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.


Friday, May 15, 2009

A Thirsty Traveler Beer Dinner

** A late review of the beer dinner that was held recently at Fynn's of Temple Bar **

April 27th was a gorgeous day. The weather was great. It would have been the perfect day for a backyard bbq complimented with a cooler full of some tasty craft beer. If only I was back home on the farm, not stuck in an apartment in the city without the use of my favourite cooking apparatus. To help ease my pain I decided to head to Fynn's of Temple Bar to sit in on the four course beer and food dinner being hosted by Kevin Brauch of the Thirsty Traveler fame. If I couldn't bbq, this was the next best thing.

I had only ever been to Fynn's once, and the beer line-up that is listed on the regular drink menu is one that does not inspire me. Diageo products, InBev-AB products, you know the type. So I was a bit spectacle about this particular beer dinner. However, Robin Wynne, the general manager of the restaurant, sent me an email before hand and explained that their first beer dinner (held back in October) featured a number of beers that I quite enjoy, and he promised that the beers being used for this dinner would not be from the menu.

Fynn's appears to be a product of the Irish Pub Co., the company famous for designing and constructing 'Irish' pubs then sending the pieces to the intended buyer for installation. This may or not be the case with Fynn's, but it looks like one. It creates a whole different atmosphere and it's interesting doing beer dinners in establishments like these. They keep things simple, which can be a nice break from the posh, high priced dinners. The price is reasonable, the food is good, the beer can be nice, and the crowd tends to be a mixture of newbies and those already fully immersed in craft beer, usually creating a fun experience. Fynn's was no different.

I got there just before the 6:30 intended start time and took my seat between a Diageo rep, and the host of the Roger's television show, Toronto Dining, who was there filming a segment for the show. It was an interesting seat to have. On one side of me there was a female who doesn't like beer, and on the other side a male who works for a huge corporation and claims his favourite beer in the world is Red Stripe. The paying attendees were still entering the restaurant at this time, which pushed back the start time. The first drink, Wellington Arkell Best Bitter, wasn't delivered to the table until 7:10pm, and Brauch didn't take to the mic until 7:20pm. The Diageo rep had never heard of Wellington before, which didn't shock me, but it amazes me how many reps for large brewing companies don't know about the craft market in this province. The Arkell is one of those beers that doesn't get a lot of press, but damn, is it ever a fine beer.

The first round of food came out around 7:45pm, a bit of a wait. A very good Mulligatawny Soup served with cilantro pesto foccacia was paired with St. Peter's Organic English Ale. It was a good pairing as the subtle bitterness cut through the slight heat of the soup and allowed all the flavours of the soup to stand out. Brauch spoke about the beer for a minute or two, then made his way around the room with the mic talking to the crowd.

The third beer of the night, Coopers Sparkling Ale, was brought out on trays at 8:00pm and was paired with a Shrimp Avocado Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and an Apple Citrus Vinaigrette. Nice match, good salad. Not to big on the beer though.

There was a big gap in time between the second course and the main course - 40 mins to be exact. A Jerk Pulled Pork with Smoked Cheddar on a toasted Vienna Loaf with Spicy Fries was the main dish, and it was paired with a Theresianer Vienna Style Lager from Italy. I wasn't to fond of this pairing. The beer was weak (give me a St. Andre's any day) and the pork was a little dry. Maybe I was mentally comparing it with beerbistro's pulled pork, or the delicious one made at Victory Cafe. Or maybe the beer just didn't do it justice.

Onto the final course - dessert. It didn't arrive to the table until 9:35pm, but it was worth the wait. A bottle of Young's Double Chocolate Stout was served with a big slice of Banana Stout Cake with a maple syrup reduction and glazed bananas. Terrific match. The Stout and the banana worked very well together, a nice marriage of flavours.

So there you have it. For $50 you received five beers, four courses of food, snippets of Brauch doing his thing, and a pretty enjoyable evening out. There were around 80 tickets sold, so almost a sell-out crowd, and as I mentioned, a number of those people were just being exposed to news beers that night.

Wynn mentioned that Fynn's, along with Brunch, will continue to hold these dinners every so often, changing the beer line-up each time. Not a bad way to spend an evening.


Greg said...

Fynn's used to be a Fionn MacCool's, and I suspect that they probably didn't change things much when it switched as I don't recall it being closed for long (if at all) in-between. That probably explains the Irish Pub Co. look.

Troy Burtch said...

Greg- ah! I see. The place is now, at least I'm told, independently owned and operated with no suits to report to, but the beer menu is still pretty much the same as you'd find in any Prime, or FAB Concept pub.

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