Toronto Beer Week Event Wrap Up (Pt 2)

This wrap up covers two nights that were spent close to home on the Danforth. Luckily very few regular readers were spotted either night, so this will ideally be new to most of you.

Monday

This was the night of the big Danforth Pub Crawl, sponsored by Great Lakes, Sawdust City and the Bar Towel. There was a sizable group that featured many new faces, which might have been because of the location or the fact that there are just too many drinking options to choose from during TBW. The first stop was the 417 Restaurant, which doesn’t fit the “pub” description at all. It is this bizarre, giant restaurant-lounge space in Greektown that goes big on glitz and craft beer. The tap list is surprisingly great for a place with razzle-dazzle to spare and enormous wine goblets at every table. Unfortunately the beers are served from shaker pint glasses and the vibe of the place didn’t really mesh with most of the drinkers. From there the crawl went a couple of doors down to the Brass Taps and their newly installed cask engine. The Great Lakes Canucklehead was tasting great on cask and the folks at the Brass Taps were kind enough to serve up some pizzas and nachos. There was a nice space for us at the back, including barrels that were a great spot to rest your pint on. The Brass Taps seems to be slowly moving in the craft beer direction, which is a great sign.

From there the crawl stretched to the Only Cafe, which shouldn’t need any introductions. The walk to the Only was definitely the longest of the night, so everyone had worked up their thirst. Pints were consumed before heading out to Morgan’s on the Danforth. Once again, the cask was called upon. The Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA was treated fairly well by the cask, reducing some of the bitterness and showing more of the subtle aspects the beer has to offer. The usual great service from the Morgan’s staff, plus some complimentary lamb and caramelized onion poutine.

The last stop was Sarah’s, which had kindly set up their back room for us with wings and falafels. They were also pouring the Great Lakes Bourbon Barrel Aged 25th Anniversary Porter (that was a mouthful – almost as long as Troy’s Twitter hashtags) for $6/goblet. It was one of those great drinking occasions – a cool night at the end of a pub crawl and a goblet of an amazing barrel aged porter. (Then someone goes and pukes on the table, but that’s a story for another time.) Thanks to the hosts – Troy from Great Lakes, Sam from Sawdust City and Cass from the Bar Towel – plus the great bars along the Danforth.

Wednesday

Wednesday night was spent back at Morgan’s for their first ever beer dinner. Great Lakes was supplying the beers for the night with Troy Burtch leading an intimate group of about twenty people through the evening, talking about the beers and giving a bit of history behind the Great Lakes brewery. (Did you know that Great Lakes was brewing with malt extract until 1991? The first batches were done homebrew style with plastic buckets? And look at them now.) Chef Anne from Morgan’s had prepared the menu designed to match four Great Lakes beer, which started with a homemade chourico corndog (with Crazy Canuck in the batter), grainy mustard and homemade Crazy Canuck ketchup. Obviously a whimsical start, but a very tasty one. The batter was fairly sweet, nicely playing off the spicy sausage and rounded out by the hoppiness of the Crazy Canuck.

The next course was a mezzaluna stuffed with sage, butternut squash and ricotta, with hazelnut crumble, seared scallop and squash blossom. The Pumpkin Ale was a natural pairing, playing the spices in the beer against the hazelnut and squash. The dish was very sweet and could have easily been a savoury dessert, but it also worked as an appetizer. I’m not sure if the scallop was completely necessary or was just added to give the dish some protein. The squash blossom and filling were the true stars of the dish.

The main was lamb done two ways – a shank braised in the 25th Anniversary Belgian Saison and ribs glazed with Pat Chun, ginger, Saison and lemongrass. The shank was huge (photo evidence) and can only be accurately described as something out of the Flinstone’s (photo evidence). Add in some swiss chard with double smoked bacon and herbed mashed potatoes for a true main course. The lamb was perfectly cooked, just falling off the bone but done overcooked. The Saison was clearly working to contrast the richness of the dish, which was fairly successful. While a bigger, darker beer may have done a better job of matching the flavours, it also would made the dish seem even more intense and filling. It took a bit of work to finish the course, but the work was very tasty.

If the main was intense, dessert took things up to eleven (Christopher Guest-vidence). The bourbon barrel Anniversary Porter made another appearance, paired with a homemade S’more – graham crust bottom, dark chocolate porter ganache and homemade marshmallow on top that got the blow-torch treatment. This was a great pairing that elevated the flavours in both the dessert and beer. The flavours from the barrel and the graham crust worked together particularly well, creating an adult version of a childhood classic. The S’more was a tiny package with an excess of flavours. A great finish to a wonderful meal. Or, as Troy said, it was orgasmic. (Troy also revealed the two final anniversary beers. Buy me a pint and maybe I’ll tell.)

Troy brought out some of the Metric Porter as a special treat after the dessert, but the beer felt underwhelming after such a rich dessert and potent beer. Regardless, it was a fun night filled with great food and beers. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, especially Kevin and Chef Anne from Morgan’s. Their first beer dinner was clearly a success and they both sounded hopeful of turning it into a semi-regular event at Morgan’s. There was ample amounts of both beer and food to go along with the great service and wonderful company. Thanks to Troy, Kevin, Chef Anne and everyone else at Morgan’s for a fantastic dinner!

It was still early enough at that point to head down to the Only Cafe for a pint of Great Lakes Deliverance (leftover from the Tuesday tap takeover) and watch Chris Grimley MCing the mustache competition. The whole scene was a little surreal compared to the dinner. Oh, the wonders of the east end.

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