For the Canadians…Well, the Ontarians…Okay, GTAers

Heads up, folks, the first ever Toronto Beer Week kicks off on Monday and it’s looking like it will be a good one. I’ll be presenting a bunch of events — like my Malt & Molluscs Monday at Starfish and Wednesday’s Malt Magic beer and single malt pairing at The Monk’s Table — but also attending a lot more.

Yesterday, I posted my picks for the week at my blog. Rather than repeat them all here, why not just follow this link and check them out?!

Let’s Talk the S. Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants List

The new list of the Top 100 Restaurants in the World is out and number 1 is Noma in Copenhagen, fronted by young star René Redzepi. He cooks with local produce, creating what might be thought of as true Nordic flavours in an idiosyncratic style, and according to many of the usual pundits, it’s a worthy dethroning of Adrià and El Bulli.

That’s what everyone is talking about. Here’s what they’re not.

Noma has a beer list that would put almost any top rated restaurant in the world to shame! Check it out over here, pages 45 to 48. Pale ales, pilsners, IPAs, stouts and porters, barley wines: all Danish or Swedish, all craft or close to craft. (Carlsberg’s Jacobsen Brewery figures thrice in the barley wine class.) All impressive.

Great food, evidently the world’s best, with great beer! Now that’s something we all can drink to!!

Seven Puddings, No Funeral

So I’m in England for the next several days, tasting beers and ciders and visiting pubs and breweries and cideries and distilleries. But first, there was The Pudding Club!

Founded 25 years ago in the Three Ways House hotel in Mickelton, Gloucestershire, the Club is a near weekly – sometimes more, sometimes less – gathering of aficionados of traditional English desserts. (The Brits call pretty much any dessert a “pudding,” but traditionally they are steamed sponge cakes, such as the famed Sticky Toffee Pudding, or assembled cold puddings such as trifle.) The way it works is this: 60 or 70 people assemble for a modest dinner followed by a sampling of seven puddings, one at a time and each served with its appropriate sauce and “lashings of custard.”

If  you think the idea of seven separate desserts sounds wonderful, you’re quite right, but it’s also challenging, to say the least.  I began with the Rhubarb Trifle followed by Jam Roly Poly, the latter of which was good, if unexciting, while the former was unexpectedly delicious. Then things got a bit tart with a Sussex Pond, a sort of boiled bomb with lemons inside, and sweet again with the classic Bread and Butter Pudding.

My fifth pudding was my all-time fave, the aforementioned Sticky Toffee, after which the going got tougher. My stomach groaned before the Ginger Syrup Pudd, which I thought reminiscent of great gingerbread, and my palate cringed at the unctuous sweetness of the final pudding of the night, Squidgy Chocolate and nut.

In the end, however, helped along by a mid-point dram of The Balvenie Single Malt, I cleaned my plate the full seven times, and managed a pint of Scrumpy down at the pub afterwards. My favourite, and the crowd’s by a single vote, was the Sticky Toffee, followed by the Ginger Syrup and Trifle, selections also echoed by the post-pudding show of hands.

The moral of this story: There really is such a thing as too much dessert, and it’s a lot of fun finding out exactly how much that is.

What I Learned About Beer in 2009, Part II

6. Craft Brewers Aren’t Generally Big Cocktail Drinkers: When I ordered a negroni at a Vail, Colorado, bar in January of last year, you might have thought from the reactions of the beer folk around me that I had just reeled off a 20 minute soliloquy in Greek. Yet most of the top cocktail people I know, like Jeffrey and Jim and Tony, all have a far above average grasp of beer. Time to catch up with the times, people!

7. Anheuser-Busch Can Make a Pretty Damn Decent Bavarian Style Weiss: Some of my colleagues discovered this at a GABF tasting a year or two earlier, but I wasn’t as impressed at the time. The sample of Michelob Bavarian Style Wheat I tasted towards the end of 2009, however, convinced me.

8. Big Hops Aren’t Going Anywhere Any Time Soon: Massively hopped beers, even ridiculously out of balance massively hopped beers, continued to prove insanely popular in 2009 and likely will again this year.

9. Beer & Cheese Is Even Bigger and More Beautiful Than I Ever Imagined: Notwithstanding No. 4, this is a relationship that can sing gorgeous arias and rockin’ screechers on the palate. And I fully intend to spend several pounds of weight and untold dollars further exploring it in the coming year.