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    Categories: Food

Chef’s Table hops it up with beer

Head chef Patrick Spilsted behind the bar at the Beer Factory where everything on the luncheon and dinner menu contains beer, ale, lager and moonshine.

BEER FACTORY’S HAND CRAFTED MEATLOAF

Ingredients:
1 onion finely minced
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly minced garlic
1/4 tsp. chili
1 1/2 lbs. medium ground beef
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup red ale
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Make sure the flour creates a gluten structure, but is not overworked. Press into a greased bread pan.
Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees to obtain a crisp outer crust. Drop temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes until juices run clear or until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 150.

Serves eight to 10 people.

The Beer Factory enjoys its hard-won status as Canada’s smallest craft brewery, and today, Oct. 7, it salutes a one-year anniversary.

Not wanting to let the milestone go by without recognition, head chef Patrick Spilsted is marking the day with a special in-house baked stout chocolate cake and a custom cask.

Among St. Albert’s numerous restaurants, The Beer Factory stands apart as a beer-focused destination restaurant. Virtually every menu item from appetizers, salads and pizza to soups, main courses and desserts feature beer or moonshine as an ingredient.

Although far from heavy traffic in Riel Park, the restaurant-brewery has struck a chord with locals. Much of the restaurant’s success is a measure of people’s dining preferences that mirror a national trend.

Consumers, leery of unexpected economic shifts,  are opting out of more formal, expensive restaurants in favour of a casual, less-expensive dining option.

A graduate of NAIT’s two-year culinary program, Spilsted was hired at the Riel Park location three years ago to manage the kitchen of what was then the Hogs Head Brewing Company, a small, one-bay operation hoping to make its mark with beer tastings.

Since Spilsted and his father Richard bought out the original owner a little more than a year ago, they renamed the brewery, expanded the square footage, introduced a wider range of craft beer and raised the bar on quality food.

Under new ownership, the 100-seat restaurant has raised its community profile hosting large events and accommodating a 2017 Dig In Horticulinary Festival food tour.

Shepherding a restaurant through the early years before its reputation is fully established is hard work and a labour of love. Ironically, The Beer Factory may not have existed if Spilsted had not endured a painful accident.

Raised in Edmonton’s La Perle district, Spilsted was one of three rambunctious boys who pulled in decent grades and spent the summers decompressing at their grandparents’ Wabumun Lake cottage.

He still marvels at his British grandmother’s culinary skills in quickly throwing together dinner parties that were talked about for years.

“My grandfather was in the insurance industry and they would throw dinner parties. And they lived across CHED’s first broadcasting shack and the guys would often come over for coffee. You could show up anytime, and there was always something on the stove,” said Spilsted.

His father, who at various times was a laser technician, a developer of scaffolding material and a chef, would often whip up his passion – a batch of well-spiced Cajun food.

But despite the powerful culinary presence, Spilsted planned a mechanics trade. He attended Jasper Place High School’s automotive program and was sent to Great West Chrysler for a practicum.

During the first snowfall, a massive Dodge Ram 3500 came in needing a transmission change.

“As I was draining the transmission fluid, it was going in my face and my eyes. I tried to turn, buckled my knee and fell. I popped my knee-cap.”

After the doctor diagnosed it as a life-long problem, Spilsted shifted his interest to cooking.

“To me it was a cleaner lifestyle. It was creative. You can’t get very creative replacing alternators, brake pedals and changing parts.”

He applied to NAIT’s culinary program and was placed on a wait list. The two-year course was oversubscribed 11 to one.

Two days before classes started, he received a call stating there was a cancellation. Without whites or a knife kit, he showed up to class and began a journey that would cover every kitchen skill from shaping ice sculptures to garnishing beluga caviar on canapes.

After graduating in 2004, he was hired at the upscale Chop Steakhouse & Bar as a salad cook. He worked his way through every station, and eventually Chop’s corporate office offered him a position opening other locations across Western Canada.

Although the professional chef stayed with Chop for eight years, the corporate mentality of making decisions without realizing the struggles frontline staff faced became an irritant.

“The job lacked creativity. If you wanted to add salt to a dish, it would take six months for approval.”

In 2014, Spilsted left Chop to organize the smaller Hogs Head Brewing Company kitchen. In creating an inspired menu, he adapted the principles of French cuisine learned at NAIT where students were encouraged to use wine in glazes.

One discovery was that splashing traditional well-hopped IPA beer in food created too bitter a taste. He opted instead for lagers, ales and stout.

“To find the right balance of beer in food was a lot of trial and error. The first time I took a good French recipe and made it to spec. The second time, I tried it out a couple of different ways with beer. The chicken ribs for instance, took six months to find the right lager.”

The 18 plus working man’s menu is chock full of alcohol-infused flavours. The rotisserie chicken is marinated in beer. Coleslaw has a touch of moonshine. Mac and cheese is made with a 50 per cent Bechamel sauce and 50 per cent beer.

The beer braised Reuben is slathered with beer sauerkraut and a lager is added to the chicken Alfredo. Beer is also added to pizza sauce to adjust consistency.

As the cold winter months approach, Spilsted is planning to update the menu with an elk-beef shepherd’s pie or possibly a hunter’s tag soup and chili – all with beer.

“People really love this place. It’s the best-kept secret in St. Albert.”

 

 

 

 

 

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.