The Vancouver Aquarium hosted its annual Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown on Wednesday, November 16. It’s a no-holds-barred competition between elite seafood soup slingers from around the province to see who can produce the most unctuous offering with complementary craft beer.
It’s always a treat to taste the amazing beer and chowder pairings on offer while enjoying the sight of floaty, fishy, multi-coloured fauna hanging out all around the many revellers in attendance. While every entry was delicious in its own way, here are just five pairings from the event that really stand out. Hopefully the tasting notes can help you find your way to a delicious wintery seafood chowder and beer pairing of your own.
Ned Bell, Vancouver Aquarium
Vancouver’s most famous celebrity chef cooked up a steaming helping of creamy chowder featuring mussels and a soft crouton. The richness of the chowder was tempered by hints of anise, which united perfectly with the continental, spicy hop bitterness in the Red Pilsner. Lager styles also often feature a corn note, and the corn in this chowder filled that role with gusto.
Chris Andraza, Fanny Bay Oyster Bar
With a whole, gooey geoduck on display, this booth was daunting for some but was definitely worth getting outside your comfort zone. Thai-inspired chowder was infused with lime, curry spice, and cilantro. Big Rock’s Winter Spice Ale would normally be too sweet for my palate but in combination with the acidity of the soup, it took on a palm sugar character, which is a common ingredient in Thai cooking. Genius!
Tia Litz, Pajo’s
Picture traditional seafood chowder in your mind. Steamy, creamy, delicious, chunky. Pajo’s chowder was exactly what you’re imagining. And classic chowder has a briny quality to it, you really feel like you can taste the sea. The same is true of one of BC’s premier IPAs, the nautical-themed Fat Tug from Driftwood. It turns out west coast hop flavour and west coast seafood go hand in hand. Who knew?
Patrick Miller, Peake of Catering
I had to voyage into the depths of the Aquarium to find this pairing but it was worth the trip. The sablefish was tender, the lemongrass prominent, and it was all backed by the funky, salty umami of fish sauce, which paired perfectly with the brettanomyces funk of the tart saison.
Aaron Rail, White Whale
Bacon. BACON. The People’s Choice winner was this entry from White Whale featuring so much bacon. It truly lived up to its name. And nothing cuts bacon richness like a beer style from the Isle of Bacon itself. British styles like extra special bitter are briskly hopped but with a refined, malty backbone that stands up to even the most potent chowder.