A last minute invite came to me from a good friend of mine to join her downtown in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District. The event was to take place at one of my favourite local breweries, Mill Street Brewery. It was to be a “Brew Masters Dinner”, featuring none other than the brew master himself, Joel Manning. Visiting the brewpub is enjoyable for many reasons. One is to take in the beautifully restored historic buildings of the old Gooderman and Worts Distillery District, the other is to enjoy the many different samplings of Mill Street’s beer. They have a wide array of beers available on tap that you don’t get to see in the LCBO or Beer Store, so it’s quite a treat. What was even more exciting, was that some of these not-so-available beers were going to be paired with some pretty incredible food.
We arrived a bit early, so we bellied up to the bar and I grabbed a Cobblestone Stout. I had only first tried it a week before at my friends pub, The Auld Spot, and loved it. The Auld Spot is a fantastic local pub along The Danforth that’s been open for about 15 years. Loved by the locals, filled with regulars, and always cheerful due in no small part from the owners friendly enthusiasm for craft beer and boutique style food. The beers on tap are specially picked by the owners, choosing beers that they would want to drink themselves. Among them are of course some of Mill Street’s offerings.
We met our rep Kim, who invited us to the dinner. She is the Toronto East sales rep for Mill Street, a very fun and lively person, full of conversation and laughs. After being seated, the dinner promptly started off with another one of my favourites, the Belgian Wit, accompanied by an appetizer of mussel fritter with a beer mustard aioli. The dinner continued with these delicious parings:Soup
- Bob’s Bearded Red paired with corn chowder with house smoked chicken
Bob’s Bearded Red was a classic Irish Red Ale. Super smooth and creamy with a touch of roast coming from the roasted barley.
- Paradise Pale Ale paired with a baby spring mix and pear salad in a maple mustard vinaigrette topped with spiced pecans and Quebec Oka cheese
It’s nice to see Mill Street put out and American style pale ale. First, because it’s my favourite style of beer, but secondly, it’s such a popular style that I imagine it would be a good seller for them. A very solid blend of malt body to this one without being too much. A strong hop punch to it, but more from bittering and flavouring hops as opposed to late hopping aroma.
- Doppel Pils paired with a brick pressed Cornish hen, served with celery root puree and topped with a Doppel Pils & Chipotle BBQ sauce
I had never tried a Doppel Pils before. It’s basically a “double Pilsner”. I think Joel said this was 7% ABV. To be honest, I’m always a little skeptical of pilsners that aren’t from the historical places where they originated. Mainly because I don’t think we have the water profile here in Toronto that’s suited to brewing this style of beer. There always ends up being some other flavours at work that I don’t like. This was an exception. I believe Joel appropriately adjusted the water to brew this one. It was very smooth and easy drinking. Despite being 7%, it didn’t taste like it, I could have put back a few of these, much to the dismay of my ability to stand upright.Dessert
- Blueberry Wheat paired with a wild berry tart topped with Blueberry Wheat syrup and toasted slivered almonds
This was a treat to have. My brother-in-law had been telling me about this beer as he knows the family, or one of the owners of the blueberry farm that Mill Street sourced for the blueberries. This Beer was by no means ‘blueberry flavoured’, or ‘sweet’. It was very dry. Drier than I expected it to be, with a slightly in-the-background nose and taste of fresh blueberries. The real kind, not something artificial.
Afterwards came a part of the night I was eagerly looking forward to, the chance to pick Joel’s brain. Turns out, he puts my obsession to shame! Or maybe it’s just that he’s been growing his obsession longer, and on a bigger scale. But have no fear, I’m pressing on! I talked with him for quite a while in the brew house about all things beer. Things like carbonating, harvesting yeast, water additions and mashing styles. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge on brewing right down to the finest details of chemistry in each process. I wish I had more time to stay and talk with him, but others where wanting to share his time. Hopefully we can meet again and continue the conversation.
So once again, hats off to Mill Street for making great beer and some delicious food to go with it. Like they say, “Great beer lives here”.