“Tapping” into Vancouver Craft Beer Week
Vancouver Craft Beer Week (VCBW) is back and it it’s stronger than ever! From May 6-14 Vancouver is celebrating beer with 55+ breweries (local and abroad) gathering in 70+ various venues in Metro Vancouver. It’s 9 days of beer and after you take one down and pass it around there will be way more than 98 bottles of beer on the wall.
I have to be honest and say that I was a bit hesitant on participating in this festival. Why? Well I’m not much of a beer drinker. Yes, gasp, unless you’re familiar with my blog then you might not be that surprised. That, and also if you haven’t noticed I have Asian genes and I come in a relatively smaller package… which generally means lightweight or “cheap drunk”. You may think “excuses excuses”, but hey we all have our palates and personal limits.
As much as there are wine snobs, there are beer snobs. And as much as there are good beers, there are also bad beers, and I think bad beer is what’s turned me off from it. However, in the last couple years artisan beers are making quite the statement in Vancouver and this is exactly what Vancouver Craft Beer Week is all about. By introducing beer lovers and even beer beginners (like myself) to more refined styles of beer, the series of events is really a tour of what the craft beer scene has to offer.
Some argue that beer is better paired with food because of the carbonation and ability to clean the palate. I can definitely say it’s much easier to pair due to the ingredients, but personally, I’m more of a wine girl. That being said, I’m more than willing to learn and explore through food and drink. After all, beer could possibly be the new wine. So when I was invited to attend the Driftwood Beer Dinner at Hapa Umi, I came with an open mind. With a gathering of about twenty diners, all with different agendas and backgrounds, I must say that the night got more entertaining after each glass. Cheers!
**If attending these events, please drink responsibly and plan for appropriate transportation.
As for the actual food and the dinner, it was all very rich and indulgent. It was 5 courses of alternating dishes of deep fried seafood and heavy meats paired with beer, so I literally needed a few breathers… partially from the food and partially from the beer… and partially because I’m out of shape.
It was $80 (all inclusive), but VCBW events range from $10-80+. It was a fun social gathering of foodies and non-foodies, so whether you’re alone or with friends, it’s a warm welcome to everyone (who’s 19+). For a complete list of events and participating breweries and restaurants see here.
I recently wrote about Hapa Umi here, and after this dinner my thoughts are still pretty much the same. Given that it was a customized dinner, some of the items may or may not be representable of what Hapa Umi provides on a regular night.
Hapa Umi is the fourth restaurant for the Hapa Izakaya Group. Their other restaurants include Hapa Izakaya Kitsilano, Hapa Izakaya Robson, and Hapa Izakaya Yaletown. Click each location to see my post for it.
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
On the table:
White Bark Ale – This is my third encounter with this beer. The first time was at the Ocean Wise Chowder Chow Down, then at the Wild Rice Bao & Brew Dinner and now here. This was my favourite because I prefer paler and lighter beers.
It’s a 1/2 barley and 1/2 wheat beer and it was a bit sweet with a little spice at the end. It was cloudy and smoky from a hint of coriander, but there was some orange peel to keep it light and fresh. It was the only beer I’d want to drink alone and great for summer days as they suggested.
- This was well seasoned and thought out, but I would have preferred the skin crispy and it was a bit gelatinous and soft.
- The quail was juicy, moist, incredibly tender with a slippery smooth meat and it almost seemed sous vide.
- It was good, but very oily and I would have liked a stronger lime flavour to off set that richness.
- I loved the orange and tomato powder which was very tangy and salty and it just brightened up the whole dish.
- The glaze was very well reduced and nice and sweet with a tang, but since it was so thick and syrupy it just enhanced the greasiness.
- I think I just needed a squeeze of fresh lime or a crispy texture to break things up.
- There was a seared bok choy on the side, but that wasn’t crispy either. If that had been charred, the bitterness would have helped balance things out.
Farmhand Ale – I remembered trying this at the Wild Rice – Bao & Brew dinner and I wasn’t keen on it then and I’m still warming up to it now. It’s a very warm and robust beer with a black pepper taste and it’s a bit tart. It was quite the quick and dramatic change from the White Bark Ale.
- Edamame and ricotta stuffed housemade pasta, yuzu brown butter, truffle oil. This is available on their regular dinner menu for $11, but I’m not sure about the portion size.
- I’ve had my eye on this item since I saw the new menu so I was excited to see it as one of the courses, unfortunately it sounded better on the menu.
- This was the “healthiest” and lightest course of the night, so you can just imagine the rest.
- I couldn’t taste any of the truffle oil or the nuttiness from the brown butter sauce and it really needed it.
- The bits of dark green paste was a yuzu chili paste and I wasn’t keen on how it was presented and I found it a bit overpowering for such a delicate filling. It was very peppery, strong, tangy and spicy, and the spice lingered long after the flavour of the ravioli.
- The pasta was al dente, but the edges of the ravioli skins were dried out and hard.
- The filling was fluffy and creamy with perhaps a bit of tangy lemon, unless that was from the sauce, but I was expecting it to be a lot more flavourful.
- It just seemed like a puree of edamame beans and ricotta, although sometimes it seemed like the ricotta was folded into it. Regardless it just came off a bit bland and literal.
