15th Annual Ode to Ale

Well I recall my days as a wee lad when dear grandpa treated us kids to his ice-cream float, a rich and delicious concoction where he plunked a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a tumbler of root beer.

Oh what sticky, fizzy bliss!

Fast-forward five decades, and the other day I could only wonder who would ever think of creating grandpa’s float with homemade cinnamon ice cream bobbing in a glass of — get this — double-chocolate stout ale?

I tried it, and turns out the stuff is pretty darned delicious — sweet with spicy notes, rich with frozen cream and cashew butter, mellowed with hops from Young’s Double Chocolate Stout available in better-stocked LCBO stores.

Now, that’s a treat for adults with a taste for sweet adventure.

Which is exactly the culinary tribute, among others, we’re sharing in this, our 15th annual Ode to Ale theme Food feature to salute Canada Day. Inspiration is courtesy of some very serious craft and home-brew beer aficionados who periodically meet to eat and drink in the basement of a Keller Williams Realty building, of all places, on Bronson Avenue just south of the Queensway.

There, every six weeks or so, some 35 thirsty members of the Ottawa Beer TAP Society (that’s Tasting, Appreciation and Pairing, get it?) gather in an unsigned little restaurant called the Copper Pot Café and Catering Co. for an evening of ambitious beer and food. Often the beer is home brewed by society founder and organizer Jean Paul “J.P.” Fournier, and other members, while a typical six-course dinner to match is prepared by chef/owner Colin Lockett, 33, who’s been cooking 17 years.

Even better, Fournier and his merry Beer TAP Society is about to launch the first National Capital Craft Beer Week on Aug. 10 to 18, including live music, food and beer tastings, guest brewmasters and hops farmers. Full details at nationalcapitalbeerweek.com.

“I always brew at least half the beers on our menu while other home brewers contribute the rest,” Fournier says.

He formed the society two years ago when, at age 40, he wanted a career change as a professional disc jockey and event co-ordinator. “I always wanted to be a chef,” Fournier says, “but realized it would have taken me too long to retrain.

“So I decided to get into brewing, which gives me the opportunity to be creative.”

Unfortunately, Fournier at the time didn’t really like the taste of beer, and had never brewed a drop in his life. So he waded into his research, reading everything he could about craft beer and sampling no small share of suds to educate his palate. In only six months, Fournier discovered he was rather good at home brewing — he won two awards in 2010 at the Toronto Home Brewing Competition.

“To my amazement, friends and family really liked my home beers. I’ve never used a kit or mix in my life, it’s always been real barley malt, other grains, hops, fruit and herbs for flavour accents.”

Liquor licensing rules prompted him to create his own club, so he could obtain special occasion permits to serve his beer at places other than his house. The Beer TAP Society was created in September 2010 with just 25 members, and is now a most lively concern with more than 200 members.

His first event at Oz Café on Elgin Street was an instant success. Members include home brewers, some professionals, and others who just like to drink the stuff. Among those I met at a recent Copper Pot Café basement dinner is Marc Bru, head brewer and owner of Square Timber Brewing Co., which he hopes to open in Pembroke late this year or early 2013.

“I love the craft brewing industry,” says Bru, a retired percussionist from Saskatoon.

“The whole process and art of putting things together to produce a product that people enjoy is very satisfying. It’s inspiring,” Bru says.

Others just like to quaff it. “This society exposed me to craft beers,” says Edward Funnekotter, at the Beer TAP Society dinner with his mother, Elizabeth, his wife Cynthia Grant and her parents, Joe and Catherine Grant. A family affair indeed.

“We’re all used to major brews, but over the last 10 years I’ve become much more adventurous,” Funnekotter says. “I haven’t bought a major national brand from big breweries for years.”

And the appeal for his British mother? “My brother told me when I was 17 I’d better get to like beer because it was too expensive for my boyfriends to pay for other things,” says Elizabeth Funnekotter.

“I’d rather have a local beer if possible — something that tastes like something.”

A graduate of Algonquin College, chef Lockett opened his small basement café 20 months ago after earlier kitchen stints at Fraser Café, Restaurant E18hteen, Luxe and Kinki. He says he often cooks with beer because it offers an interesting variety of tastes and flavour profiles “especially with reductions and caramelizations.

“With dark beer you can develop a rich, almost molasses and caramel flavour,” Lockett says. “Or, with light beer you can get a honey-like flavour by reducing it.

“By adding sweetness and acid like honey and citrus you can offset the bitterness of the hops, so it’s quite versatile.

“Using beer is not unlike wine in cooking. Both add character to the food and bring out flavours. You can easily substitute dark beer for wine in a stew, for example, and while beer won’t bring out any grape characteristics the hops and barley will add richness and earthy tones.”

