Calgary Eats: 1600 World Bier Haus

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I’ve been to a few wine pairing dinners, where food is magically matched with wine, but never one for beer.

1600 World Bier Haus (Glenmore Landing, Calgary) has monthly beer dinners and I dragged some colleagues who prefer wine and Coors Lite to come on down and check out some authentic Belgian beers.

Dave Turnbull of Horizon Wines took us on a tour of Belgian brews complete with stories of the history of the country and how it relates to the country’s 130 breweries and more than 800 beers.

Belgium has a wild history. With more than 30 regimes controlling the country over the past 1000 years, many influences have been weaved through the brewing process. When the rest of the world went straight, the Belgians went sideways, experimenting with fruit and spices in their beers.

The best beer in the world is often said to be Westvleteren since it’s only available at the Abby. You phone ahead or order online. Drive up a long road to a remote building and pull up to what is, basically, a drive thru window. You give your name and the monk gives you your one case of Westvleteren.

There are only 7 Trappist breweries in the world and 6 of them are in Belgium. The monks must make (or oversee) the brewing process and permission for the Trappist seal can only come from the Vatican.

The first beer on our menu was the Chimay Red Cap, a rich fruity beer that was paired with a bison tartare and saskatoon berries. Dave reminded us that beer should be drank a little warmer than straight from the fridge. Those “cold” beers with the mountains changing colour are made to be like that to disguise the taste of the beer. Having a beer extra cold masks the flavours and when your beer is kinda skunky, encouraging people to drink it cold masks the skunk.

Belgian beers, however, are proud of their deep richness and flavour textures. That’s why each brew has it’s own stemmed goblet, perfect for placing your hands around the bowl to warm a bit before you sip.

Drinking beer is just like drinking wine. You swirl it, smell it, sip it and swoosh it. Layer upon layer of flavour washes over your tongue.

Next on our menu was a cream of mushroom soup paired with a Triple Karmeliet.

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The rich carmel tones of the beer weaved through the richness of the soup. It was great, but not my favourite pairing of the night.

Duvel (pron DOO-vuhl) is the champagne of Belgian beers. The signature glass has a little “d” etched in the bottom to swirl the bubbles up through the centre. Hold it up to the light and you can see them climb like it’s a glass of bubble. It’s light and smoothed along nicely with the salmon and almond butter.

Notice the beers have gotten lighter through the meal. Dave reminded us that beer itself is a palate cleanser. With carbonated bubbles in the brew, your tongue is cleaned with each sip. Wine tastings are normally done light body to heavy, beer dinners can be mixed up however you like.

The best pairing of the night came from a St Bernardus Wit and a seared scallop. There’s just something about scallops and pairings with beer and wine that make my tastebuds dance. A nicely seared scallop and oaky chardonnay tastes like butterscotch on my tongue, the St Bernardus Wit wasnt sweet and syrupy like that tasting, but the two were engaged in a lifelong marriage in my mouth. Wow.

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Mountain Biking Hiking In K Country

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When Calgarians need to escape, they go to K Country. It’s the perfect place to go for a wander with little kids, have a picnic, camp, quad, hike or ride.

There are a couple of access points to K Country. You can get in off Highway 1 just east of Canmore, or you can go due west of Calgary and hit the outdoor playground just past Bragg Creek.

The roads out from Calgary to Bragg Creek are often crowded with makeshift peletons of road bikes. These long flat stretches with extra wide shoulders make it the perfect place to train for triathlons.

Head a few more kilometres west and grab a parking lot and those with knobs on their fatter tires will also find a place to get their gears on.

The options for mountain biking and hiking trails in K Country are endless. A few great sites to look for loops and trails are HikeAlberta, Kanaskis.com, Trails.com and BraggCreek.ca.

There’s also an info booth at the entrance to K Country on Highway 66 where you can get maps and advice on trail choices for the day. Most of the trails emphasize the mountain part with total elevation gains and losses between 1000 and 2000 metres. You can find rides for 2 hours to full day adventures with terrain taking you through alpine meadows and high passes.

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We chose the Powderface trail linked with the Prairie Creek trail. It’s a 13k loop that sends you straight up a 300m elevation gain for the first 5k before bumping you up and down for the remainder. The climax is a spectacular valley view standing atop a rocky cliff before taking the final 3k straight back down to the creek and the highway. The loop can also be done counterclockwise with a gradual climb and then steep descent, but we preferred getting the serious climb out of the way.

Garmin Training Center®

I call the post mountain biking hiking, since the trail is mixed use. We ran into half a dozen other cyclists and even more hikers sharing the road through the mountains. The trail guides call it a 1.5hr ride, we would say it’s more like 2 and we did it in 3. My quads cramped heavily, I didnt have the endurance to tackle the stiff climbs and my bike is a 10 year old ride with my commuter slicks on, not the nobby tires needed to conquer the rocks and mud. Despite the punishment, it was a great afternoon in the city’s sweetest playground.

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Inglewood Sunfest Pie Eating Contest

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I admit it, one of my favourite things about being in radio is being treated like a very small “c” celebrity. When there are openings, celebrations or fairs, people like myself get invited to participate in some fun shenanigans.

Take the Inglewood Sunfest this past weekend for example. To help drum up support and publicity for the community streetfair, the organizers invited some people with local influence to come down for an old fashioned pie eating contest. It was a fun event they knew we would get behind and tell our audiences about, thereby spreading the word about the Inglewood Sunfest.

It’s a win-win-win. Because guess who dug through their 6 inch blueberry pie from Nectar Desserts faster than Darren Krause of Metro, Mike Morrison of Mike’s Bloggity Blog and Tony Charron from Avenue (among others)?

You know it, baby.

Unlike my last competitive food eating endeavour, this one went down without a hitch. The key was having the pie stay together. We were allowed to pop it out of the tin, and I had mine sitting like a mushroom cap so I could actually bite it from the inside, instead of digging around in the middle from the top.

Loved it! What’s next? Repelling from 30 floors up the side of the Sun Tower in the 2010 Easter Seals Drop Zone.

Yikes.

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