Ever heard of a cicerone?
It’s a beer sommelier who can expertly match beer with food. To celebrate last week’s Craft Beer Week in Vancouver I took a tour through Granville Island to visit some of the local microbreweries.
When Granville Island Brewery started in 1984 it was Canada’s first craft beer maker. Twenty-eight years on it’s still going strong producing eight (two seasonal) and various limited edition ales and lagers.They’re sold in the microbrewery’s bar and various places around the city.
After a tour of the brewery, which is just behind a glass wall in the bar, we had a taste of the seasonal False Creek raspberry ale.
Unlike the sickly-sweet artificial tasting fruit beers I’ve tasted before, this had a subtle taste of berries and wasn’t too saccharine – brew master Vern adds raspberry puree rather than flavourings during the brewing process.
We also tasted a Cypress Honey Lager, which again wasn’t as sweet as expected, and this was followed by a Northwestern IPA (Indian Pale Ale). Canadians like bitter beers, and despite my sweet tooth, this one ended up being my favourite.
At Osake artisan sake makers we tasted three different unfiltered sakes, fermented from pressed rice. Each had tasting notes that ranged from tropical fruit to piquant – I thought they smelled of pear drops; slightly sweet and acidic at the same time. I think sake might be a taste best acquired when accompanied by seafood or sushi to balance out the flavours.
Dockside restaurant brews its own house beers and has a sexy patio to enjoy them on in the summer. Brew master Mark Simpson, who has been described as a ‘microbiologist in gumboots’, has produced some specially selected beers that are paired with dishes from the menu.
I’m no cicerone, but the pinkish hibiscus flavoured Jamaican lager (pronounced ‘yamaican’), which was inspired by a Mexican soft drink, is a definite winner.
We also tried a Pilsner, which cuts through spicy food and takes the hot edge off a dish like chilli squid. The IPA has a big flavor and we tried crab cake as a sweet accompaniment to take the edge off the beer. Finally we tried the Old Bridge dark lager, which looked like chocolate soup and went down well with the burger and fries.
Jamaican was my favourite, but anything would probably taste good sitting out in sunshine over looking Yaletown on a summer afternoon.