Dine Out Vancouver held its first ever Winter Beer Hall this month, and given its success — being a sold out event — it’s unlikely to be the last. Big Rock Urban Brewery and Eatery hosted the event, turning their restaurant into a replica of beer halls past.
Long tables and Hogwarts-esque seating arrangements added to the camaraderie of the event. The lineup for the featured casks went right by the stage which featured live music. Dim lighting finished the effect; you felt like you were in Germany, the birthplace of beer halls.
The $40 ticket provided five seven-oz. tasters of local craft brewery magic, and a 3-course meal to accompany them.
Big Rock’s contribution was their traditional ale; an English mild with a Canadian twist. It was the best beer to start the night, as it was the gentlest in terms of hops, yet rounded in flavour.
Next was Storm Brewing, whose beer was heavy on the honey in the nose, but had no vestiges of honey on the palate. Instead, there was whiskey and vanilla bean, with a tart citrus finish.
Bridge Brewing offered a brown ale, with a twist. Brown ales as a category aren’t hoppy. But, Bridge Brewing added New Zealand hops to give it a grapefruity flavour unusual for the beer type. It worked well, actually, and fans of hoppy beers would have been especially pleased.
Real Cask also offered a traditional ale. It was really dark, like a stout, with a hint of espresso at the beginning of the sip. Moderately hoppy, it was a good choice for the period between the main course and dessert.
Finally, Doan’s supplied their American-style rye stout, which was super dark and roasty with a hint of chocolate and rye spice. A little hoppy, this was the perfect second dessert to the evening.
For an extra few bucks, you could try the Dine Out Van Fest Ale, specially brewed for the festival. It was an English mild ale with hints of plum and roasted cocoa.
Now for the food! There were two choices for each course, and I got to try them all. The smoked oyster chowder, made with Citradelic IPA, fennel, and miso was smoky and chowdery, but not phenomenal.
The other starter was a dish with three roasted beer meatballs. They were about the size of a bouncy ball and there were only three of them, so that was disappointing. They were also slathered in tomato sauce, which, alas, tasted like it was straight from a can.
The main courses were the highlights. The lamb and rapini pizza was highly original. The crust was crisp and the fennel béchamel was a delicate balance to the strong flavours already in flux.
I was a bit surprised to find a bento box in a brewpub, as cauliflower tempura, tuna nigiri, and gomae aren’t usual pub fare. But it was well executed, apart from the batter on the cauliflower not being tempura.
To finish, the first dessert I had, the mango cheesecake, was fluffy, light, and delicious, but it wasn’t really a cheesecake. It was deconstructed, and the filling too whipped and fluid to really be called a cake. More of the mango sauce would’ve lifted it up, but it was still a good finish.
Seadas, which are Sardinian fritters, were the other dessert choice. These small dumplings with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey, and shavings of asiago and romano made for a surprisingly delicious, savoury dessert.
So, when you come across the Dine Out ads in a few months’ time and you see one for the Beer Hall, do yourself and anyone you like enough to take with you a favour and buy tickets — the VIP ones, if you can afford it. It’ll be a night of fun, making new friends, and amazing beers that you won’t regret.