As a person very interested in drinking beer and eating good food (remember that post about beer in restaurants?), going to my first Brewer’s Plate event last week was an exciting night. The event teams up local chefs and food artisans to create a pairing with Ontario craft breweries, encouraging people to think local when they eat and drink. Unlimited food and drink are included in the $125 ticket, allowing attendees to talk to both the chefs and breweries about what they have to offer. (For those who have heard of the Savor event in the States, it basically operates the same way but with a greater emphasis on the local.) The proceeds this year were going to Not Farm From The Tree, a charity that goes around and harvests food from the trees of willing participants. A third of the food goes to the trees owner, a third to the volunteers and a third to food banks/shelters/community kitchens.
The evening is really about creating a conversation about local food and beer, which might have been why most stalls did not have signs about what was on offer – you had to ask the chef or brewery what they were serving. (And yes, the chefs were in attendance and serving the food.) Getting the chance to ask a chef to explain their dish is a cool experience, but being able to have a dialogue with them about the food is even better. Whether or not you try the food with the intended pairing is optional – I had a better time by going around and trying to create my own pairings, sometimes grabbing more than one dish and trying them with the same beer. In my opinion, this a better way of trying to pair beer and food because it lets you explore why things work and when they fail.
There were too many highlights to mention, but here were a few: the wild boar cotechino on Algonquin grits with preserved peaches and some sort of foam by Globe Bistro (top photo; bonus points for degree of difficulty at an event like this) was supposed to be paired with the Amsterdam Big Wheel but worked just fine with Boneshaker; the deconstructed chiles rellenos from Fonda Lola paired with a Muskoka Mad Tom; the meatball from Cava stuffed with blood sausage and served with some of the tastiest garbanzo beans that will ever be served (no pairing necessary). All the food was excellent and I had to stop myself from licking my plate on more than one occasion. It quickly became obvious that attempting to try everything would prove futile, so tough choices were made of what to eat and endurance became a key part of the evening.
Not to pigeonhole the people in attendance, but it wasn’t a typical beer event. It does draw in some beer fans, but not the typical faces that populate the craft beer events (except for all the media types with press passes). The Brewer’s Plate could easily pass for a wine event if it weren’t for all the beer bottles. That being said, the conversations I overheard between the brewery reps and the attendees meant that a lot of people were interested in the beers. People were venturing to try new products and experience new flavours, which is all you can ask at an event like this.
As I was heading home on the TTC, feeling more stuffed than a Christmas turkey, I got to thinking about the general excess of the event. Obviously people are enticed to go to the Brewer’s Plate because of the unlimited food and beer, but that also caused some wastefulness (people not finishing all the food given to them, for instance). There was too much food and beer for any mortal to try, so it was not surprising that people would taste some dishes but not finish them. At the same time, the event was supporting a charity that tries not to waste the bounty of the harvest, so I couldn’t help but reflect on the disconnect. As the Brewer’s Plate is all about eating and drinking local, it would have been nicer to have more information about where the chefs sourced their foods. Perhaps pushing the event back to the fall would allow more of the food to be local and let the chefs experiment with freshly harvested produce.
Those points may seem trivial, but I think they’re worth raising. The only other issue from the night was a lack of tables. Attempting to eat and drink without being able to put either plate or glass down was challenging at times. Other than that, it was a great night filled with memorable food and beer. The Brewers Plate is obviously a splurge, but something that everyone should try to experience once. Just be a little more prepared than I was and only have a salad for lunch.