Friday, August 23, 2019

Victoria Beer Week review: Beer Cocktails Competition blends with mixed results but emerges a winner

March 7, 2019 by Nathan Krause, contributing writer

Pushing the boundaries of cocktail creativity, Wednesday evening’s Beer Cocktails Competition—part of Victoria Beer Week—put the attendees in the judges’ shoes. Six mixologists—each from one of Victoria’s best restaurants—were on hand at this event, pairing Vancouver Island-made spirits with BC craft beer. The results were sometimes strange, but a few creations had me asking for a refill.

Hosted at LURE Restaurant and Bar overlooking the inner harbour, patrons were given a special bottle cap for judging. Crowds formed around each outlet as the mixologists recited poetic stories meant to accompany the experience. My favourite was Veneto Kitchen and Bar’s Mike Norbury, who equated his cocktail to a day of fishing with friends.

Scenes from Victoria Beer Week’s Beer Cocktails Competition (photo by Nathan Krause/Nexus).

Norbury had smoked salmon on hand while the drink was built, mixing Duncan’s Small Block Brewing’s Test ‘n Tune IPA with Stillhead Distillery Vodka as he painted a picture of a perfect day on the lake. Norbury’s final garnish was a spritz of cedar on the drinker’s open palm. Each sip of this was distinctly Pacific Northwest, with the earthy IPA creating a scotch-like flavour, backed by whiffs of the forest floor.

Plenty of staff was on hand delivering impressively crafted hors d’oeuvres and pizzas. Every bite I had was exceptional, with the panko-crusted fried mac and cheese wedges and Kahlua ganache stuffed “monkey bread” being the standouts. After filling up, I went straight for the night’s winning cocktail, an elegant blend of green tea and yuzu-infused gin by Sheringham Distillery mixed with beer from Chemainus’ Riot Brewing. Balanced and exotic, it completely deserved its prestige. Soren Schepkowski from Clarke & Co. took home the big win with his mix of drinks from Riot and Sheringham.

Not all contenders were so lucky. A blended margarita with a beer float didn’t exactly have what I imagine was the desired effect, leaving a slushy, flavourless iceberg to dissolve in a pool of IPA and porter. Another that didn’t quite hit the mark was an intricately crafted cocktail that amounted to a two-ounce shot of sweet syrupy chocolatey framboise. Intentions were ambitious on these ones, yet the results didn’t live up to the expectations.

All told, it was a night to remember, and I applaud VBW’s efforts to elevate the craft beer experience.

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