Muskoka Brewery’s Tap to Table Event
If you were to think about food and drink pairing, we’d bet your first thought isn’t craft beer. (It’s wine, isn’t it?). Beer ends up just a grab and go drink, but it can be so much more! And with craft beer exploding through the province, it’s the perfect time to start exploring.
Recently we had the opportunity to attend Muskoka Brewery’s Tap-to-Table event at The Ship. Gary McMullan, the co-founder of the brewery started by telling his own story of how a pesky groundhog ended his dreams of a potential aircraft career, and how he instead ended up co-founding Muskoka Brewing in 1996.
Gary became our tour guide for this “off the beaten path” experience through brews and food.
First up was the Muskoka Brewery’s Summer Weiss, which was matched up with a similarly light Mini Grilled Perch Sandwich with Lemon Aioli. In making pairings of any sort, strength with strength is the key! The beer was that classic summer patio wheat beer. But you’ll never catch it with an orange slice. This is German-style, not American-style, so that means the undertones are more banana than citrus. The Perch Sandwich balanced fresh with fresh – but we would have preferred a more delicate bread to lighten up the dish.
Muskoka Brewery is known for their IPAs – that would be India Pale Ale – so we got a little history lesson from Gary. The ‘India’ part comes from their ability to travel well to that country from the UK. . . though they were never specifically brewed for that purpose.
Detour was the first of the IPAs in our roster, and it’s known as “sessionable”. Even Jessica, an avowed disliker of bitter IPAs, liked this one. Lower in bitterness than many, Gary described it as being made like a ‘hop tea’, which certainly appealed to us. Detour was matched with Corn Breaded Shrimp Pogos with Honey Hop Mustard. Think classic carnival fair with high end seafood. Delish. Where is this on the regular menu for The Ship!?
Our third course featured Muskoka Cream Ale, a classic British style pale, which Jessica, for one, could drink all night. Less hop-focused, more malty, and what Gary described as “biscuity”, which is a particularly endearing (yet accurate) description. The food match was a Southern Picnic Beef Slider topped with Jalapenos and a spicy chipotle (?) sauce. The burger was juicy, spicy and absolutely delicious, though we thought the spice was a bit too much for a match with the Muskoka Cream Ale. But hey, we aren’t the experts!
And then we dove right back into the India Pale Ale. The fourth course featured Twice as Mad Tom IPA, higher in alcohol content and hoppiness than the rest. Spicy! It was paired with Ribs braised in its own Twice as Mad Tom BBQ sauce, which really brought the flavours together, even if we found the brew a bit too bitter for our liking. But as the slogan for this beer says… “Not for everyone.”. Heather, who is a huge meat and potatoes fan, absolutely loved this dish. The ribs and chips were cooked to perfection and had the perfect amount of sauce.
The last of the bunch, though possibly the favourite at the table, was dessert! The Mad Tom IPA (less “mad” – i.e. hoppy and strong – than the last one), may sound like a strange dessert pairing, but it worked. Dessert was S’mores doused in a Mad Tom Chocolate Ganache. Jessica learned that perhaps she enjoys the hops…. when paired with chocolate. Yum yum!
Have you tried any of Muskoka Brewery’s brews? Which one was your favourite?
Guest contributor: Jessica Peter is a graduate student, tea seller, and rabid #HamOnt fan. She has a passion for local shows, local food, and writing kind of strange novels in her spare time. Oh, and she’ll try any craft beer she can get her hands on.