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CHEF'S TABLE: 'Perfect pint' always brewing in area

'Barrie has been blessed with not one but three fantastic craft breweries. They have been the backdrop for many a date-night flight or after-work pint and it’s been a real education in the art of craft beer,' writes food columnist

Being a chef has its privileges. One is the appreciation of great food and fine beverage experiences.

I’ve been lucky enough to find a kindred spirit to share my passion for discovering the unique and searching out culinary greatness. My wife Kim and I love to be able to get out explore and discover the great stuff that is out there. From wine country to cottage country, we’ve nibbled and noshed through many excellent offerings.

Some of our most memorable stops have been to the craft breweries that have popped up all around.

Out of all the places we have visited over the years, I have to say some of our favourites are right here at home.

Barrie has been blessed with not one but three fantastic craft breweries. They have been the backdrop for many a date-night flight or after-work pint and it’s been a real education in the art of craft beer. We have both learned so much in our exploration of what makes the perfect pour.

I’ll admit, Kim has me beat. Ask her and she’ll gladly explain the IBUs and ABVs and on more than one occasion picked out our perfect pint.

But have you ever wondered when and where beer first originated?

It’s hard to pin down the invention of beer to a specific culture or time period, but it’s agreed that world’s first fermented beverages likely developed alongside the start of grain farming more than 12,000 years ago.

As civilizations began to grow staple crops such as wheat, barley and maize, they must have also stumbled on the magic of the fermentation process and used this new knowledge to start brewing what we know as beer. Some historians have speculated that the early people's tastes for these brewed beverages could have contributed to the first agricultural revolution, while inspiring new agricultural techniques and technologies.

The invention of beer is the story of civilization itself. From the first barley beer born in the Middle East to the suds of the Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia, these brews were a cornerstone of the diet and were likely used as a safer alternative to drinking untreated water from nearby sources.

Few ancient cultures loved their beer as much as the ancient Egyptians. Workers along the Nile were often paid with rations, and everyone from pharaohs to peasants drank beer as part of their everyday diet. Many of these ancient beers were flavoured with unusual additives such as mandrake, dates and olive oil. I guess that would make them the original craft brewers.

Our more modern-tasting libations would not show up until the Middle Ages when Christian monks and other artisans began brewing beers seasoned with hops. This seems to now be the predominate flavour profile of choice in our modern-day brew pubs.

I do enjoy this time of the year. I mean, it's Oktoberfest time after all!

This annual festival of beer, pretzels and all things Bavarian was first held on Oct. 12, 1810, when the Crown Prince Ludwig got hitched to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. This royal couple decided to branch out from tradition and turned their wedding into a public event, inviting the people of Munich to come to the fields in front of the city gates and celebrate the nuptials.

The brew-fuelled bash lasted for days — free food and beer flowed through the city. And for the grand finale? The celebration concluded with a horse race. It was this horse race that became an annual event that in turn became Oktoberfest. Now celebrated far and wide its an excellent reason to get out and share a pint with friends.

Here in Barrie, if you’re looking to start your own Oktoberfest party or adventure in craft beer appreciation you have three great choices.

Redline Brewhouse: Using an approach to brewing rooted in the Belgian and American schools of thought, there is a strong tie to tradition, and respect for classic techniques. They are masters of the art and science of brewing. The Taproom and store carry a large list including Core, Specialty and Pulled Over brews. There is sure to be one the revs your engine.

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery: Brewing radical beers and creative ales right on the waterfront in downtown Barrie since 2004, Flying Monkeys was the first Ontario craft brewery to truly usher in a new culture of craft brewing in our province. Always believing that 'Normal Is Weird' and treat brewing as an art, they are proud to be part of the culture of craft beer uniting folks all over the world. Since 2008, they have brewed countless unique recipes, packaged over 50 distinctive brews, won over 75 national and international awards, and even sent a beer into space. Onward and outward, Flying Monkeys!

Barnstormer Brewing: They’ve been experimenting with planes and grains for years with the kind of calculated madness not seen since the original barnstormers of the Roaring 20s. It’s in that spirit that they endeavour to reach new heights in the pursuit of the perfect beer. Their philosophy? All natural, unfiltered, always from grain to glass, the process is as natural, sustainable and as true to the craft as possible. “We don’t pasteurize and we don’t use a single preservative.” With a core list of solid brews that has a taste for every maverick beer connoisseur.

Here in Ontario, we have an excellent resource to help you discover all things craft brewing. The Ontario Craft Brewers Association is a one-stop shop to help you learn about the art of brewing and to find a great brewer near you. Let them help you find your next pint!

I always love when I get to combine my passions and interests. This year, I got to have my love of craft beer and my gardening combine. Last season, we planted a small cascade hop vine on our Georgian Dining Room patio. The first year was less than exciting, but this season what was a small straggly little vine became a massive and beautiful addition to our herb garden. It was a small but great harvest of hops, one that I’m looking forward to experimenting with. Maybe get a brew of our own on the go? Who knows maybe it’s the start to a path of new opportunities.

I hope you all take a moment to get out and support our local brew pub. These men and women work hard to craft a unique experience and product and ensure we all get the pint of our pleasure.

Noch ein Bier, bitte! (Please bring me another glass of beer)
Prost! (Cheers!)

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Daniel Clements

About the Author: Daniel Clements

In his bi-weekly Chef's Table column, Daniel will be looking at everything from local crops and trends in the business to seasonal delights and the local restaurant scene
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