I’ll be the first to admit that I am the furthest thing from a food critic, preferring instead to stick to my safe little beer world. However, when asked to visit The Calling Public House, DHM’s flagship Davie Street pub, for a Granville Island Brewing beer dinner to help launch the seasonal release of their pumpkin ale, I quickly agreed and arrived with my beer and food palate ready to rumble.
Upon entering The Calling I was greeted by a typical svelte young server and immediately drawn into the trade mark black-hole interior that the Donnelly Group is known for, think London pub style bathed in dark wood, black leather and populated with a solid array of marble and wrought iron tables.
After being comfortably seated in one of the banquets, I was quickly served my first course: seared albacore tuna with pickled cucumber and arugula salad paired with Granville Island’s Honey Lager. The salad was crisp and fresh, but the tuna left much to be desired. Properly seared albacore tuna, one of my favourite dishes, is a thing of beauty but this dish fell short due to poor execution; the fish was more cooked than seared. As for the Honey Lager, it was much better than I expected. Honey beers are no longer novel, with every entry level craft brewery having one on their roster. However, the Granville Island version hit the mark with subtle honey notes and a light biscuit flavour. I personally don’t drink this style of beer often, but understand it has earned its place in the craft realm, acting as a friendly starting point for newly converted craft drinkers.
The next course featured the star of the evening, Granville Island’s Pumpkin Ale, along with an ale braised Fraser Valley lamb shank, forrest forged mushrooms, and a fall root veggie purée. Digging into my plate, I enjoyed eating the well-cooked lamb shank and the wonderful puree that paired perfectly with the Pumpkin Ale. The ale contained faint flavours of pumpkin pie spice and vanilla, with a little raw pumpkin on the finish. Ideally the lamb shank would have brought out more flavour from the beer, but due to a lack of seasoning I was left a bit wanting. All in all the Pumpkin Ale is nice, but clearly an entry level example of a spiced beer. Pick this one up if you’re looking to bring an accessible seasonal beer to next months thanksgiving dinner; it will pair well with Autumn’s harvest of root vegetables, along with the turkey and trimmings.
The final course of the evening featured an apple cinnamon crisp with vanilla gelato paired with Granville Island’s Hefeweizen. The Hefeweizen, one of GIB’s most flavourful everyday beers has strong banana and clove notes, true to the wheat beer style. The pairing itself didn’t make much sense as these two don’t particularly go well together, but at least they had the foresight to go from the lightest beer of the evening to the heaviest.
My experience at the first ever Donnelly Group + Granville Island Brewing beer dinner was a positive one that left some room for refinement. The beer was pure Granville Island. In other words, entry-level craft beer designed to draw beer drinkers away from macro ‘suds’ over to more artisanal fare. Although it may sound like an underwhelming experience, I do hope to see more of this in our city in order for a larger group of people to experience pairing beer with food without throwing them into something their palate may not be ready for.