Beer buffs who watched The Wizard of Oz as children are usually afraid of flying monkeys.
But our Ontario neighbors are upgrading the breeds’ stature through a popular craft brewery. And while Canadians are famous for their suds affection, the country’s moved way beyond Molson and LaBatt Blue. Indeed, Canadian craft beer is gaining momentum and spreading south.
Last spring I had the privilege of attending “The Flavors of Canada” dinner at the famed James Beard House (JBH) in Greenwich Village. It was a sizzling Memorial Day weekend and the evening got off to a refreshing start by serving Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery’s Smashbomb Atomic IPA. Brewed with Citra hops then dry-hopped, this robust India pale ale was the ideal device for mingling accomplished Canadian chefs with local JBH dinner attendees and Canadian sailors. Yes, it was Fleet Week in New York City and Canadian sailors and even a galley cook were invited to celebrate their country’s culinary and craft beer chops.
The James Beard House is the primary venue for the James Beard Foundation, whose mission is “to celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage.” Beard actually lived in this historic townhouse until his death in 1985. The renowned cookbook author, columnist and television personality was an early supporter of “roots” cuisine. So it was appropriate the menu contained bison tartare from Calgary, smoked trout sausage from Montréal and fiddlehead ferns (one of Beard’s favorites from his Pacific Northwest upbringing) with wild ramps and Beausoleil oysters from Moncton, New Brunswick.
Because of the high temperatures (and perhaps the sailors), JBH guests could hardly contain their enthusiasm for Nickel Brook Brewery’s Naughty Neighbor American pale ale with its citrus and pine aromas and crisp dry finish. Flying Monkeys’ Acadian Groove Maple Porter was another delightful discovery – bursting with flavors of chocolate, cocoa, toffee and pure Canadian maple syrup. Once the six-course meal got underway Canadian wines took top billing until the final course – the pièce de resistance: Langdon Hall dark chocolate, made from a blend of four specialty chocolates – with rhubarb and Ontario peanuts, paired with Flying Monkeys Aurora Heart Raspberry Porter. Tart berry flavors cut the richness of the dessert and made the pairing greater than the sum of its parts. This porter must be the secret to Ontario dwellers’ affability – even during winter’s icy grip.
Expansive Ontario Offerings
Beer lovers who can’t get to JBH need not worry: Both Flying Monkeys and Nickel Brook products are available in Ohio. And if a trip to Ontario is in the offing an even better idea is to check out Ontario’s Craft Beer Trails. Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) offers five self-guided Brewery Discovery Tours. From Niagara to the Ottawa Valley and Lake of the Woods to Toronto, these trails offer dozens of boutique breweries and diverse tasting experiences.
The flying monkeys who abducted Dorothy and her companions may have given the breed a bad rap – but the day Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery’s artisanal selections landed in Manhattan was a new beginning for these formerly maligned mammals.
For Ontario Brewery Discovery maps: www.ontariocraftbrewers.com/DiscoveryTour.php
Author’s Note: Most dinners at the James Beard House are open to the public – advance reservations required. For more information on next year’s “Savor the Flavors of Canada” or other JBH dinners, see www.jamesbeard.org/events.