Not Just Any Garden Variety Beers

Green Thumb IPA with Fresh Ginger

Green Thumb IPA with Fresh Ginger

I had the good fortune to meet with Victor North, one of the owners and the brewer at Garden Brewers of Hamilton, Ontario.  He brought me a couple of his beers; The Green Thumb India Pale Ale brewed with fresh ginger root and the Piperales Smoked Amber with black pepper.  I was a bit apprehensive about trying beers with these particular added ingredients, because they can completely overpower a beer and make it difficult to have more than one.  I’m happy to say that both of these beers were very easy to drink and I could have easily have had more of them.

First up was the Green Thumb IPA.  It poured a beautiful deep apricot colour, leaning toward a bright amber hue.  The nose was a rich bouquet of fresh ginger, which was the dominant aroma, but it was supported with subtle notes of black currant and tropical fruits like mango and cantaloupe.  Lying just below all these fresh aromas there was also a slightly toasted bread crust malt aroma.

The flavour was well balanced with just the right amount of ginger, enough to enjoy but not so much that it dominated the beer.   The tropical fruit flavours inherent in the ginger, really shine through and add a very bright and fresh character to the beer. The hop bitterness lingers with a pleasing amount of ginger flavour in the finish.  It is definitely thirst quenching and easy to knock this beer back.

Because of the nature of these beers I thought it would appropriate to have them with a little food, and these beers did not disappoint! I paired this one with oven roasted Tandoori Chicken and fresh broccoli micro sprouts.  The ginger was a great complement to the heat of the Tandoori spices and the bitterness of the hops really amped up the overall flavour.  Following dinner I had a second glass with my dessert of baked apple blossom covered in greek yogurt with black currants and pomegranate.  The ginger worked really well with the sweetness of the apple and complemented the fruits in the yogurt.  I happen to think this beer would pair very well with many different foods.  The bottle label suggests pairing it with glazed salmon, sushi and bibimbap, all things I would very much like to try once I can get my hands on more of this excellent beer.

Piperales Smoked Amber with Black Pepper.

Piperales Smoked Amber with Black Pepper.

Next up was the Piperales Smoked Amber with fresh black pepper.  Again I was a little worried that the smoke and the black pepper would be a little too much.  If anything I probably could have had a little bit more of both.  But finding that perfect balance is something Brewer North is still tweaking but doing so in very small increments so as not noticeably change the overall experience of the beer.  Either way I still found it easy to drink and an excellent session beer.

The colour was a rich dark whiskey amber with ruby highlights and poured with nice thick ivory head.   The nose was deep caramel with smokey and earthy undertones, with a hint of black pepper.  It reminded me of a pot of molasses being slowly heated in a cast iron cauldron over an open fire.  Everything combined in a pleasingly subtle way and was not overpowering.

Flavour was rich in caramel sweetness with a slight burn of black pepper. It was so subtle though I kept going back for more. The beer was quite thirst quenching with a pleasing and slightly lingering finish. The sweetness of the malts played nicely off the smoke and the heat of the black pepper. On it’s own it was a quite sessionable, but screamed for food pairings.
Piperales Smoked Amber paired with a variety of foods

Piperales Smoked Amber paired with a variety of foods.

I tried it with a variety of small samples: tamarind coated almonds, organic beef jerky, spicy smoked sausage and dark chocolate. In every single case it paired well with each example and brought out all the best qualities of both the food and the beer. The almonds brought out the nutty characteristics of the darker malts and the beef jerky played off the smoke and the caramel richness. The spicy smoked sausage obviously brought out the smoke, and the black pepper really matched well with the heat in the sausage. But the best pairing by far was the dark chocolate, which made the whole combination taste like a campfire s’more. Before I knew it the entire beer was gone and I was definitely wanting more.
Both beers are ones I would seek out in a bar or restaurant and experiment with different food pairings.  They are complex yet simple enough not to be daunting to the average beer drinker.  Can’t wait to try them again!
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