Seemingly overnight, Vancouver has grown to become a hotbed for microbreweries and craft beer. We like our beer. In particular, we like local beer, especially seasonal brews. That’s why I was so enthusiastic when Stanley Park Brewing invited me out for a special long table dinner event to sample their new WinterGlow Mandarin IPA. We braved the rainy Vancouver weather, arrived at Stanley Park Pavilion, and were promptly treated to our first pour.
Stanley Park Brewing puts out new beers rather frequently. You might remember when I sampled the SunSetter Summer Ale a few months ago. The WinterGlow Mandarin IPA (India Pale Ale) is understandably geared toward the colder winter months, offering a beverage that warms your body and soul.
This is something that really sets the WinterGlow apart, because the citrus notes from the mandarin oranges really cut through that bitterness. It’s not a “fruity” beer, like you might find with some summer ales, but you can definitely taste the citrus notes. The end result is a beer that still provides the robust flavor of the hops, while minimizing the bitterness and weight.
Like other IPAs, the alcohol content in the WinterGlow is higher than most (6.4% ABV). Unlike many other IPAs, it’s not that heavy at all. The end result is a beer that’s well balanced and easily paired with a variety of different food.
We were joined by dozens of our closest blogging, influencer and media friends for this long table event, socializing in the lounge before heading into the main dining room for our meal.
The event really did live up to its billing; we were seated along three extra long tables. Dinner was to be served “family style,” encouraging casual conversation with our dining mates. Each dish was accompanied by a beer pairing suggestion, facilitated via the four tall glasses in front of each of our settings. The catering staff promptly came around with pitchers.
The watermelon salad — served with kalamata olives, pickled onion, mint and arugula — was paired with the Stanley Park Noble Pilsner. As much as people talk about wine pairings, it can be equally compelling to pair the right beer with the right dish too. The light start to our meal was well matched with a lighter, crisp beer.
The broccoli and grape slaw (with cheddar and a sour cream dressing) was paired with the WinterGlow IPA. We dug in a little deeper and heavier with the cheese, which works well with the more full-bodied IPA.
With a little bit of food on the table, brewmaster Todd Fowler took to the microphone to tell us a little more about the creative inspiration behind the WinterGlow Mandarin IPA and some of their thought process behind the beer pairings for the night.
So, we kept eating. And drinking. And the catering staff kept coming around to top up our glasses.
The main course consisted of four family style entrees, each paired with a specific beer. The burnt and sticky BBQ chicken legs paired with the Windstorm Pale Ale; the steelhead en papillote (salmon in parchment) paired with the Winterglow IPA; the roasted baby potatoes paired with the Foghorn India Brown Ale (IBA); and the vegan ratatouille paired with the Noble Pilsner.
Realistically, all I ended up doing was eating a little of this and drinking a little of that. Of the four beers that we sampled, I enjoyed the WinterGlow the most. It came through with an incredible richness and complexity of flavor without weighing me down. This was surprising, honestly, because I haven’t been the biggest fan of IPAs lately. That might also explain why I liked the Foghorn the least. The Windstorm Pale Ale served as a great middle-of-the-road ale to go with almost anything.
Our meal concluded with a grapefruit panna cotta, topped with a pistachio crumble and paired with the Windstorm Pale Ale. This was wonderfully light and refreshing, the perfect way to end a great meal.
As you dive deeper into the holiday season and start thinking about the family dinners to come, take a moment to consider what types of beer can best accompany the dishes you intend on serving. Or, you can do like this long table, and offer your guests an array of options. Remember to drink responsibly!
Disclosure: Stanley Park Brewing invited me and a guest out for dinner. We did not pay for our meal or beer pairings. No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.