Kelly gets invited to a lot of wine-themed gatherings at this time of year, by people hoping she’ll mention their products in her Chatelaine column, and I’ve gotten to tag along once or twice. They are fun, bubbly crowd scenes, and the food is amazing.
Thursday, though, was the first time I got invited to a full-bore, five-course tasting dinner–and the host was the maker of my favorite beer–Innis & Gunn Oak-Aged Beer from Scotland. I have been looking forward to going to CinCin for this for weeks!
As you can probably deduce from their name, Innis & Gunn age their lovely, lovely beer in bourbon, Scotch, rum, and other boozy-type oak casks. We first encountered its wonders, improbably enough, at a Real Canadian Superstore liquor outlet in Airdrie, Alberta. The 20-something at the cash register raved about it… with cause, as it turned out. From then on, it has been the beer I actually make a point of getting and drinking on my 3-4 “Must have Beer Now!” days of the year.
The way these dinners work, it turns out, is they bring out each course of the meal, and the chef tells you what he’s made. Then one of the drinks experts explains which beer is paired with the food, and why. Then your brain explodes with the yum. They’re opulent affairs. The appetizer was salmon and beet root salad with a foamy beer zabaglione, and the main course was venison with chocolate sauce. Dessert was panna cotta, paired with the Canadian Rye cask beer–which was the sharpest of the bunch, and less a fave of mine. I lost my heart, on the other hand, to the Highland Cask beer, which was the drinking equivalent of a perfect day at the circus. It is a limited edition, alas! They won’t make it again. Fortunately, their Rum Cask is almost as mind-blowing, and is about to be available in Canada, hopefully forever.
This whole thing was hosted by the master brewer and owner of the company, Dougal Sharp, and I ended up sitting next to him and a young woman who was dressed like a librarian. It was a disguise, it turns out, as she’s actually something of a sporty adventuress: a helicopter-skiing, white-water rafting, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing rough and tumble woman from the Okanagan. The two of us asked Dougal many questions about beer making, and I’m thinking my next book has to feature some of the lore. Luckily, I have a planet on the drafting board that has infinite room for passionate little subcultures.
It was a delicious, extravagant and tipsy evening, and a great kick-off to the holiday weekend.