Countless country tunes have been written about it, it gets invited to more backyard barbeques than most people do, and we’ve all stolen a taste of it from our dad’s bottle when we thought he wasn’t looking. I am, of course, talking about the humble beer. Cold and bubbly, it can make light work out of mowing the lawn or become the highlight of sitting on the front porch and doing absolutely nothing. The one thing that it surely is not, however, is the perfect complement to a decadent slice of rich chocolate cheesecake, right?
It comes as no surprise to me that the Cowichan Valley is fast becoming famous for its unique, award-winning wines. Perfectly paired with any one of a countless variety of delectable treats, a lovely glass of wine can add a whole dimension of its own to any dining experience. But as we found out at the three course dinner and beer tasting event presented by Jeff Kendrew of Vancouver Island Brewery at one of our very favourite local restaurants, the often overlooked and under-appreciated beer has quietly earned a place at even the fanciest dinner tables.
Just as a sommelier can guide you through the vast selection of wines to complement your dinner, Jeff, a certified cicerone, knows just about everything there is to know about pairing great food with the perfect beer. From clean and simple to dark and decadent, each beer has a personality of its own. We started with an Island Lager, a clean and simple tasting beer that won a gold medal this year in the North American Lager category. Hailed by Jeff as the best lager in Canada, it only takes one sip to see why.
From sweet Hightrail Honey Ale with salad and perfectly seared scallops cooked to artistic perfection by one of our favourite chefs, Matt Heyne, to the Sea Dog Amber Ale and melt-in-your-mouth steak, it was an evening filled with things that make your mouth happy. The hint of honey ale in the vinaigrette gave the salad a sweet, delicate flavour that really proved to us that beer really does deserve its place in the recipe book, not just in the glass.
As Jeff jovially enlightened us all about the world of great beer, Cow Cafe West Coast Grill owners Matt and Jenn and their dedicated staff made sure that everyone enjoyed great food and a great time.
With a commitment to local and organic seasonal ingredients, the Cow Cafe is one of our very favourite places to go for a great meal. Sitting right on the ocean in Cowichan Bay overlooking the marina, its easy to spend an entire afternoon relaxing on the terrace with a few great friends.
As we reluctantly admitted to being full, this wonderfully rich and creamy cheesecake made its way to our table. Not wanting to offend it, we somehow found the will to find just enough room in our burgeoning bellies to devour it! Infused with Vancouver Island Brewery’s shining jewel, the big, bold Hermanattor, it was impossible to leave any on the plate. This rich “ice bock” beer is only brewed once a year, left to ferment to deep, dark perfection for a full three months instead of the usual four weeks, it boasts a robust 9.5% alcohol content. Before we met Jeff, we never would have believed that beer even goes with dessert, let alone in it. Yet the marriage of this hearty beer with the rich chocolate of the cake made us instant believers.
As summer slowly descends upon the Cowichan Valley, bringing with it long days filled with warm sunshine and mild breezes, our imaginations fill with the promise of a welcoming terrace and many more slices of lovely chocolate cheesecake paired with our new favourite dessert drink…beer.
Who would have guessed?
Thanks so much for visiting us today! As always, please do leave your wonderful thoughts and comments for us all to share. And as you all declare battle on the dandelions on the lawn, lovingly toil in your gardens, frolic in the pool, or whatever else pulls you out into the sunshine, remember to sit a spell and enjoy an ice-cold beer, and of course, a piece of cake!
Until next time!