Southern Tier IPA is one of those everyday beers that Ontario beer lovers have come to adore, through private orders and various beer destinations throughout the GTA. Months, even years of yearning for the delicious brew will finally reward their patience as the LCBO has announced that the hop forward IPA will grace the shelves as a general listing.
Friday night, good beer drinkers, writers, bloggers, LCBO personnel and an Ontario beer sales rep, gathered at an historic Toronto landmark aptly named the Academy of Spherical Arts, to celebrate Southern Tier’s entrance into the Ontario market on a large scale.
Vlado Pavicic and his energetic wife Liliana, owners and operators of the Roland and Russell Import Agency, hosted the memorable evening with fine foods, very fresh beer and a fantastic atmosphere. Ticket sales were very good and at $75 a pop, people got the most bang for their buck.
The doors opened at 6pm and a tour of the historic building was in order. The structure, located at 1 Snooker Street (formerly 1 Hanna Avenue) dates back to 1905 and was home to the Brunswick Billiard Factory, a company dedicated to the construction of elaborate pool tables, 14 of which sit in the restaurant for regular use today. Opened in 1991, the Spherical Arts features high ceilings that have been left in their natural state as exposed wooden rafters extend from side to side, end to end. Local art graces each wall and antique furniture is situated throughout the fully carpeted establishment.
Richard Williams, owner of the Spherical Arts, described how the name was created with an interesting story from his youth. Williams admittedly confessed to skipping many classes in high school, which led his teacher to proclaim he would fail the course only to succeed in the spherical arts. Great story and a fantastic name for such a venue.
Back to the dinner.
Liliana stepped to the mic after forty minutes of meet and greets and got the dinner underway. She made some introductions, thanked bloggers and the LCBO staff for their hard work in promoting Southern Tier and thanked Alan McLeod (A Good Beer Blog) for sending the introductory email that got the ball rolling. McLeod had sampled some Southern Tier products years ago and was so impressed he notified Roland and Russell to have them check it out (thanks Alan!).
After introductions and welcoming speeches by co-hosts Cass Enright (Bar Towel) and Greg Clow (Beer,Beats,Bites & TasteTO), the first pairing was delivered to our table.
Now, like I have mentioned before I am no foodie nor pretend to be, so I’ll stick to the beer, which happened to be Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale with the butternut squash, pear and cheddar soup. The Extraordinary Ale was, well, Extraordinary. It has a nice hop aroma and taste, balanced malt profile and went great with the soup.
Round two was my favourite pairing of the night. Baked black cod with sweet potato, rapini and a walnut butter sauce was paired with Southern Tier’s 6.0% porter. Again, there was a nice hop presence, which blended nicely with the chocolate and coffee notes and the burnt malt. It matched perfectly.
Pairing three was interesting. Southern Tier’s IPA was meant to cut through the heat of the Spicy chicken panang with scented rice, crisp garlic and onions, and it did, but the chicken was so damn hot it forced me to drink two bottles of the IPA (in fairness, my fiancé has celiac disease so she shouldn’t have been drinking it in the first place).
Dessert was beautiful. Chocolate mousse and raspberries, paired with Southern Tier’s Raspberry Ale, brought out the intense raspberry flavouring of the beer. The kitchen staff did a fantastic job pairing all the food with the beers, making my night.
In between servings, Enright, Clow, Southern Tier owner Phin Demink and brewer Paul Cain, all took turns speaking, with each providing stories about the beer and the brewery and also holding a question period for everyone in attendance.
After all the food was consumed, it was back up to the bar to share some stories with other beer writers like Josh Rubin from the Toronto Star, who has got to know the Southern Tier guys quite well and plans to have a story for the Star soon; Alan McLeod (whom I had never actually met face to face with before), shared some insight into the beer blogging world and provided some interesting stories. Others included Enright, Clow, and though not a beer writer, but a beer seller, Jon Graham from Cameron’s, who I always enjoy having a pint with.
It is events like this that help remind me why I love beer so much. It was a diverse crowd who all share a passion for the products, showing no signs of pretentiousness, having a great time sharing stories, becoming friends, celebrating a proud moment together. Beer brings all sorts of people together like no other beverage can.
Congratulations Roland and Russell and Southern Tier.
***The LCBO plans to have the IPA on the shelves mid May.