David Ort, we at Brew Brahs salute you. David’s work over at Food With Legs and Post City is furthering the craft beer movement, with a delightful shared spotlight on food and travel. Even more impressive is the publication of his supremely delicious Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook.
Putting words from a computer screen onto printed page is a distant dream for most bloggers – and we enviously admire what David has accomplished. Seriously, get to cooking from this cookbook – it is damned delicious. David generously took us up on our interview request, and what follows is a splendid look at the art of marrying fine beer with fine food.
Q1 – Every craft beer fanatic has their moment of evolution. What was the experience that launched you on your craft beer trajectory?
In common with many Torontonians, my craft beer moment came at Cask Days. This would have been several years ago when it was still at Hart House and I was writing much more about wine than beer. Just being there among so many drinkers having a great time (despite the weather), brewers who were really proud of their creations, which were both diverse and well-made gave me a sense of how fun craft beer is.
Q2 – What is your process for pairing beer with food? Does the food inspire the beer, or vice-versa? Or perhaps it’s the Brew Brah way – drinking every style of beer with each meal.
Good question. Sometimes you’re going to have a special bottle that you’ve been sitting on for a while and you want to try or want to do a them (like an all-IPA dinner), but more often I think the pairing starts with the food for practical reasons. It’s just easier to have a wide variety of beers on hand to pair with whatever you pick up from the store food-wise.
Q3 – Have you ever had a pairing that seemed harmonic in theory, but appalling in practice? If so, what was it and why was it so bad?
Carrots and IPA are supposed to be this great, no-fail pairing because the theory is that carrots are monotone sweet and a bitter beer adds balance and interest. Maybe I just haven’t cracked this nut yet, but from my experience, this is generally hogwash. Every time I’ve had a carrot soup or carrot cake with a high-IBU beer the carrots have been overwhelmed and the beer has been thrown out of balance. I haven’t given up yet and further experimentation will follow, but I’m skeptical.
Q4 – What is the most common mistake people make when pairing beer with food?
Worrying too much. We should have fun and experiment not sweat the small details. So, if a recipe (like mine) call for a specific American Pale Ale and you can’t find that beer then get another APA or get a moderately tame IPA. We’re lucky as beer writers that the word “beer” covers such a wide range of really quite different drinks because it means that we have a ton of flexibility when designing pairings.
Q5 – Which of your own recipes from The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook do you find yourself cooking most often?
I do quite a few demonstration dinners and workshops these days and the Quick Pickled Radishes with Cream Cheese on Toast are just perfect for that setting. (Same applies for dinner parties and beer tastings.) They also never really feel out-of-season.
At home it has got to be the Dan Dan Noodles or the Soba Noodle Salad. There is something about noodles with a subtly spicy sauce that feels right with beer.
Q6 – Garret Oliver described Saison as his desert island beer style in his book, The Brewmasters Table. If you had to choose one style of beer to be marooned with, what would it be and why?
Well, since Garrett grabbed what might have been my choice, I’ll go with oud bruin. Lambics and gueuzes are the flashy sour beers, but a Flanders brown has the malt backbone to be a great partner for a wider range of food. Also, I think a sour beer would hold up better in the no-refrigeration conditions of a desert island.
Rapid fire! What style of beer, and why, would you pair with these common Brah delicacies? Craft beer can conquer anything!
Mac n’ cheese: A hoppy robust porter to cut the fat, but still be comforting.
A bowl of cereal with sliced bananas: Trappist dubbel for complementary flavours and because it only seems appropriate to drink a monastic beer with breakfast
Anchovy pizza: Biere de gardes have the sweetness to fend off the salty fish and the herbal flavours to complement the tomato sauce.
Cotton candy: Cream stout maybe? Just whatever is the sweetest beer you can get your hands on.
Wild rice: British mild for a nutty complement.
Pairing with pears: Tripel, only because I had this as a really great pairing at a beer dinner this year.
Q7 – Well done! As you mention in the opening of your book, this is indeed a very exciting time to be a Canadian craft beer lover. Which new breweries have you most excited for?
Innocente Brewing in Waterloo is doing some really tasty things with hops. I’m also really excited to visit the new breweries that Sawdust City and Side Launch built this year in Ontario.
Follow David on Twitter at @ortdavid, or better yet check out The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook. Your stomach will thank you.