If you’re a beer drinker in Ottawa – heck, in Ontario – then you’ve sampled a Beau’s brew. They’ve been creating craft suds since before it was cool, way back in 2006. With dozens of breweries now in operation in the Ottawa area, it would be easy for Beau’s to lose a step. The thing is, they don’t. They keep innovating and coming up with neat and creative approaches to craft beer and the “support local” movement it exists in. Case in point (because obviously I’m setting the stage for all this text below…) is Beau’s relationship with renowned Chef Bruce Woods: the brewery’s in-house chef. How many breweries have a friggin’ chef in their back pocket?
Chef Bruce will be representing the brewery at events, leading tastings and pairings and creating tasty morsels at Beau’s Patio, located at the brewery. Bruce was kind enough to answer a few of our beer-related questions:
Apt613: Bruce, tell us about the Beau’s brewery patio. How have you guys taken this to the next level?
The 2015 Beau’s Brewery Patio has been running since the May long weekend and will remain open until the Sunday of our Oktoberfest weekend (Oct 4). We began with service 11am – 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and then starting July 3 we’ll add service on Fridays 11am – 7pm for the after-work crowd and weekend cottage goers. We’re upgrading the patio itself with some shade treatment and comfort improvements for guests. And this year the menu is 100% created by me, largely focused on using local ingredients, and designed to pair well with what’s on tap at the brewery.
Bruce, you described your food epiphany moment as a young man sampling curried goat for the first time. Have you ever had a similar experience with a craft beer?
I was introduced to craft beer in the ’80s in Ontario by some of the old names like Brick and Upper Canada – it was a wonderful change from the Stock Ale I had grown up drinking. I also remember my first time trying a European wheat beer and being amazed by the fruit and spice notes – it piqued my interest in beer flavours and led to further exploring in the world of fruit beers and lambics.
As beer becomes a more sophisticated beverage, more drinkers are looking at the context they are drinking in, for example pairing beers with weather, season or meals. What’s your process? Do you start with a good beer and see what dishes you have in your mental database that would pair?
To start, I taste the beer and sort out the flavours, and also analyze the assertiveness of the beer. Then I try to think of a dish that would pair. Sometimes it’s easy because the recipe is one of my standard go-tos; but sometimes I need to go through the “mental rolodex” a little more. When I have some ideas, I also do a beer/food pairing session with Beau’s brewmaster Matthew O’Hara to get his feedback and tweak the recipe if needed to be just right for the beer in mind.
Similar to pairings, you have some amazing recipes (I nearly have the whole coaster collection!); which comes first? The beer or the recipe?
It typically starts with the beer, I would say 80% of the time.
Tell us about the ethos of Beau’s Brewery. It seems you and they line up philosophically with a love/respect for local food.
My relationship with Beau’s evolved out of our similar philosophies on community and sustainability. Using local ingredients makes sense when you want the freshest taste, and also lowers the environmental impact of your food choices. But the added benefit that is sometimes overlooked is the impact of buying local on community. When you choose local food, you are supporting the farmer down the street and his or her family – and that builds community.
In my modest knowledge of the Ontario beer industry, this resident chef position is unique. Are you aware of it elsewhere or internationally? Are there any others you look to for ideas?
I think like a lot of things Beau’s does, having a resident chef is pretty new territory for craft breweries in Canada and internationally. Breweries with tied houses obviously would have a chef onsite to run the restaurant, but having me onboard primarily in the role of beer and food education, and developing recipes for our fans to try and enjoy at home is something we are making up as we go. I’m not aware of anyone doing exactly what I’m doing for another brewery in Canada or internationally – perhaps a comparison might be Brooklyn Brewery’s Chef Andrew Gerson, though the concept is a bit different for them since he does more of a travelling roadshow.
We love trying new and exciting foods and pairings. Do you have any can’t miss recipes or pairings we can share?
In our ever-growing recipe collection on the Beau’s website, I added a pairing for our summer hopfenweisse, Wag the Wolf. The recipe is a Fresh Ricotta Flan with Honey + Roasted peaches and Apricots. When I really want to impress with a food and beer pairing, dessert is the direction I go.
Similarly, have you come across any surprising pairings that didn’t look promising on paper but really engage the senses?
I recently paired the B-Side Brewing Label’s Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale with a hard cheese & honeycomb combo – the textures and power of the pairing were even better than I had imagined.
On August 1, 2015 Chef Bruce hosts a Food Day Canada event at Mariposa Farm, featuring a locally sourced small plate menu. On August 5, Chef Bruce teaches the “Elevate Your Beer and Pizza” class at Ottawa’s The Urban Element. You can also keep in the loop through Beau’s events page!