There is no greater pairing than craft beer and cottage days. Whether by the water’s edge, at the end of the dock, or by a late bonfire, good beer makes the perfect companion. But if there’s one place a cold ale really thrives, it’s in combination with delicious barbecue. Choosing a local brew that perfectly complements that just-off-the-grill steak, burger, or kebab takes both drink and food to the next level.
Vim and Vigor
It’s a pilsner, so it doesn’t have that over-the-top flavour attack sometimes associated with craft beer. That’s not to say it’s boring; it’s anything but. This quality brew from Tooth and Nail Brewing Company is well constructed and perfectly nuanced — a beer that will please the masses while still impressing the beer geeks (professional beer connoisseur Stephen Beaumont is on record as calling it Ontario’s best pilsner). It’s also offered in both cans and Crowlers (massive 900-plus-mL cans). The advantage of the Crowler is that it cools faster and is less weighty in your cooler.
V&V is such a classic that it makes sense to team it up with classic barbecue — think hot dogs and hamburgers. Much like the pilsner style, these classic barbecue friends are simple but have the potential to be great. Using artisanal meats, fancy cheeses, and locally crafted sauces are all ways to up your barbecue game. Explore such places as Muckleston & Brockwell, Seed to Sausage, Around the Block Butcher Shop, or Sasloves Meat Market for upscale products. One last suggestion: impress your friends by using a little V&V to make your own simple beer mustard that perfectly links (pun intended) your beer and barbecue — 3 Irving Ave., 613-695-4677
Beyond the Pale Brewery’s Pink Fuzz was made for summer. And now that it’s available at the LCBO and in cans, it’s even more of a cottage must. A wheat beer at its base, it gets its distinct flavour from the addition of grapefruit pith and juice during the brewing process. This beer is a fantastic match for barbecue because it packs an abundance of flavour without overwhelming the senses. Consider pairing Pink Fuzz with lighter fare, such as Asian-style chicken or fresh whitefish. Both will play well with the citrus notes in the beer — 5 Hamilton Ave. N., 613-695-2991.
This session ale by Waller St. Brewing doesn’t fit into any particular stylistic category but tastes great so it’s worth saving space in your trunk. A light beer, at 4.4 percent, it can keep you hydrated in the sun. Familiar hop-forward notes of tropical fruit and citrus are present, while rye bread and spice add a new dimension. The unique characteristics deserve to be married with more interesting meats such as boar sausage, buffalo burgers, or cuts of veal that are fantastically flavourful
— 14 Waller St., 613-860-1515.
Earl Grey Marmalade Saison
From Dominion City Brewing Company, this pale ale is crisp and refreshing. Historically, this style of beer was brewed to keep farmhands hydrated, a tradition you can enjoy without the heavy labour. The ester-driven fruit flavours are bolstered with the addition of oranges and organic tea during the brewing process. Because it is bright and finishes clean, this saison would combine well with grilled pork chops or chicken breasts — 15-5510 Canotek Rd., 613-688-6207.
Wee Heavy Bourbon
At 11 per cent, this is a big beer from Microbrasserie Le Castor in Rigaud, Quebec. Treat it with respect. Powerfully flavoured, it will stand up to any lingering barbecue flavours on your palate. Pair this beer with rich barbecue meats. Baked beans are also a worthy companion. The dark, sweet malts and notes of bourbon will complement the sweet barbecue sauce. Bonus: You can also let this rich brew stand alone as a dessert. We don’t condone cross-border smuggling, but a number of dépanneurs in Gatineau carry Le Castor — 67, ch. des Vinaigriers, Rigaud, 450-451-2337.
While these recommendations focus on beer available in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, one of the best features of any road trip is discovering the local brewery. Before you pack the car and head for the cottage, do a quick check for rural breweries near your destination. Better yet, plan your route to ensure there’s an interesting beer pit stop along the way.