I sent a correspondent, Chris Taylor, on a secret mission last week to find out if beer and lobster actually do go together. He carried out his task in fine style as his report shows. Note earlier posts on the two beers mentioned here and here.
Alan graciously invited this correspondent to attend Alexander Keith's Lobster Bash on behalf of A Good Beer Blog, and like any sane man I was not about to refuse. Let start out with a few words about my relationship to beer. I didn't set out to be a budding beer snob, in the way some folks set off to cultivate a set of attitudes about wine - it just happened by accident.
When I was young and inexperienced, I drank the beer my parents and elders drank. Horrible-tasting macro-brew "old man beer", like Molson Export or Labatt Blue. In my late teens and early twenties, I cultivated the image of the sophisticated hipster, swilling slightly less objectionable "premium" brews (Hacker-Pschorr, Stella, Sleeman's, Keith's) in upscale nightclubs with eardrum-shattering bass. As I hit my professional stride my thirties, I was lucky to discover a few pubs near the office that served a bewildering array of truly excellent micro-brews. And once you've tasted a really good microbrew, it's unlikely that you'll settle for the largely tasteless macros again.
That said, there are certain circumstances in life that can persuade a man to do things he would not ordinarily; to undertake things foresworn and ascend unscaled mountains. Free beer and lobster is one of those circumstances. So it was that Wednesday, June 6th, Wanda and I hustled down to The Docks nightclub for an evening that promised:
1lb fresh Atlantic Ocean Harvest lobster with drawn butter, homemade bread, a choice of fresh coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob, dessert and a deuce of Keith's.For those of you who have never been to The Docks, it is a titanic entertainment complex occupying an enormous plot of land along the southern side of Polson Street. There is a warehouse-like nightclub (with very poor sound quality), plus ample space for more genteel recreation like a driving range, go-karts, rock climbing and beach volleyball. This particular soiree was held on the light and airy second story, known as Next Level. It offered picturesque views of the cityscape, the nearby Toronto Islands, and the activities of the various sailing clubs at work in the Inner Harbour. There was also a complimentary squadron of gnats as tableside entertainment.
What can I say about the beer? I will admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for Keith's India Pale Ale, since it was the first IPA I'd ever tried and it led, naturally, to the discovery of many more great micro-brew IPAs. My amateur estimation is that Keith's IPA is the most palatable of the macro efforts, with a corn/hops aroma, nice malty taste and a bit of a sweet finish.
Unfortunately I can't say anything nice about Keith's Red Amber Ale. I am not a fan of caramel-sweet red ales, like Keith's and Rickards. My girlfriend did, however, enjoy it, and in her estimation it "went down smooth" and was enjoyable because it was "watery and had barely any discernable beer [read: hops] taste". Not sure that's an endorsement they want to put in the commercials, but there it is.
The best part of the evening was, of course, the tasty 1-pound sea bug known as Homarus americanus, the Atlantic lobster. This was the best lobster I have ever tasted inland, bar none. As I understand it, the lobsters were flown to Toronto from the east coast that morning; and the folks at Atlantic Ocean Harvest and The Catered Claw really outdid themselves. I'm sure everyone's had lobster at the local seafood restaurant, which ends up being chewy (overcooked) or mushy (undercooked), with a bit if of a bitter, chlorinated aftertaste. Not a hint of that here. The lobsters were perfectly cooked, with a scrumptious melt-in-your-mouth quality. The meat had a hint of sweetness, as it ought to, and was devoid of any unpleasant aftertaste. Simply delightful. I will confess I didn't eat the tomalley, because try as I might, I can't get my taste buds to endure it with grace. A welcome bonus was the inclusion of both corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw, as the invitation seemed to indicate we'd be forced to choose between the two.
The cost for this event, if you weren't being comped press access, was $50 per person. That might seem a little steep for one lobster, corn, coleslaw and a couple of beers, but it's worth keeping in mind that the lobster was fresh. These things do carry a premium. I was sorely tempted to pay out of my own pocket for another ticket, just to get another lobster. It was that good.
The Lobster Bash was a precursor (or satellite event) to the Toronto Festival of Beer, held from August 10-12 at Historic Fort York. According to their promo material, the Beer Festival is a unique opportunity to sample 95% of Ontario's brands - 200 of them, in fact. If the rest of the Festival can live up to this good start, it may be worth an inspection or two.