Ferris Meets Phillips

photo credit: Stephanie Hull, used with permission

When Dave Craggs of Ferris’ Upstairs told me he was preparing for a beer dinner, my inclination was to think that he had “barley sandwiches” in mind. Sensing trepidation on my end of the phone, he went on to explain that what he was in fact talking about was a ticketed 6-course dinner served over an evening, with each course paired alongside different beer selections. It was a collaboration: Gerry Heiter, the brain behind The Great Canadian Beer Festival, would be the beer knowledge guru, Phillips Brewery would provide the beer, Dave would cook the food and did I want come?

You bet your bottles I did.

In true writerly fashion, I arrived late with a date to find a candle-lit room arranged to sit 30 people at five or six longish tables. The lights were dim and the energy among the guests was similar to what you might find at a wine-pairing dinner, yet far less rigid. Maybe it was the pre-Christmas sentiment, but it was almost jovial.

We saddled up to two seats at the bar, were poured a healthy glass of Phoenix Gold as a refreshing starter and the event kicked off almost immediately.

For Gerry, who arguably has the most diversified understanding of beer in the city, it was second of two nights doing this. He stood up in front of the crowd, welcomed everyone and promised a great night of fun and good beer. Then the food started hitting the tables.

First up was a rich roasted butternut squash soup with maple crème fraiche and candied walnuts, which Dave finished with a slight touch of parsley oil. It was paired perfectly with the nutty Slipstream Cream Ale.

“Check out the colour of the beer. It should smell nice,” Gerry told the crowd. “After a couple of tastes of food, take another sniff. It’s not wine, don’t worry, but it should enhance the flavour. The food and beer should meld.”

Audible lip-smacking approvals peppered through the room as the first course went down in rapid fashion. The serving staff (including Dave) at Ferris’s Upstairs quickly cleared the tables and cracked the next beer while the kitchen prepared the following course.

And so went the night: Beer, then a short speech from Gerry, then food, then gastronomic guffaws and gushing from the foodies – each course leading to the next in a thread of richer, more intricate offerings. The biggest surprise of the evening came with the sablefish, which was served with preserved lemon, olives, caperberries and Marcona almonds.

“If you’ve already tasted this dish, then you’re probably saying, ‘Holy s––t, what are we going to pair with this!’” Gerry told his fans. Sablefish, a local white fish, subtle and delicate, is usually paired with a beverage of equal finesse. But Gerry is known for being something of a savant and a rebel, and so he went an entirely different direction and plopped down the bouncy, boozy Amnesiac Double IPA as its partner. His alchemistic know-how paid off. Extra hoppy and slightly sweet, the beer stood beside the fish and the lemon and the bizarre mix of sour, sweet and savory like a reliable better-half, much to the pleasure of the guests.

All up, the night was a huge hit. At only $65 for everything, there wasn’t a person in the crowd who didn’t feel completely satisfied. I was extremely happy (writers love good deals) and both Dave and Gerry were pleased with the outcome. “The plan is to do more of these,” says Dave. “I’d like to try different dishes and different beers. Victoria is packed with beer fans and brewers, so why not?”

So the new year bodes well for beer fans who love to eat, drink and be merry. Keep an eye out for upcoming events on the EAT events board, or check in at Ferris’.



Starter Beer: Phoenix Gold Lager

Course #1

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
w/ Maple Crème Fraiche and 
Candied Walnuts

Slipstream Cream Ale

Course #2

w/ Caramelized Apple, Chevre Noir,
Serrano Ham and Rosemary Honey

Blue Buck Amber Ale

Course #3

Moroccan Spiced Lamb on Saffron Couscous 
w/ Spicy Harissa and Fresh Mint

Instigator Doppelbock

Course #4

w/ Preserved Lemon, Olives,
Caperberries, and Marcona Almonds

Amnesiac Double IPA

Course #5

Dunkel Braised Beef Short Ribs
on Gorgonzola Polenta

Dr. Funk Dunkel

Course #6

Espelette Chili Truffles

Longboat Chocolate Porte

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