Monday, October 24, 2011

Bellingham Beer Lab

What do beer aficionados do when they have become competent home brewers yet cannot afford to construct their own microbreweries? Illicit and home brewing is popular in North America, but there are few avenues for those who want produce beer on a commercial scale and turn their hobby into a career. My good friend, Josh, is one of five brewers behind the Bellingham Beer Lab, a cooperative brewery that will soon be opening just south of the border. 

At this point in time, Black Star Co-op is the only cooperative brewery in North America. Located in Austin, Black Star is a microbrewery and brewpub that meets operating costs through the sale of memberships. Members  pay a one-time or payment-plan annual fee that entitles them to discounts on beer, voting power for the Board of Directors, free birthday beers, and invitations to exclusive members events. Black Star generates day-to-day funds through their bar, by offering growlers for take-away, distributing kegs to local businesses, and selling merchandise. The Bellingham Beer Lab is using a similar business model to Black Star in that their initial memberships cost $150.00 USD and liquidity is maintained through the brewpub. In short, as a member of the cooperative you are a part owner of the business.

The benefits of this business type extend beyond the creation of local entrepreneurial opportunities and the provision of diverse beverage options. This collective structure promotes development and growth in each brewer, as the co-op is viewed as a transitional enterprise to assist brewers in achieving their goal of opening their own, independent breweries. After one brewer moves out, another moves in. This concept of production is also linked to civic pride and community building. Each brewer within the cooperative will have numerous ties to the neighbourhood and region, and will attract a unique client base. Most cooperative business models, including the BBL, make an effort to incorporate local resources. Some BBL brewers, for example, will make an effort to use Washington State hops and domestic barley. The beer produced by the BBL will, therefore, reflect the people, produce, and pride of Bellingham.

Another great thing about this particular will be located just 45 minutes south of Vancouver. You can become a member, shoot across the border, fill up some growlers, and be back in Vancouver for dinner with your fresh, microbrewed beer. Keep up-to-date with how the business is progressing on Facebook. Just search "Bellingham Beer Lab".

Josh (Right) and the BBL Boys at the 'Best of the Bay' Brew Competition

"Alex Dawkins Vancouver", "Bellingham Beer Lab", "Vancouver Beer"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Australian Cuisine?

No, there isn't really an "Australian cuisine". But if you keep reading, I will tell you about some items and recipes that are uniquely Australian, and appetizing. Having spent the past month down under, I have discovered that Australia is a lot like Canada when it comes to renowned foods and dishes of national pride. That is, both of these countries are so young and such a mishmash of cultures that many popular victuals have appropriated origins. In Canada, Montreal smoked meat can be linked to the Jewish Diaspora from Eastern Europe, and toutins/bannock/beavertails are based on the First Nations' fondness of fried doughs. Australia's widespead consumption of meat pies is directly connected to the country's colonial past, and the popularity of Asian restaurants and supermarkets can be explained by geography, but Aussies have invented some meals and foodstuffs that they can truly call their own:

Deceptively enjoyable, these coconut coated rectangles of chocolate covered sponge cake can be found in most Australian bakeries. They look fairly bland and one-dimensional but these light and flavourful pastries vary a great deal in terms of texture and composition. Some contain a layer of jam, some have a thick chocolate coating, and sometimes the sponge cake is really dense. I also like lamingtons because they are fairly large and satisfying but are not created with a butter/lard based dough that is the base of so many baked goods.    

Ned Kelly Pies
Due to their colonial origins, Australians love meat pies and sausage rolls, yet they have created several items to call their own. Kangaroo pies are not uncommon, and Ned Kelly Pies can also be found at the better bakeries around the country. Ned Kelly was an outlaw born in 1855, just north of Melbourne, who spent several years in his twenties hiding from the law in the outback. In order to provide extra sustenance for those days in the outback when you know...shooting at coppers and robbing farmers, Ned Kelly Pies are topped with a fried egg and broiled cheese.  We found some acclaimed pies at Beck's Bake House, and I was surprised by how well all of the ingredients melded. I was scared the Ned Kelly would be heavy, like its namesake's infamous iron suit, but it was bold and delectable

BAM: My Sis and Dan

Anzac Biscuits
Associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), these robust cookies were often sent overseas to the troops of Oceania who were fighting in WWI. Composed of oats, coconut (they love this stuff!), sugar, golden syrup, butter and baking soda, these biscuits did not spoil easily as they travelled thousands of miles to sustain and cheer-up soldiers fighting abroad. They are fairly average when considering ingredients and taste, but they are ubiquitous. Similar to Girl Guide cookies in North America, Anzac biscuits are often sold to support an organization, the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL). However, they can also be found in most supermarkets and bakeries. 

Pie Floaters
This dish seems as though it should be popular in Eastern Canada or Quebec. It shares traits with Canada's famed poutine and it is ideal for cold weather, rather than the dry heat of South Australia where it originated. This meal looks about as appealing as it sounds. It consists of a meat pie, usually beef, that is served in a bowl of pea soup. To soup-up the unappealing appearance of this hearty delicacy, servers often smother the top of the pie in ketchup. Due to the fact that it is warm most of the time in Australia, and to the fact that the bigger cities here all have great cafes and restaurants, this sloppy mess is usually a favourite of late night carousers.   

"Alex Dawkins", "pie floater"