Here and on page Xx, he uses Fournier’s homemade English mild ale to braise the pulled pork. In the recipe, Lockett reaches for a can of Muskoka Dark Ale to develop a rich character with molasses and honey. “But if you use a dark stout, you have to be carfeful not to use too much or the hops could become more bitter as it cooks down.”

Beer also pops up in his recipe for corn salsa, where he used Muskoka Summer Weisse. “It’s an unfiltered and hazy beer made with white, barley and subtle hops, so it works well with the sweetness of corn.”

As for his float. Oh, my, what a float it truly is.

“I made the ice cream with toasted cinnamon and cashew butter with Broadhead Stout, made in Ottawa and available at the brewery. Or, you can use Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, or St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from the LCBO.”

Anyone who wants to attend one of Fournier’s beer and food dinners can join his society free online at ottawabeertap.ca. Dinners are open only to society members at about $60 a meal.

All beers listed in these recipes are available at local LCBO stores, so reach for one and enjoy.

Remember, beer truly is the nation’s favourite beverage. Cheers, Canada.

Beer Barbecue Pulled Pork

Serves 3 to 5

2 pounds (900 g) boneless pork shoulder, skin removed and trimmed to retain a layer of fat

3 teaspoons (50 mL) canola or vegetable oil

2 cups (500 mL) Muskoka Dark Ale

1/2 cup (125 mL) each, ketchup, tomato paste, honey

2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon (5 mL) each, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt

Cut pork into 11/2-inch (4-cm) cubes. In a large heavy pot (cast iron Dutch oven works well), heat half of the oil on medium-high.

Working in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pot, sear meat until lightly browned on all sides, adding remaining oil with successive batches if necessary to sear. Return all meat to the pot, combine all remaining ingredients and stir to combine with pork.

Bring to simmer, then reduce heat and cover to braise 2 to 21/2 hours, until pull-apart tender.

When done, remove from heat, cool and pull apart with clean hands.

Corn Salsa with Beer Gastrique

Makes about 21/2 cups (625 mL)

For the beer gastrique:

2 cups (500 mL) Muskoka Summer Weisse (wheat beer)

1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar

3/4 cup (175 mL) cider vinegar

1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt

1 piece, star anise

For the salsa:

1/2 cup green onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup (125 mL) diced tomato

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 cups corn kernels, cooked

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Pinch, salt

Make the gastrique by combining all gastrique ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat; lightly simmer about 25 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar. Liquid should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; it will thicken as it cools. Remove and discard star anise, and set aside until needed. (Refrigerate unused portion.)

For the salsa, combine all salsa ingredients along with 2 tablespoons (25 mL) of the beer gastrique, and serve with pulled pork.

Beer Float with Cinnamon and Cashew Ice Cream

Makes 4 cups (1 L) of ice cream

For the homemade ice cream:

1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon

1/2 large cinnamon stick

2 cups (500 mL) 10-per-cent cream

1 cup (250 mL) heavy 35-per-cent cream

6 large egg yolks

3/4 cup (175 mL) white sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) cashew butter

For each serving of float:

1 cup (250 mL) Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, or Broadhead Dark Horse Stout available at the brewery on Auriga Drive, Ottawa

Whipped cream

Make ice cream in advance by measuring all ingredients in separate containers. Pre-freeze ice cream machine at least a day ahead according to manufacturer’s directions.

In a heavy pot, combine ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick and both creams. Heat on medium, stirring very frequently to avoid scorching. As soon as mixture is hot and bubbles begin to break ther surface, remove from heat before to comes to a boil. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.

In a large separate bowl, whisk together yolks with sugar until it thickens slightly. Very slowly, mix a little of the hot liquid into sugar and egg yolk combination. Do not add hot mixture all at once or you’re cook the egg. Add cashew butter and whisk to combine well.

Refrigerate 30 minutes, then place in ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, pour 1 cup (250 mL) of stout ale into a large glass and top with one or two scoops of ice cream. Top with whipping cream.

Beer and Mustard Gravy

Makes about 13/4 cups (425 mL)

2 tablespoons (25 mL) vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup (125 mL) celery, chopped

2 tablespoons (25 mL) butter

1/4 cup (50 mL) flour

500-mL bottle Trafalgar Irish Ale, cold

2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard

11/4 cups (300 mL) chicken stock

Heat oil in a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, then sauté garlic, onion and celery until they begin to brown. Reduce heat and add butter to melt, then add flour and stir well to incorporate. Cook on low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.

Add cold beer and stir well to combine, then add mustard and chicken stock. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes on medium-low heat until gravy thickens. Strain and serve.

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