Monday, September 2, 2013

Beer Forward Restaurants

A nearby cafe, Lazy Daisy's Cafe, had a contest to help determine the beer selection. I reviewed this place when it opened and it has largely lived up to my assessment. It is a local focused business and all of its effort goes into creating and maintaining their prime clientele of families. Now it is time to expand the business to include evenings. Already they have had comedy nights where some headliners try out some of their new material. There has been alcohol served under a special occasions permits but now, alcohol will become a fixture.

My recent restaurant reviews have included some type of assessment of the beer available with the food and how it matches. So, I am now wondering what advice would I give someplace like a local cafe on what to include on their craft beer list. We'll ignore all those definitions for local and just go with a more woolly idea that the beer has to be able to be delivered within four of five hours of an emergency beer call.

Lagers: There are two good reasons for this entry, the first is to piss off the craft beer snobs and second, lagers are the most popular beer in the world. You have to give people something they recognize and like. You could get a little loose with this definition of lager and include Kolsch as a style. Steamwhistle, Lug Tread, Mill St. Organic are all reasonable. If you extend craft to include the way the beer is made rather than who owns them, then Beer Academy has a few and Creemore Springs would be a good addition. Only warning, don't only stock lagers. Find no more than three and go with it. These don't have to change often because stereotypical lager drinkers are ones that stick with it.

Farmhouse/Miner's Ale: These are spiced, flavoured ales that are known for their refreshing ability. Grissette was made for miners to drink and biere de garde and saisons were the same for farmers and their seasonal workers. Originally, these were all lower alcohol beer meant to go with the breaks during the work. Not to get you drunk but tasty. From experience, it is easier to get help if your lunch spread is tasty. The differences between farm work is slight so any advantage to getting help is a benefit. 

So, these all share a dryness factor, sometimes fruity and sometimes spicy. Great Lakes Brewery has three grissettes bottled but due to the low alcohol, they may not age well. Saisons and biere de garde will stay a little better but availability can be an issue. Oast House from Niagara is doing a number of these styles. Black Oak has a summer saison. Amsterdam has started experimenting and maybe they will continue to offer a new saison depending on the season. Nickelbrook, Bellwoods, and Sawdust City all do at least one good saison.

The saison beer style often appeals to those who drink red wine. The biere de garde can be a little malty. All of these pair well with common workers' food. I would advise cafes to change their ingredients on the sandwiches to go better with the brew. Mess around until you find something you like.

IPA: It's the standard beer for novice craft beer enthusiasts. That may be a little unkind but every brewery does one of these. This beer is great as a palate cleanser and pairs well with spicy foods. You gotta have one. Flying Monkeys does a good job with theirs and has that name brand recognition. In reality, most local brewers do a decent version from Amsterdam's Boneshaker, Double Trouble's Hops and Robbers to a little more food friendly but expensive to carry Spearhead. It might be best to get something that isn't on the LCBO shelves like GLB's Karma Citra or Wellington's Shangra-La to attract beer enthusiasts with something they may not have tried.

Witbier/Weissbier: A wheat beer goes great with food. Differences between the Belgian wit and the German weiss are that the wit is spiced and slightly sour while the weiss has banana and clove notes from the yeast. There are more nuances but that is the basics. This is the type of beer that you pull out for a summer day. If you are looking for a local German weissbier, you can't go wrong with Denison's Weissbier. It is phenomenal with scallops and seafood. If you do go with the witbier, then White Picket Fence by Bellwoods would be good. In general, if you are operating a bar/cafe on the east side, bringing west side microbrews like Indie Ale House, Bellwoods and Kensington would be a good idea. 

Porter/Stout:  Need something to go with dessert and for those people who say they only drink dark beers. Just for the record, the colour of the beer may have nothing to do with the flavour. When people talk about drinking dark beer, it is roasts and malts with chocolate and coffee tastes they are talking about. Mill St. Coffee Porter and Sawdust City's Long Dark Trip to Uranus are good examples. This is often treated like a seasonal, so maybe it would be good to offer either a porter/stout or a sour beer. 

All that stuff above is mainly about styles but what I mean by a beer forward menu is that there is at least a beer for each course that compliments and makes the meal more enjoyable. There must be a mix of recognizable names and new brews. There has to be some accessible beer for new drinkers but a challenging beer or two for aficionados. Might be worth a small bottled beer selection for just this purpose. The staff need to be able to explain what these beers are like and be able to suggest what goes with what. Lazy Daisy has gone a long way to engaging the local beer drinkers and this is what their business model has been. It will go a long way to help to gain goodwill from the regulars if they are included in making the decisions. If only every restaurant would take some simple steps to making their beer list more interesting for food pairing... 

1 comment:

  1. Ah, now that was a useful blog post for a person with a family of beer drinkers. I feel a bit better now when they throw around these words. And now I think I have one they don't use - miner's ale! (Though I can't help but take this to a new place these days, data miner's ale!")

    Also, a big thanks for commenting on my student's blog. Magical stuff...