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November 06, 2009
Chambar Ale: Civilized Debauchery

Thanks to a number of globally styled, yet locally produced alcohol products making their debut on the BC culinary scene, 2009 could very well end up as the year of the "100 mile tipple".

Not the least of these newcomers is Chambar Ale, a pale ale named after the popular Belgian restaurant (located in Vancouver's Crosstown), that both inspired and commissioned it.

Says Chambar co-owner Karri Schuermans, "Our restaurant has made a reputation for its list of premium Belgian and Northern European beer. But what with import and transportation costs, the fuel usage involved, and everyone's preference these days for sustainable, local eating, we thought: 'wouldn't it be great if we could offer a 100% local beer product without compromising quality or changing the style of cuisine that we are known for?'"

Great indeed. After accomplishing two post-Chambar restaurant goals of opening a second day restaurant (Medina Cafe), as well as launching a cooking school (The Dirty Apron), Karri and her husband and business partner, Chef Nico Schuermans, set about to realize their dream's third installment -- the creation of a signature brand beer that would be unique and highly drinkable on its own, yet would also pair well with Chambar's highly flavourful, and often spicy, Belgian- and North African-style food.

To accomplish this they teamed up with Mark Simpson of Artisan Group -- an artisan craft food consultant with international experience in brewing and winemaking (including nine years as brewmaster at Granville Island Brewing). Over a 12-month period, and much traveling throughout Europe testing many styles of beer, Simpson came across a Belgian ale that most closely matched his idea of perfection. It became the model for Chambar Ale, a richly amber-hued brew with a firm and frothy head; caramelized, malty aromas; and a taste that starts crisp, stays dry and refreshing, then draws out to a long and spicy finish with a bitter bite.

It was important too that the branding convey the same distinctiveness as the beer. Designed by Glasfurd & Walker, the label, screen printed in 22 carat gold ink onto an amber glass bottle, depicts a hybrid creature representing both the French rooster and the Flemish lion. Is this a Cock-a-Roar also holding aloft the Olympic flame?  Possibly so.

You can check out the bottle and its contents for yourself at Chambar restaurant (562 Beatty Street), where the ale is available for $6 per bottle. Or look for it at select retail stores in a 6-pack box priced at $13.99. An immediate success with both restaurant customers and the public, it's moving fast. The original batches' 25 kegs are now gone, and so have 50% of the first 6,000 bottles.

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Copyright Cityfood Magazine 2009