Evolution of liquor laws and industry trends are yielding more options for patrons
Craft beer lovers have grown accustomed to filling a growler at their favourite local watering hole, but what about filling their faces, too? Thanks to an influx of lounge licenses being approved throughout the province, many breweries have been putting away their pepperoni sticks and expanding their food programs into something more elaborate. Chefs are being hired, menu items are being tested, and the result is a combined food-beer experience that is more than the sum of its parts.
Examples can be found across the Lower Mainland, from Four Winds to Parallel 49. In fact, the latter has recently gutted their longtime location on Triumph Street to convert it into a food-friendly taproom, with an expected relaunch set for March 2017. Others, such as R&B and Hearthstone, have opened pizza joints adjacent to their breweries, finding themselves filled to capacity nearly every night of the week. Independent food trucks have become a staple at Brassneck and Strange Fellows, while Deep Cove and 33 Acres have trained their tasting room staff to prepare simple items in-house, such as sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
Rather than seeing food as a secondary element of their business model, these breweries are recognizing its importance as a tool for showcasing their beers and creating a one-of-a-kind experience for customers right at the source.
Bridge Brewing Company in North Vancouver is among the latest establishments to add food to their menu, after rolling out a selection of house-made tacos in early February. “Once you have a lounge license you do have to offer substantial food,” explained Leigh Stratton, co-founder and director of consumption. “We could have gone with chilli and soup and that would have been good enough for the liquor board, but we really wanted something that everybody could enjoy.”
Every morning, space be damned, chef Krissy Seymour uses the brewery’s kitchen to prepare ingredients for a trio of tacos – jerk pulled pork, lime and coconut braised chicken and buffalo-style paneer. Everything is then assembled to order by tasting room staff throughout the day. “I’m a firm believer in letting professionals do their jobs,” said Stratton. “[Krissy] sat down with our brewer to pair the food with the beer and kind of came up with those three options to start with, but we will be changing it up and continually adding new things.”
At $9 for the trio, affordability was another factor in Bridge’s culinary choices. “We’re in the business of selling beer, so we want you to come in and have a beer; we want you to maybe have two beers, so if we can offer something substantial and affordable rather than just having you go somewhere else…” Stratton said.
On the other side of the Second Narrows Bridge, Andina Brewing Company is the newest addition to Vancouver’s craft brewery scene. As a nod to the Colombian roots of its four owners, the East Vancouver brewery has taken a different approach to its food and beer offerings, by creating a lineup of traditional ceviches.
“Ceviche is basically raw seafood and vegetables and fruit cooked in citrus juice,” explained Claudia Amaya, Andina’s communications and marketing director, adding that its light, fresh flavours will serve as the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of brews on tap. Organic ingredients and OceanWise seafood will be sourced fresh each morning, determining which varieties of ceviche will be served later that day. There will be eight in regular rotation, inspired by Ecuadorian, Mexican, Colombian and Peruvian recipes, including a ripe mango and vegetable version for vegetarians.
In addition to its ceviche menu, Andina has created an assortment of lounge-style items as well. “We’re going to have plantain and yucca chips and we’re going to have arepas, which are basically white corn patties that are naturally gluten free,” said Amaya. “Those are going to be served with cheese and we’re going to have a side sauce for dipping, a very traditional Colombian sauce known as hogao, which is cilantro, spring onions and tomato cooked very slowly with some spices.”
More dishes may be added once customers have a chance to try the menu and provide feedback, but Andina’s owners are confident they’ve come up with the perfect mix of sweetness, saltiness and acidity to balance out their initial beer offerings. “We wanted to offer a different alternative, for people to try new things, and to combine the classics with the South American flavours that we have,” said Amaya.
So what exactly is the best thing to have with a nice cold pint, anyways? Taste is largely subjective, but there are some prevailing theories.
“Most food that is served with/on/in bread or something bread-like will be compatible with beer,” explained Chester Carrey, Canada’s first certified cicerone and instructor of the Serious Beer program at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. “Items that are salty, spicy or mouth-coating (like egg yolks or cheese) in particular are often better experienced with something refreshing.”
Because of beer’s inherent carbonation, it is ideal for lifting strong, fatty or oily flavours from the palate (think pizzas and burgers), acting somewhat like a reset button between mouthfuls. And of course there’s the whole ‘opposites attract’ phenomenon as well; salt compliments sugar, acidity compliments richness, and so on.
“To me, pairing is having elements of the beer interact with elements of the food to create something more memorable, creating a new flavour that doesn’t exist in either of those items alone, or elevating the flavours of both,” said Carey.
“Whether you are doing this at home, in a restaurant or brewery with a food program, that is pairing.”
Anything else, he added, is simply putting two things beside each other.
Campus Life Editor
Community Relations Manager
Arts and Culture Editor