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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Monday, November 9, 2015

The Beer Baron - Hunting Local Treasures

The Beer Baron is back! This post comes from Matt and you can find him on Twitter & Instagram @geekcanuck

When you think of great craft beer cities, you probably don’t think of my hometown of London, Ontario. While it may not be San Diego, Bruges, Grand Rapids or even nearby Guelph, Ontario, London does boast one of the province’s best craft beer bars (Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium) and a great little craft brewery (Forked River Brewing Company). It is also smack dab in the middle of some pretty wonderful agricultural land, so there is no shortage of locally sourced food to enjoy with our beer here.

So, when my Dad visited recently from Calgary and we had an afternoon to kill, I knew exactly where I wanted to take him. Even though both the Clockwatching Tart and I have loved their cheeses since first trying them at the
London Wine & Food Show a few years ago, we’d never made it to visit Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese.

If you click the above Food & Wine Show link, you’ll see we had pretty wonderful things things to say about Gunn’s Hill upon discovering their cheese – “I think the tastiest thing I tried at the whole show was the Five Brothers cheese from Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock” – and those feelings still stand.

Described as a hand-crafted, washed rind cow's milk cheese that combines traits from Gouda and another Swiss variety called Appenzeller, Five Brothers is aged on cedar planks and is firm but still creamy, aromatically alluring and at once rich and robust but subtle.

Basically, I love Five Brothers enough that I’m not embarrassed to show the photo above... almost not embarrassed, anyway. After securing several wedges of Five Brothers, it was back to London to track down a suitable beer pairing.

After a length back and forth with provincial and federal regulators (not to mention an avalanche of support from local craft beer fans and politicians), Forked River finally got the green light to open its new retail store the week Dad was in town, so it was only fitting to pay it a visit. We were rewarded with a recently released barrel-aged sour blonde ale named Hansel & Brett’el.

There are as many pun names in the craft beer world as there are bearded people who work in craft breweries, which is a lot. In this particular case, the “Brett” in Hansel and Brett’el refers to Brettanomyces, a strain of yeast often used in saisons and farmhouse ales that imparts a wonderful sour character or funk, especially when combined with specific barrel aging.

After six months aging in chardonnay barrels, the Hansel & Brett’el is light but complex and fantastically funky and a perfect match for Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers cheese as well as apples, which are unsurprisingly known to be friendly with chardonnay. The sourness and tartness of the beer and apples were in perfect harmony and balanced nicely by the rich but not overwhelming nature of the cheese. In fact, it wouldn’t take much to convince me that Hansel & Brett’el is as good a match for Five Brothers as any wine you could throw at it – and certainly a pairing Londoners should be proud of.
(Note: the sausage actually overpowered the most wonderful and subtle notes of both the beer and the cheese, but the apples were a perfect companion and a fresh baguette to take the place of the sausage would have been a welcome addition.)

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