. This is a delicious beer brewed by one of my favourite brewers.
Erik and I received an email from a PR firm who wanted our address so they could send us a sample of a soon to be launched beer. I was a bit worried it was someone I’d offended coming to punch me in the face, so I gave them my work address. Lucky for me, a package arrived on Friday instead of a fist. I opened the package to find an elaborate wood box labeled Rickard‘s Dark. The box contained two bottles of Rickard’s Dark, two beer glasses, two coasters, and a blindfold. I found the inclusion of a blindfold a bit odd, but I suppose it is for doing a blind tasting? Or maybe for post tasting kinky fun times? Either or, I doubt I’ll be using it.
Opening the package to find the Rickard's Dark box
Contents of the Rickard's Dark Box
I haven’t tasted the beer yet. Erik is coming over on Monday and I figured I’d wait for him. Rickard’s Dark is supposedly a 4.8% ABV English style porter with added Quebec maple syrup. I do love me some porter, but I’m not so sure I’ll like Rickard’s Dark. I used to drink Rickard’s beer in my younger days because I found it to be a breath of fresh air when compared to Molson Canadian. I’ve since expanded my beer horizons well beyond Molson’s own Rickard’s brand and no longer care for their Red and Honey Brown like I once did. That being said, I hope that Rickard’s Dark is wonderful and that it might get some non craft beer drinkers into porter and onto other wonderful porters like Black Butte from Deschutes. Expect to see Rickard’s Dark on the shelves in Rickard’s Taster packs within a few weeks.
I love porter; it is one of my favorite beer styles. I find porter to be quite easy and enjoyable to drink, which might be due to the moderate alcohol levels and pleasant roasty and chocolate flavors one finds in porter. What I don’t like about porter is its relative scarcity in these parts. I can’t think of one BC brewer that regularly sells six packs of porter. You’ll sometimes find 650ml bottles of porter from BC craft brewers available in BC Liquor Stores, but these examples are often brewed with an additional element such as chocolate, coffee, coconut, or other fruit. While I definitely like these beers, what I’d really like to see is a widely available six pack of quality porter from one of BC’s many fine brewers. In the mean time, Deschutes has recently made its way into BC. Thank heaven for their Black Butte Porter, which is definitely one of my favorite beers! I picked some up from Brewery Creek last week and, with a few friends, made quick work of them. With craft brewing gaining ground in BC, I can only hope that a widely available porter is on the horizon. I’d suck one, or six.
I spent this past BC Day long weekend at a cabin near the foot of Mount Baker, a short jaunt across the border from where I live. Just before the cabin on the road to Mount Baker, there is a small grocery store called Nooksack Market. I’d visited this market two years ago on a previous visit to the same cabin. When my wife told me we were heading to here uncle’s place, all I could think about was getting back to this market. Why? Because they have a fantastic craft beer selection stocked with delicious Washington and Oregon beers that you can’t get at any of BC’s best beer stores! It was really overwhelming shopping at that tiny market because I wanted to buy everything. I ended up buying a lot of the Stone, Lagunitas, and Deschutes beers that you can’t get here. It was a good weekend, but I drank too much.
A sample of what's waiting for us right across the border
On the way back to Canada we stopped at the Sumas Liquor store to stock up. This liquor store is two blocks from the border, within clear sight of the crossing. They too had a fantastic selection and I picked more of the same great beers, plus a few Laughing Buddha bottles. An American reading this blog might think I am crazy, stupid, or both, but the beer selection right across the border is enough to get this Canadian beer enthusiast exited. Curse our stupid liquor laws! If trucks carrying this delicious beer can get to the border, surely they can get across too, right? We’ll even pay double, which is pretty much what we pay anyway. At least we get Health Care…
The Booze Bear at Sumas Liquor Store, ha
Also, I had a Bud Light Lime this weekend and I thoroughly did not enjoy it. It tasted nothing like beer, but like malty sprite. I still think Bud Light Lime is horrible and implore you fans of this perverse liquid to seek out and explore other light beers and alcoholic beverages.