Friday, September 6, 2013

Cheers to that!

How do you earn your beer? 

Maybe you didn’t hit snooze and went for your workout this morning. Maybe you spent the day watching the kids… or sat in a cubicle for 8 hours. However you do it, you’ll be thrilled to know there is now a Thunder Bay beer worth earning.
Sleeping Giant Brewery Co. has finally opened its doors, much to the delight of Thunder Bay’s beer lovers. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that is a pretty substantial piece of the population.
There are 4 owners of the company, Kerry, Drea, Rob and Kyle. Each of the owners plays a different role in the business. With a Bachelor in Chemistry, Kyle, who according to Kerry is “very smart,” has been working with different beer recipes for some time, and has taken his time perfecting the beer. ( And perfect it he did- the 360 is now my new favourite beer!)

The 2 current beers are the 360 and the Sleeping Giant Elevator Wheat, the offerings will change seasonally, but as something of a flagship beer, the 360 will stick around all year long. 

The 4 base ingredients in beer are water, malt, hops and yeast, 3 of these ingredients are locally sourced. Luckily, the water we get here is perfect for making beer! There are lots of other local ingredients that can be included in the seasonal specialty beers- Just think of all the possibilities!

Sleeping Giant Beer is sold in a growler; which is just under 2 liters- so about 5 bottles. You pay for a deposit on the growler and for  your choice of beer- then bring the growler back and get a brand new one full of delicious beer!
The brewery itself is very cool- the front area is packed with fun beer ephemerae and paraphernalia. It is as refreshing as the beer itself, as the place feels welcoming and  friendly;  you can tell that the folks there are fun loving….well of course they are, they opened a brewery for goodness sake.

Last night Sleeping Giant Brewery hosted a beer and cheese tasting event led by Mirella Amato. Ms. Amato is a beer Cicerone, which is the equivalent of a sommelier, but for beer. She is one of only 9 in Canada, and the only female beerologist of the bunch. She is a beer sensory evaluation specialist, so she knows about storage, service and most importantly food pairing.
She led us through a series of beer and cheese pairings, reminding us that we all do often pair beer and cheese with nachos, pizza and so on. The tastings were conducted in the style of the ploughman’s lunch, a cup of beer and a hunk of cheese.
She based the pairings on the same basic principle that is followed with wine and food pairing.  Match the intensity of the beer with the intensity of the cheese or one with over power the other, the goal is to create harmony between the flavors, and harmonize we did… 5 times. 

A couple cool new things I learned. Always pour your beer out into a glass. I know a lot of people like to drink from cans, but there is a reason for pouring into a glass. Two reasons actually. The first is that in a glass, you can smell your beer. Out of a can, you just get a noseful of aluminum. Think about when you have a cold and how everything tastes blah. When you drink from a can you are basically impeding the aromas from reaching your olfactory receptors and therefore not experiencing the full potential of the beer. Reason number 2 is the carbonation. Brewers over carbonate by a bit because some of the effervescence will be lost when you pour, which they are expecting you to do.  So, this excess carbonation causes bloating and therefore gross beer belches.  If you’ve ever walked through a cloud of that, I’m sure you can appreciate this pro pouring argument.

Another important element of beer is temperature. “Different beers shine at different temperatures.”  Says Mirella. While it may sound counterintuitive, beers such as complex ales should be served slightly warmer. Still chilled, but not ice cold.

Now, when I taste beer, I generally taste just that…beer. I like it or I don’t.  I seldom think to myself, “My oh my, do I detect a hint of sour cherry?” No. I cannot say that I do that.

However, when someone points a flavour out, it is different.  When Mirella began pointing out flavours, I could taste them, and even begin to detect some flavours of my own. The 2 cheeses she paired with the Sleeping Giant beers were awesome.
The Sleeping Giant Elevator Wheat beer was tasted with a Quebec triple crème brie. The beer itself is exceptionally crisp with just a hint of honey, and a slight bread flavour. When paired with this creamy cheese the citrus notes in the beer really came forward, and the buttery taste of that cheese- omg – it was amazing.  That was the theory behind this pairing- bread and butter.

The Sleeping Giant 360 was paired with a sage derby. The ale has the faintest herbal flavour and with the finish lingered a hint of grapefruit flavour, though I equated it more to a citrus rind flavour. Paired with the herbed cheese it really brought out the caramel notes in the beer with a finish that tasted of fresh creamery butter.

If you are interested in doing your very own tasting, stop in to the Sleeping Giant Brewery. They are now open, and have beer for you to taste. If you want to do your own tasting, all of the cheeses were picked up at Maltese. Try out these pairings for yourself, and see what flavours you can discover. I kid you not, this will be enlightening.

(I’ll write about all of the tasting notes later in the week over at Relatively Gourmand- Hello, Abbot’s Gold!)

Thunder Bay is hungry (well thirsty) for this and it could have come at a better time. With the promise of a long summer ahead of us, a cold beer is just the thing to make it even better. So, stop on over to the Sleeping Giant Brewery, and pick yourself up a growler of ale…you’ve earned it! 

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