I first met Milos Kral when he managed Chaucer’s Pub, in London. But it was during his time at Chancey Smith’s (which was in Covent Garden Market), that I really got to know Milos and his passion for good beer and simple but excellent cuisine. Both establishments became renowned local craft beer meccas during his tenure. Milos has had an impact on both the hospitality culture and the craft beer culture in London. He has introduced multitudes to the delights of crafted, fresh, real beer, to a wide variety of styles, and to the concept of beer-food pairing. Milos has also been responsible for many of the area’s craft beer events. He jokingly refers to turning macro (corporate) beer drinkers into craft beer acolytes as “converting infidels.”
Last year, Milos finally realized his dream of building a temple to the brewing art when he moved into premises at the corner of Talbot Street and Carling. Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium is open to believers and non-believers alike.
Milos is not afraid of the hard work involved in sourcing artisanal beers. He has made available many scarce but sought-after brews. He and his associate Adil Ahmad think nothing of hopping into a truck and rounding up casks and kegs of limited edition seasonal or one-off brews that normally would never make it to the London area. With 23 draft taps and two cask conditioned beer engines, they are kept hopping, to offer a constantly rotating beer menu.
I recently enjoyed a session at Milos’ gastro-pub. Here’s a little taste of what you can expect from a visit. But let me start by calming any trepidation you might have in going to pub for a good meal — Milos’ delivers. Chef Matt Reijnen has created an eclectic but unpretentious menu. Dishes are adeptly crafted with fresh locally sourced meats and produce. There is no microwave in the kitchen; food is made to order, and fresh. There are lunch, supper and “pub favourites” menus.
We arrived as the lunch crowd was slowly filing back to work and were greeted by a smiling server. Milos stopped by the table for a chat, as he often does. We started with Nickel Brook Marzen paired with an appropriate appetizer — house-made Cumberland Sausage Rolls with Branston Pickle and mustard. The Branston Pickle was a perfect complement for these fresh savoury meat pastries, as was the rich malty earthy character of the Marzen.
The soup de jour — a roasted root vegetable purée — was served with a snifter of Nickel Brook New World Belgian Pale Ale. My companion had the Roasted Beet, Quinoa and Watercress Salad with goat’s milk feta and almonds in an aged balsamic vinaigrette. My soup was fresh and flavourful with the natural tastes of the root vegetables and seasonings riding on a rich creamy texture. The subdued bitterness and cider acidity of the Belgian pale ale complimented the soup. My friend found the bright citrus of his Church Key West Coast Pale Ale paired well with the balsamic vinaigrette on his salad. Score 2 for 2 on our beer/food matches, thus far.
We took a short break to cleanse our palates with some spiced almonds and a couple of hand-drawn half pints of cask ale — -Neustadt Double Fuggled (a 60 shilling Scottish-style mild ale). The true real ale pub experience doesn’t get better than that pairing. Adil stopped over to chat about brewing, brewers, and brews — the Emporium’s “Ambassador of Craft Beer” knows his stuff.
Next we got to our main entrées. I had the Braised Ontario Lamb Ragu with house-made potato gnocchi, goat’s milk cheese, mint and oregano — which I paired with a Spear Head Moroccan Brown Ale. My friend opted for the House-ground Beef Burger with old cheddar and locally-sourced garnishes, on a fresh kaiser. He didn’t want a large meal, but looking at the size of that plate, he got one anyway. The Ragu had tender meat and fresh gnocchi in a rich appetizing sauce. My pairing worked fairly well, with the spiced raisin-like fruitiness of the Moroccan brown ale adding a complementary note to the robust meat dish as well as providing good palate cleansing. My friend enjoyed the same ale, so I think Moroccan Brown is an all-around good match for red meat meals.
Then on to dessert. We ordered spiced apple cake with hot apple jam, paired with Stone Hammer Coffee Stout. Hard to go wrong there — fresh warm fruity dessert and a satisfying coffee-infused brew rounded out the meal very nicely.
Milos’ establishment provides a rewarding experience for foodies and non-foodies, veteran craft beer drinkers and novice quaffers alike. There is something new to experience for everyone — all in a friendly atmosphere.
As a side note to local beer lovers, I was given a scoop on some of the beers soon to come on line at Milos’: Oast House Barn Raiser and Smoked Stout; many of Bellwood’s rotationals; Flying Monkeys Saison; HBC 342 and Imperial Red Ale; Left Field’s Eefus (oatmeal brown ale); Mikkeller specials; De Molen beers; and Boon and Liefmans Lambics — a little something new for everyone.
Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium
420 Talbot Street North, London
Taste of the Month
Radical Road Brewing’s Canny Man
Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale
(LCBO # 311829)
Radical Road Canny Man is a 9.1% abv “Wee Heavy” styled Scotch ale that has been aged in whisky barrels for 71 days. It is the brainchild of two creative brewers at Black Oak Brewing who thought it was time the brewery offered a really big barrel-aged beer. Many of us who heard the rumours it was coming thought they were nuts to offer an initial barrel-crafted big brew based on the “wee heavy” style, but the attention to sourcing authentic scotch barrels and quality ingredients, and the skilful way this brew was crafted made Scotch Ale a perfect style to showcase barreled aged beer. It works very well because the peat smoked malt taste associated with this style largely comes from the whiskey barrels. It comes in a wrapped champagne bottle with a caged cork stopper. I’m sure it will cellar well.
My first impression, from the packaging, was that it must be another sales gimmick for a mediocre brew. How wrong I was. Inside that arty package was a hazy deep amber unfiltered ale with a massive cap that lasts, and a champagne-like effervescence from proper bottle conditioning. Big burly aroma fills the nose (and the room) with a pungent smoky-nutty-malty-fruity bouquet. Hopping is moderate but efficient and there is a nice smoky, roasted hazelnut and dark fruitiness riding below the caramel malt. It has a great rounded smoothness that comes from barrel aging. I was impressed by how this big robust version of a “wee heavy” held its sweetness and smokiness in check, by wonderful rounded malt complexity and a decent drying on the palate from efficient yeast attenuation. This is a world-class effort from some local brewers, and a joy to sip on or pair with a number of soft ripe buttery cheeses or smoked salmon.
THE MALT MONK is the alter ego of D.R. Hammond, a passionate supporter of craft beer culture. He invites readers to join in the dialogue at http://maltmonksbeerblog.wordpress.com/