Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beer Dinner with Garrett Oliver

A Friday night beer dinner in Toronto recently provided me with a couple of firsts. First time meeting Garrett Oliver, brew master of Brooklyn Brewery and champion of beer and food pairings, and another first as the dinner was held at a pub, a Prime Pub.

Fionn MacCool’s recently announced a craft beer promotion that a number of their establishments are participating in from September 8 to November 30. To help promote it, Prime Pubs (who owns a number of places) brought in Oliver to host a bunch of media personnel that featured three of Brooklyn’s signature beers. Each beer was paired with individual dishes to which Oliver provided a highly entertaining and educated speech regarding why the pairing was chosen.

Let me take a small step back before I get into the dinner.

Upon arrival we were greeted at the door and quickly ushered to the bar for complimentary glasses of Brooklyn Lager, a new addition to Fionn’s draught line-up. It was interesting to see all the other patrons at Fionn’s ordering glasses of the lager as they watched our group walk away with ours. Normally known for their sales of Keith’s and Guinness, I observed a large amount of Brooklyn being served.

As Josh Rubin (Toronto Star) sat interviewing Oliver, the rest of us talked shop and rummaged through out gift packs like kids at Christmas; well at least I did. I finally had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with Oliver before the dinner started, asking him questions that will be featured in the winter issue of TAPS: Canada’s Beer Magazine.

I found Oliver to be an engaging and patient listener who carefully dissected each question before providing a beautifully prepared response. He was a wonderful speaker, very articulate without coming across as arrogant. I asked him questions about the Brooklyn brewery, new beers on the market, his dealings with the LCBO, inquired about his knowledge on Canadian beers and talked about his world renowned book: The Brewmaster’s Table.

After completing the interview I took up my seat beside friend and fellow beer writer Greg Clow and buckled in for the three course meal. Oliver addressed the crowd, which included the entire pub as our group wasn’t secluded from the rest of the Friday night contingent of pub-goers. He spoke about the diversity of beer, the ingredients in bread and cheese (very interesting) and shared a little background information for the rest of the media. Once finished, the first plate of food was served.

Atlantic Salmon with a maple-citrus glaze was served with a glass of Brooklyn Local 1 and the match was nice as the carbonation of the Belgian style ale cut through the fatty oils of the salmon. Round two was chicken tikka masala boxty complimented by Brooklyn’s East India Pale Ale. The chicken wasn’t very spicy which was the goal and Oliver himself said the matching would have been better with more spice. A sirloin burger, actually, a big sirloin burger was the third dish and brought back the glasses of the lager. Nicely done.

Oliver also visited each table numerous times to greet all the guests and thanked them for attending. He shared some stories with our table about the slow food movement and why he is so passionate about good food and good beer.

At the end of the night, Oliver and the rest of the Prime Pub crew headed over to the Bier Markt for what would be their first stop along many as Oliver wanted to see what Toronto beer bars offer. Earlier in the day he had visited C’est What and was pretty impressed with what he had. He had wanted to get back to Beerbistro, but unfortunately due to the flood they weren’t open. I followed along (only to Bier Markt) to take some photo's for the magazine and had another chance to share a pint with Oliver one-on-one. His passion is certainly infectious and his knowledge is astounding.

It was a good night, full of laughs, good speeches and good beer.

For full details on the event and pairings, be sure to check out the winter issue of TAPS as Clow’s wife Sheryl will have a full report.


Mig said...

lucky bastard!

vistaway said...

I second that comment!

Troy Burtch said...

It was definitely a good night. Oliver is a great speaker and entertainer.

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