Capital Pint

CAPITAL PINT: The Ottawa Beer TAP Society hosts its annual holiday event (and founder Jean Paul Fournier tells us what’s on tap)

Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is published every second Thursday at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on Twitter @tpersaud.

Beer here: Jean Paul Fournier (beside Mayor Jim Watson) at the launch of this summer's National Capital Craft Beer Week

Jean Paul Fournier blames his obsessive nature.

A DJ for over two decades, Fournier had zero interest in beer. In fact, he didn’t even like it. (We’ll guess, based on the weddings and corporate events he worked, that he was more of a rum and Coke, wine spritzer kind of guy. No judgment. Really.)

But, he somehow stumbled onto a few home brewing books and began sampling craft beer in earnest. Soon after he was part of a local home brewing club, and in March 2010 he started making is own variations. He had become a full-on beer enthusiast.

Fournier is as mild-mannered and humble as they come. After the first time we met, he brushed aside my business-like goodbye handshake, and opted for a full-on hug. His beer-making personality, however, is the exact opposite. Fierce, brash, and arrogant are all apt descriptors. And they serve him well.

Five months after he began brewing, he entered Toronto Beer Week’s HomeBrew competition. He walked away with two “Best of Class” awards — Best Stout for his Imperial Canadian Maple Stout, and Best Hybrid for his Caramel Cream Ale.

Beer run: Five months after he began brewing, Fournier entered Toronto Beer Week’s HomeBrew competition — and walked away with two “Best of Class” awards

Since then, he has relied on the Ottawa Beer TAP Society (TAP = Tasting, Appreciation, and Pairing), which he founded, to provide all the feedback he needs. The bi-monthly beer and food pairing event features six courses and eight varieties of beer that Fournier brews himself (a different beer with each course, plus a welcome drink and beer liqueur to end the evening).

On December 9 and 10, Fournier hosts his third annual holiday event. If it’s anything like October’s feast — which featured a kumquat wheat ale, sage gruit and a cranberry wheat ale, among others — then it will be an evening worthy of your time. We chat with Fournier to find out more about this event, and his beer-making prowess.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, Fournier is the mastermind behind National Capital Craft Beer Week and the upcoming WinterBrewed festival that will be part of Winterlude in February.)

Why did you begin the Ottawa Beer TAP Society?
I figured the best way to experience craft beer was to enjoy it with food that was prepared to highlight the different facets of the beer, and artisanal chefs would prepare the best food. The result was the Ottawa Beer TAP Society.

Colin Lockett of the Copper Pot Café creates the food for the events. How did you connect with him?
Colin catered a wedding that I provided DJ and decor services for in Rockcliffe. I’ve eaten meals at some of the best places in the city, but Colin totally blew me away. I had missed the hors d’oeuvres that had been served, so I went over to his catering area and asked him if he had any left. He didn’t, but he threw something together for me in a matter of seconds and the resulting morsel was amazing.  It was obvious by the way he was doing his work that he was passionate about food, so I asked him if he’d consider doing one of these dinners with me. He loved the idea and was very excited about it, and the rest is history.

What can people expect at this upcoming holiday event?
This particular event is our annual anniversary holiday beer and food pairing dinner. What makes this one so special is that I focus on the season. I showcase some of the great warming attributes that beer has to offer, along with the ingredients and resulting flavours and aromas that the holiday season presents us with.

What’s on the beer menu for Dec. 9 and 10?
Well, here are the six for the meal:

  • Smoked Oatmeal Stout
  • Belgian Dubbel
  • Irish Red
  • Spiced Holiday Ale
  • Tart Cherry Ale
  • Imperial Canadian Maple Stout

And we’ll start the night with a Tudor 16th-century buttered beer, and end the evening with a (yet-to-be-named) beer liqueur.

How has your beer changed over the past three years?
That’s a huge question! Within three months I had started into all-grain brewing. This gave me a great deal more freedom to experiment. I’ve tried various adjuncts (things like cacao nibs, kumquats, maple syrup, demerera sugar), infinite types of hops and yeasts, and designed my own recipes from scratch. I find, and our members seem to agree, that my beer has become more refined, more balanced, and definitely more accurate to what I was attempting to create when I developed the recipe.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started brewing?
Time is the only ingredient you can’t really do without, or adjust to suit what you have on hand. Beer, just like wine, needs time to achieve greatness. If you rush the process — skimp on time for fermenting or for aging — the finished product will inevitably suffer.

Tickets for the event are $60 and can be purchased from the Ottawa Beer TAP Society website.

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