These spots take care in pairing beer with your meal
By Jason van Rassel | December 14, 2021
My wife, Lea, and I share many common interests — which is good, because we’ve been together more than 10 years now — but beer isn’t one of them.
It’s the kind of disagreement that barely makes a difference in a relationship — and when it does, it falls squarely among the things that are the subject of daily compromises and healthy give-and-take, like choosing places to eat.
Beer doesn’t factor into Lea’s decision-making process, but I like to pair a good beer with what I’m eating, if I can. During the four years we’ve spent in Edmonton, I’ve been lucky enough to find several places where beer didn’t bring us in the door, but a solid beer list ended up being one of the reasons we enjoy going back.
It’s important to clarify that I’m talking about places where beer isn’t the drawing card. Sugarbowl, the Next Act Pub and the Underground, to name some well-known examples, are great beer destinations, but those aren’t the type of places I’m talking about. I’m thinking of places where you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find an extensive or well-curated beer list — like, say, at an indoor climbing gym.
To that point, the Dirtbag Cafe is such a place, serving up expertly sourced coffee and baked treats from inside Boulders Climbing on 107th Street. Co-owner Scott Pedrick puts as much thought into stocking the beer fridge as he does to tracking down quality coffee beans. At any given time, Dirtbag carries dozens of craft beers, mainly from Alberta, along with some well-regarded choices from other provinces.
Northern Chicken on 124th Street has built a formidable reputation for its delicious fried chicken and its creative takes on comfort food — the mac and cheese dusted with crumbled Doritos, in particular, is a flavour-packed update on a familiar old favourite. On top of the great food, chefs and co-owners Matt Phillips and Andrew Cowan made Northern Chicken a diverse, inclusive and welcoming place that proudly supports the LGBTQ2S+ community. In addition to those delicious, and virtuous, reasons for visiting, Northern Chicken usually boasts more than 40 different bottled and canned beers in the fridge and an eclectic selection of rotating taps, both with a heavy emphasis on Alberta beer.
In Norwood, Otto Food & Drink is a relaxed joint that specializes in house-made sausages. The eponymous “Otto” sausage, filled with Sylvan Star smoked gouda made in central Alberta, has appeared in more than one food-related daydream of mine. Maybe it’s not surprising that a purveyor of sausages has an extensive beer list, considering how the two have been reliable mealtime companions for centuries; what’s such a pleasant surprise about Otto’s beer list is its focus on local breweries.
The fact that restaurants with a focus on more formal dining still don’t give beer the same degree of thought as wine could be a column in itself someday. That said, Continental Treat Fine Bistro in Old Strathcona is a happy exception, where Belgian Trappist ales, German pilsners and hearty doppelbocks occupy a rightful place alongside signature dishes like pork schnitzel and beef tartare.
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