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Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to Toronto Mr. Kissmeyer: Danish Beer Dinner

It took me a couple of days to recover from Wednesday's Danish Beer Dinner that was held at beerbistro; a dinner to celebrate two diverse Danish breweries: Norrebro Bryghus and Mikkeller. Eight courses of beautifully rich and flavourful food matched wonderfully with eight strong beers from the two respective breweries, over five hours, had both my head and stomach in a whirlwind.

After the dinner, on the streetcar making my way home, I thought how hard it would be to write a wrap-up post of the dinner here on the blog. How could I possibly capture the creativity of the food, the outstanding qualities of the beer, and the atmosphere, in a manner that would really justify what I had just taken part in? Let me just start off by saying that beerbistro Chef/Owner, Brian Morin, and his talented culinary wizards in the kitchen, pulled off another coup, proving once again that beerbistro is at the top of the class.

Just like the Dogfish Head dinner, I attended a little early to have a drink at the bar and I was lucky enough to share a lengthy conversation with Norrebro Bryghus' Anders Kissmeyer, the night's main attraction. Kissmeyer is the face of Norrebro Bryghus, a brewery created on an idea back in the late 90's. Kissmeyer worked as a master brewer and chemist for a company you might have heard of: Carlsberg, and after spending 16 years working for the multi-national brewery, Kissmeyer, inspired by the US craft brewing industry, started working on a business plan to open a craft brewery in Copenhagen. Backed with the money of a friend, Kissmeyer led an enthusiastic team in opening the brewery and attached restaurant (he mentioned that they don't call them brew pubs in Denmark) in Copenhagen's Norrebro region in 2003. They have since opened a second brewery to handle the increased demand.

Back to the bar. Kissmeyer had just arrived with the Roland and Russell Import Agency team, fresh from a trip to Mill Street Brew Pub, and decided on a King Pilsner to start things off. After introductions were made and a couple sips were had we got into talking about some Ontario beer. "From what I've sampled here yesterday and today, I've gotta say, Ontario brewers are doing a mighty fine job," stated Kissmeyer before going on about how great King Pilsner is. Interesting coming from a man who has new beers springing up at the original brewery almost daily, of all styles and flavours.

The event got started just minutes past 7:00pm when the master of ceremony and noted beer writer, Stephen Beaumont, took the mic and welcomed all in attendance. Beaumont highlighted what we were in store for, described the menu and explained how the matchings were chosen, provided some educational information on the blossoming craft brewing industry in Denmark, and introduced the crowd to Kissmeyer.

Before the first round of food and beer was set on the table, Kissmeyer spoke at length about the brewery, a little about his background, and promised us that the beers we would be tasting would take us well into the night. As he was wrapping up, the first samples were brought to the table - Mikkeller Warrior Single Hop IPA that Beaumont spoke on. With that the dinner was officially on the go.

As for the pairings, well, I liked them all. I really enjoyed the Smoked Cod with Norrebro's Skargaards Porter. It was an incredible match. The Rabbit terrine with Norrebro's Paske bock (get it - rabbit, bock - easter..) was really nice too. The bock was delicious. Not sticky or cloying, nice and malty, subtle, yet complex. All the beers were outstanding and incredible on their own. As I mentioned, my head was a little hazy in the morning, and I lay blame on the beers, as not one was under 6.0%.

The attendance was great, a sold out crowd for the $120 ticket dinner, and everyone seemed very interested in listening to Kissmeyer speak, straining to hear his voice over the chatter from the front bar area of the restaurant (which was still open to the public). Mike Shatzel, owner of Cole's Restaurant (Bar), the popular spot in Buffalo for a large selection of terrific draught and bottled beer from Belgium and American craft breweries, came with three friends (including Buffalo Beer Blogger, Mike) to take part in his first beer dinner and he expressed his enjoyment at the end of the night. "This was an amazing time. Great beers, amazing food, and very organized. I was very happy I came."

There were also a number of individuals who work in the Ontario brewing industry present, along with members of the Danish Consulate, members of the media, importers, and a good showing of craft beer supporters. "I was at the Dogfish dinner, and the Brooklyn dinner, and they were both unbelievable, but the beers that we had tonight, in my opinion, were the best to date," stated Cameron's Brewing Co. sales representative, Jon Graham. "The pairings were bang on, but the beer, on it's own, was terrific. The Old Odense Ale was/is out of this world."

Many others thought the same about the Old Odense. I thought it was the best and most interesting beer of the night. Using five different herbs, and other ingredients during a collaboration with Dogfish Head owner, Sam Caligone, Kissmeyer wanted to create a whole new style, yet take it back to a style that was around hundreds of years ago. "I love this beer," stated Kissmeyer after the dinner, "it is certainly one of my favourites."

My night ended after completing a 45 minute interview with Kissmeyer, and it was interesting to see all the ticket buyers coming up to him on their way out just to thank him for a wonderful night. He shook everyone's hand, thanked everyone for coming out, and handled all the attention like a pro. It was the perfect way to end a perfect night.

Kudo's go out to Vlado and Liliana of the Roland and Russell team, Brian Morin and his team at beerbistro, Stephen Beaumont who was a great MC, and finally, Kissmeyer himself. A terrific beer dinner well worth the price tag.

The menu
Round 1: Mikkeller's Warrior Single Hop IPA - Horse Tartare w/ Potato & Leek Soup
Round 2: Norrebro's Skargaards Porter - Smoked Cod w/ horseradish creme fraiche
Round 3: Norrebro's Paske Bock - Rabbit Terrine
Round 4: Mikkeller's Jackie Brown - Roasted duck breast & fois gras
Round 5: Norrebro's Old Odense Ale - Matane Shrimp & greens
Round 6: Norrebro's La Granja Stout - Beef & Bornholm potatoes
Round 7: Mikkeller's Stone Alesmith - Danish Blue Cheese
Round 8: Mikkeller's Beer Geek Brunch Weasel - Poached Pear w/ almonds & ganache (beer ice cream)
Round 9: Mikkels Monster

*Look for the entire interview with Kissmeyer in the summer issue of TAPS.

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