Parallel 49’s Head Process Engineer and Brewmaster Graham With has an amazing set of skills. He combines a Bachelors of Applied Science in Chemical and Biological Engineering with the art and skill of crafting unique and innovative beers that are designed to pair perfectly with Chef Alessandro Vianello’s delectable dishes.
In fact, these two professionals orchestrated an amazing dance that is guaranteed to wet anyone’s appetite. While Graham works to express his craft through the art of producing a fairly large range of exciting beers, Alessandro joins in with blending and enhancing those beers with a delightful mixture of sumptuous ingredients to create complementary dishes that excite the senses.
As each of them work their particular form of magic, a tapestry of tastes and smells emerge that are truly outstanding. Nestled inside the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel is the ARC Restaurant. Even from the outside you can see that ARC has class and has been designed to provide the best in quality. With floor to ceiling windows providing beautiful views of the harbor, impeccably placed lighting that creates an atmosphere of comfort and intimacy, subtle live music, it’s no wonder that Chef Alessandro calls this home.
On a cold November night Graham and Alessandro were busy weaving their special blend of skills to produce a unique Brewmaster’s Dinner.
This collaboration resulted in a phenomenal five course dinner where a few select guests were treated like royalty within the relaxed and comfortable seating at the Chef’s Bench. It’s not actually a bench but a beautifully constructed stone table lit with candles and soft lighting. In the glow of the numerous lit Christmas trees throughout the Restaurant, Chef Alessandro and Graham took us on a journey that showcased the deeper complexities and often unrecognized range that beer can provide to those who are willing to listen (and of course taste).
Our first course was a Honey Roasted Parsnip Soup, made from preserved pumpkin, pumpkin seed purée, and most surprisingly bee pollen. The bee pollen actually comes from the restaurants owned apiary on the third floor. This entrée was paired with a Schadenfreud Pumpkin Spiced Lager. This was a delicious beer that unfortunately is only seasonal, and last I checked there were very limited quantities still available at local liquor stores. Of all the beers that I tasted that night, this was by far the one I was most looking forward to sampling again. This is a hearty malty lager with traces of pumpkin and distinct notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. A truly delightfully smooth beer for the fall season.
Next on the menu was one of my favorite seafood dishes, Seared Scallop. It also came with some crispy calamari, sea buckthorn berry, fried kelp, and a fitting wafer of seaweed.
It was paired with a Toques of Hazard White IPA. This IPA is light bodied and has an amber white color. It definitely has that big hop flavour that gives it a nice bite along with aromas of tropical fruit and gooseberries. If you prefer your beer to have a strong hop flavor, then this is the beer for you. It also boasts an impressive 9.2% alcohol content, so a little goes a long way.
Next up was Braised Pork Belly. It came with lemon gastrique, chicharones, potatoes baked in hay, and winter greens.
Graham paired this with a Dry Hopped Sour Cask. This is by far the most unusual and unpretentious beer I’ve ever tasted. This was to be my first exposure to dry hopped sour beer. From what Graham described it’s a fairly nuanced process to producing just the right amount of sour taste in the beer. This coupled with the unusual and somewhat complex method of storing and finally tapping the beer makes having the opportunity to taste it a special occasion. In fact this beer doesn’t taste like a beer at all, but something completely different.
It’s hard to describe, and well worth exploring if you have half the chance. To be honest, it’s actually hard to tell that it’s a beer. It’s ever so subtle light carbonation and tart lemony sourness complements the Braised Pork Belly perfectly. I’m a huge fan of all types of braised or seared meat and seafood, so this dish was particularly appealing to me and was what I consider to be the crescendo in the orchestra of flavours that Chef Alessandro brought before us.
Next up was Baby Brie along with roasted nuts and dates.
It was paired with an Old Boy Classic Ale. This is a moderately sweet classic ale, with a very deep dark amber color, which reminds me of the type ale that you might find in a pub or tavern a hundred years ago in the heart of England. Apparently it’s not as popular in Canada, but the name actually fits the full-bodied taste. It’s a classic, and it’s called Old Boy Classic Ale. How fitting is that.
Finally, bringing our delectable journey to an end was the grand finale… dessert. This was by far the best pairing of the night. The dessert was comprised of Banana Butterscotch Pudding made with banana, vanilla cream, chocolate and hazelnut crunchies.
It was paired with the Salty Scot Sea Salted Caramel Scotch Ale. This was an absolutely delicious sweet and salty beer. This is a unique beer developed to provide a strong caramel malt flavor with enough salt to give it a bit of a bite. It’s surprising to find a beer that pairs well with a strong banana flavored dessert, but this beer did it perfectly. It’s almost as if they’d been made exclusively for each other.
The night went by so very quickly, but at the end Chef Alessandro and Graham were able to take a few minutes from their hectic schedules to sit with us and enjoy a drink. From talk of how busy everyone is with the many delightful industry events and preparations for the Christmas Season they were able to spend a few moments to simply sit and enjoy the fruits of their labor over a glass of beer. In their own words typed out at the bottom of the menu, “Life is complicated, good food shouldn’t be”…truly wise words to live by from two great artists, Graham and Alessandro.