It’s hard to ignore the explosion of craft brew and cask culture that’s developed in Toronto over the last few years with many smaller brewers introducing unique flavour combinations, and elevating beer to the status typically held by wine and spirits. As a beer lover myself, I was ecstatic to hear that 3 Brewers Adelaide are taking this to the next level and allowing people to create their own casks with the support and guidance of their master brewers! I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a Casking Party at their Adelaide location hosted by Master Brewer Gavin LaForce, and spent an evening learning about how fun and challenging the entire experience actually can be.
If you’re not familiar with 3 Brewers Adelaide, it’s important to know that they started over a century ago in Lille, France and have around 30 locations in France alone. The 120 Adelaide Street West location opened roughly two years ago. This location boasts a more craft-conscious selection with a regularly changing feature beer menu focusing heavily on seasonal fruits and flavours. The summer 2016 beer was a light and refreshing Raspberry Wheat Ale characterized by crisp tartness at the beginning, but smoothing out right at the end. Their first feature for fall 2016 is The Munich, not so surprisingly inspired by Oktoberfest, and it’s their “interpretation of a Marzen” (a lager originating in Bavaria).
The evening started with Gavin giving a brief introduction to the distinct features of a cask: close to forty pints of unfiltered, unpasteurized beer, with an almost effervescent carbonation, but with the ability to retain much bolder flavours. He also clarified some misconceptions about beer, such as the malpractice of serving it too cold, which numbs the palette not allowing for the full notes and undertones to hit the tongue.
The first step in the entire process is picking your base out of five popular 3 Brewers beers: white, blonde, IPA, Amber, or Brown. We were given flights of each and written descriptions of their characteristics.
Gavin was able to assist with pairing options, and make recommendations based on various favourites from the entire group (seasons, meals, types of meat, and scents). Secondly, you go through selecting what additional flavours you’d like to add to that beer based on what it pairs best with. After much contemplation and debate, the group chose to create a white beer with raw coconut, pink peppercorn, amber cane sugar, and fresh grapefruit rind! We named it Steal My Sunshine.
After successfully selecting our ingredients, we were treated to some delicious treats inspired by the five base beers and unique flavour pairings! Our first item was a lobster ceviche crostini and white beer. The cilantro and east combination brought out the citrus notes in the beer, and left everyone feeling very refreshed. The light carbonation that Gavin spoke about earlier also cleansed the palette allowing us to move on to dish two: Buttermilk Asiago chicken and goat cheese bites paired with the blonde. My favourite was the goat cheese topped with a grape tomato confit (type of preserve). The blonde beer cuts through the fattiness from the cheese and allows all the flavours to delicately melt in your mouth. If you’re going to try these, it has to be in one bite, trust me!
The more challenging pairing of the night came from the caramel malt mushrooms, with the amber beer. This experience was less about contrast and more about complementary flavours, as the mushrooms are immediately sweet after soaking up all the amber beer. We ended the meal on a strong note though, and overall the entire groups favourite combination: brown beer and chocolate creme brûlée shots topped with creme fraiche. This was absolutely wonderful, and quite interesting to take note of how the dessert itself enhanced the dark richness of the beer. Everyone agreed that this was a must-have!
After such an enjoyable and informative night, I can say that I would highly recommend this casking experience for any larger gathering like a bachelor/bachelorette party, large business dinner, reunion, or a major birthday celebration. Once the cask is open, it cannot be saved or stored away for another day, so make sure to invite a larger group! It costs roughly $300 for the total package (which includes the design phase and ingredients), and has to be planned at least two weeks in advance of when you’d like it served. Make sure to contact 3 Brewers to set up the appropriate schedule and check for availability. The greatest part about the entire experience with 3 Brewers Adelaide is they maintain your recipe in their database so that the combination can be replicated or adjusted at any time. This truly is a beer lover’s delight!