Pumphouse Pub & Beerthirst Long Table: A hoppingly bitter evening or Does that guy have a bucket on his head?

Last night I attended a long table dinner hosted by Beerthirst and held at the Pumphouse Pub in Richmond. It was my first time to this pub, which is housed in an old fire hall and located right near the busy heart of Richmond. The Pumphouse Pub has a really nice ambience; stone fireplace, lots of wood, old fire hall photos and paraphernalia, large bar and even space for live music. There was a great turnout of beer geeks for the long table dinner, and the evening got underway a fashionable hour late – coincidentally this gave us just enough time to peruse the pub’s extensive beer list and have a pint before the night got underway. I have to say I was really impressed with the pub’s beer selection; not a lot of rare beers but a solid line-up of fantastic go-to favourites all reasonably priced and poured generously. But I digress, back to the event at hand. I went into this long table with no beforehand knowledge of the night’s line-up and as such no expectations of what would be paired. What follows is the breakdown course by course (I am including the veggie options that the chef so kindly prepared for my partner and I):

Course 1 – Big Al Brougham Bitter (ABV 5.5%, IBU 25, Seattle WA) paired with shrimp and corn fritters with Moroccan lemon aioli. Veg option was a greek style salad of baby romaine, tomatoes, red peppers, cukes and a balsamic reduction.

Course 2 – Big Al Fresh Hopped Harvest Ale (ABV 5.4%, IBU 59, Seattle WA) paired with Asian red rice and grapefruit salad.

Intervallo – Big Al Big Hoppa India Pale Ale (ABV 7.1%, IBU 75, Seattle WA); no food pairing.

Course 3 – Russell Blood Alley Bitter (ABV 5.5%, IBU 50, Surrey BC) paired with Lamb tagine, cous-cous. Veg option was the tagine loaded with veggies and served with cous-cous.

Course 4 – Green Flash Imperial India Pale Ale (ABV 9.4%, IBU 101, San Diego CA) paired with a chicken green thai curry. Veg option was the same curry dish served with eggplant.

Course 5 – Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale (ABV 5.9% , IBU 18, Seattle WA) paired with roasted pumpkin bread pudding with a caramel beer glaze.

How it all came together: The servers began bringing us our pours and one of the guys from Beerthirst would come around to the table and give us the low down on the beer, brewer and if you were very lucky regale you with a story of some beer fuelled adventure or a slightly inappropriate Surrey joke. Each table also had a cheat sheet describing the beer style and stats – we were encouraged to study this literature for the end-of-the-night beer quiz.

First beer was great, really great; amber ale with nice lacing and not much on the nose, tepid mouthfeel that made it quite smooth, and just a little bitterness that lingered at the finish. With the veg option this was a tough pair since the balsamic reduction was so flavourful but I was told the fritters paired quite well, the deep fried batter complementing the hop in the beer. Second beer was a good fruity IPA; amber colour with minimal head; pungent grapefruit/citrus nose; hint of maltiness cuts into the hop bite; a wet-hopped beer. With the food pairing I found the grapefruit came almost too far to the front of the palate, the heavy cilantro in the salad was not my favourite but you know you either love it or hate it. This beer was not high in the IBU’s but the salad really seemed to ramp it up. Third beer was the Intervallo (no food pairing) and it seemed to arrive in my tasting glass unannounced so I was unsure when I stopped drinking a re-fill of the Harvest Ale and started drinking the Big Hoppa IPA. Nonetheless, this beer was more of a golden-amber; subtle lacing; more balanced with the higher ABV stepping up to the assertive citrus; lingering bitter finish. Fourth beer was definitely a bitter; golden amber again; very clear; bitter right at the first sip and lingering to the finish. The bitter went quite well with the tagine since the dish is so earthy and heavy. Fifth beer was an old friend; golden and clear; light, crisp body; hefty hops but easy to drink with no unpleasant finish; intensely aromatic. This was the all-star knock-out food pairing for me …why haven’t I always been sipping Green Flash with my curry? This beer loved the hot/sweet thai flavours and the curry loved it right back. Finally we capped our night with a sixth beer an obvious October choice; deep amber/orange with cream coloured head; subtle spice on the nose (nutmeg); very smooth. The beer paired really well with the sweet warm bread pudding; caramel complementing the pumpkin pie spices in the beer.

Overall thoughts on the night: I have found IPA’s to be challenging to pair with food, when they don’t work it can ruin your palate for both the beer and the food, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the hop at the forefront of the night. The drink portions were generous, almost too generous at points (if this is not too sacrilegious) because I found it increasingly difficult to keep the tastes distinct and discrete. Same with the food portions; I was so stuffed by the time the dessert course arrived that most of the bread pudding is in my fridge. Looking back I might have liked to mix it up a bit more style wise since I found many of the IPA’s to be heavy in the citrus element but none veering into the more floral or pine flavours.  The choices for the final course seemed a bit out of place with the rest of the menu; I would have liked to an Asian inspired dessert and a wild card beer choice. I love to discover a new brewer so that samples from Big Al’s were my favourite beers of the evening. The beer quiz was a fun way to cap the evening with everyone shouting out answers to win the much coveted buckets of beer. Overall though I think the dinner was an amazing success, everyone seemed to have a great time, the guys from Beerthirst were a lot of fun, and the staff at the Pumphouse were most accommodating and friendly.

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*Special thanks to Camilla from the Pumphouse Pub

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