Brewery and the Beast Makes a Good Case for Carnivores

The unabashed celebration of meat and beer has a thoughtful, and delicious, heart to it.

July 31, 2018

By David Kitai / Photo: Kristine Wilkinson

We should be careful about our meat consumption. There’s plenty of good reasons: personal health, animal welfare, environmental impact. But once in a while, maybe even just once a year, we should throw caution to the wind and unabashedly indulge our inner carnivore.

Vancouver might just host the perfect meat-cheat day. It’s called Brewery and the Beast and, last Sunday afternoon on the north side of False Creek, it put farmers, butchers, chefs and brewers together for a delicious, cross-cultural, slightly bacchanalian celebration of meat, and the many ways you can cook it.

Darn near every non-vegetarian restaurant of note was there. Nashville hot wings from the DownLow Chicken Shack generated the biggest line, rewarded at its end with a hugely satisfying crispy, spicy, pickle-topped wing. Next door their sister restaurant Merchant’s Workshop had a refreshing kazu brined and habanero glazed pork shoulder served on cold rice noodles with pork broth and a herb salad. On a hot, meat-filled day, the cooldown dish was a genius move.

Cooling down and battling the meat sweats was key to the afternoon. Thankfully Phillips brewing arrived in a steampunk display slinging recyclable cups of cold, no-nonsense beer. Left Field cider and Mission Hill winery were available for the beer-averse, and, because this is Vancouver, Bucha Brew had four taps of kombucha to add a few probiotics to your meaty indulgence. Not to mention, as well, a pair of misting sprays and kind folks handing out frozen towels for all and sundry.

Bucha Brew was on hand for some probiotic bevvies (Photo: Kristine Wilkinson)

Rotating flame-grilled animals were all over the festival. A whole spit-roasted sucking pig from Wildebeest generated oohs and aahs. Gargantuan, Fred Flintstone-style beef prime ribs spun atop the coals at Two Rivers Specialty Meats’ stand. Burdock and Co. took a more unusual move with the spit, cooking rolled lamb belly and serving it with smoked eggplant to mouth-coating unctuous effect.

The lamb bellies were among a host of off-cuts served at the festival. Meat & Bread paired grilled chicken hearts with picanha, a less-known cut off the top sirloin beloved in Portugal and Brazil. Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar was slinging flame-cooked beef tongue bao. Mezcaleria made use of the whole pig for their duck and pork carnitas, slicing up the oft-unappreciated jowl, snout, and crispy-crunchy ear for adventurous eaters. Kudos to the presenters who reminded us that if you want to eat animals, you should eat every part of the animal, and learn just how delicious the weird bits can be.

Mezcaleria wasn’t afraid to serve the whole pig (Photo: Kristine Wilkinson)

For all its indulgence, the festival had a thoughtful core. Chef Darren MacLean of Calgary’s Shokunin showed the care behind this cooking as he grilled wild boar shogayaki over searing hot binchōtan charcoal. “The sauce here is a mixture of soy, ginger, and mirin. Like so much of Japanese food culture, it’s taken from China. Every food culture is borrowing from each other,” he said, “but that’s not the point, the point is about cooking over a hearth, every culture shares a barbecue, cooking and sharing food over a fire.”

Turns out, meat can be heart healthy, or at least heartwarming.

Pork Al Pastor from The Gull (Photo: Kristine Wilkinson)

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