- I think it just needed a saltier cheese because the ricotta was adding for texture, but not really in flavour.
Driftwood Ale – They called this their old German beer. It was darker, malted and dry and it used to be really caramelized, but they changed the recipe and took the caramel flavour out. This went well with the prawns, but I actually would have enjoyed it with the White Bark Ale since the prawns were so rich. I like the sweetness the White Bark Ale brings out in seafood too.
- Spot Prawn 2 ways with spot prawn aioli and basil oil.
- The first of the season BC Spot Prawns for me! I was stoked to see this. On the other hand this is something I feel like I could get at Hapa Izakaya. In fact I can get those delicious deep fried prawn heads on their sashimi salad – see here.
- The spot prawns were cooked perfectly and not mushy, although they are naturally more mushy than say a Tiger Prawn.
- The bodies were simply steamed and the meat was firm and sweet and it was perfect with the basil oil.
- Deep Fried Prawn Heads
- What can I say? It’s a good as a calorie and cholesterol rich deep fried prawn head can get! And that’s pretty damn good.
- There was a lot though. Five heads! If you don’t know, the heads are more delicious than the body. Yes insert all your dirty jokes now.
- They were lightly battered in what I think was potato flour because the batter seemed a bit powdery.
- If you’ve never tried a prawn head it tastes like delicious buttery rich seafood goop. It’s not runny but it’s creamy, moist, juicy and somewhat of a pasty substance that is essentially brains and guts. It doesn’t sound good, but they’re excellent. Since they’re deep fried the crunchy texture contrasts it well.
- It was great with the ultra thick and creamy tangy chili prawn aioli which also had bits of lemon rind. The lemon rind eased the richness, but I could have used some shredded daikon or even pickled ginger to cut it even more. I couldn’t really taste any prawn in the aioli though.
- The prawn heads were good, but they needed the aioli or they were a bit bland. I would have loved it to have some crispy garlic chips and deep fried chili with salt, but that would be leaning to a Chinese flavour. Maybe some salty nori would have done it.
Crooked Coast Amber Ale – This was very malted and a bit sweet in the beginning. I could have had this with the last course because I found it heavy for seafood. Again, it’s not really a beer for my tastes, but I could see real beer drinkers liking this.
- Fanny Bay tempura oysters, Shiso tempura, miso vinaigrette, pickled shallots. This is available on their regular dinner menu for $11, but I’m not sure of the portion size.
- The sauce totally makes this dish. Without the sauce I found the tempura batter a bit bland despite it having a chiffonade of Shiso leaf incorporated throughout. The shiso leaf didn’t carry a strong enough flavour though and neither did the batter.
- The oysters were perfectly cooked and the meat was juicy, plump, sweet and tender. I prefer raw oysters99% of the time, but these ones were pretty amazing.
- The miso vinaigrette was a bold punch of flavour and it was the sauce that left the most impact out of all the sauces of the night.
- The sauce was a savoury creamy thick vinaigrette made with lots of miso paste and perhaps some citrus ponzu or lemon juice for tang.
- It had texture and some Japanese chili powder for a nice kick and heat that came after. Give me this over tartar sauce any day!
Fat Tung India Pale Ale – I missed the photo… I had too much beer. I think at this point I just knew I enjoyed it more than the Crooked Coast Amber Ale. It was another bold beer, but I found it lighter than the Crooked Coast Amber Ale. The bitterness wasn’t as harsh, but still apparent and a bit citrusy.
- Grilled pork cheese, green beans, roasted fingerling potatoes and Teriyaki glaze. They have something similar to this on their fresh sheet dinner menu for $26, but I’m not sure of the portion size.
- Again, I found this similar to something I could find at Hapa Izakaya – see “Duck Potato” (Confit) here. That’s the thing though, Hapa Izakaya is already very good, so coming here I would expect Hapa Umi to exceed expectations from Hapa Izakaya.
- This was undeniably very good, but not palate changing.
- It was an incredibly rich main especially after two relatively large portions of deep fried seafood.
- I love pork cheek if it’s executed well, and this was executed very well. If you like pork cheek try their Tonkatsu Caesar Salad at lunch.
- It was cubes of tender grilled pork cheek with a naturally resistant chew and it was quite lean for being pork cheek. It was very tenderized from the beer and almost like tenderloin.
- This tasted very Chinese to me and the flavour and texture was very reminiscent of Chinese BBQ pork.
- It had the charred gristle and it was nice and sweet with sticky Teriyaki sauce that was infused with the Fat Tung India Pale Ale. It was almost like a malted savoury sweet caramel sauce with a hint of black pepper and it glazed the meat beautifully.
- I loved the contrast of crispy shallots and the side of crunchy green beans and crispy and tender fingerling potatoes.
- It was my favourite beer pairing of the night, despite me only being able to have a few sips. I could actually taste the beer in the dish although it was cooked out, and the bitterness from the beer played well with the sweetness of the sauce.
What’s 5 courses without dessert? I almost had a heart attack. Being at Hapa Umi, leaving without dessert is almost a crime. Luckily they served everyone housemade bittersweet chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa powder. I like dark chocolate more, but I would love to see them make white chocolate truffles rolled in Matcha powder for more Japanese flair. To see more Hapa Umi desserts – see here.