In the Crossfire at Crossroads
by Chris Dias
The name of the article is literal. I was fringed on all sides by purveyors of pints, bosses of the brew, artisans of ale. Pundits…of…pilsners? Leaders…of…Lager. Probably should have quit at three. There’s no doubt that Crossroads features one of the best dining areas in Prince George. Staffed by master chef and aptly named Wayne Kitchen, Crossroads offers astounding cuisine designed from the ground up to pair with their wide selection of originally crafted beer. However, even I must admit the overwhelming success of the kitchen (referring to the actual kitchen and not Wayne like he’s royalty) almost threatened to overshadow the rest of the establishment, ironic considering the majority of said establishment is the name under the title.
My history with beer bares similarity to my past with wine, having only acquired a taste for the latter in the past five years. Beer, and I stress all varieties, have never worked well with my palate. So, it would be understandable when praising the quality of Crossroads that I’d leave the beer out of the assessment, but that is like praising The Dark Knight and leaving out Ledger’s Joker. That was a failing of mine, and one Bjorn Butow from Crossroads was committed to addressing. This led me to sitting on a chair with my photographer, Bo, beside me, surrounded by Crossroads’ staff who were committed to educating me on how to appreciate beer. This crusade was led by Patrick Moore, a man emerging from shadows in the dim brewery, flanked by polished fermentation tanks, a king comfortable in his kingdom. Patrick had a mission to open my horizons and teach me how to appreciate the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drink in the world.
Truth be told, whenever someone claims to have a bad experience with beer (I fully admit perhaps being the only one), it usually involves some cheap mass produced can, as reflective of its potential as jug wine is to the whole of viticulture. It was my ignorance with that judgment that Patrick had to dismantle first. To facilitate that change involved an extensive process of drinking copious amounts of fermented cereal grains. And like a proper wine pairing, I was also treated to one of Wayne’s proven manifestations of talent in the form of a robust charcuterie.
Starting from the Hail Mary IPA, Patrick refused to accept a summary judgment, grilling me like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. What was I tasting? What could I smell? If something was adverse, where are on my palate did it occur and when? We started with an IPA, followed soon by stouts, pale ales, and amber lagers. I discovered that the sharp bite I often experienced at the back of the throat was fleeting. The clean aromas of beer I always enjoyed, often more than wine, but as I my glass reached half full, I also realized it was half empty, and I began to enjoy myself. Not everyone likes every type of beer. What Bo enjoyed I didn’t care for while the ones I responded positively to he avoided. I was surprised how broad a flavor spectrum beer was, perhaps even more so than fermented fruit, to the dismay and chagrin to my wine swilling aficionados. That’s why Crossroads offers eight varieties, currently only available directly from their solitary location and then exclusively in Meowlers and Growlers—god, I love those names—and certainly also by the glass, but this is changing. IN fact, by the time anyone reads this, Crossroads will be available in tall cans from government and private liquor stores.
Do I have a favorite? Well, of course, that was the entire purpose of this experiment, and not to get me slightly tipsy given I have a liver disposed to rapid inebriation. It was the Mother Heffer, with its soft wheat malt and clove aromas, as well as the Old Westie Amber Lager, a traditional Vienna style lager. They all run around five to six percent alcoholic with a bitterness rating between 15 and 60, new points of trivia I get to share with others. It was understandable I would gravitate to the lower numbers. Food pairing is another aspect I never realized was important, explaining why so many kitchens paired with breweries (not just Crossroads) feature pizza ovens.
Wayne and Patrick have succeeded in marrying their two professions perfectly, and I await with bated breath for their food pairing nights I am holding them to deliver on. I must accept some personal responsibility for praising the quality of one aspect of the much larger operation. Not to diminish the miracles occurring in the kitchen by Kitchen (I love saying that), but Crossroads is a brewery, and a true passionate thespian is operating in the shadows. Patrick’s zeal for brewing is contagious, and one cannot help but get excited as he brandishes his ingredients and boasts about what he produces, imparting the realization that I had been in an art gallery of a painter’s collection all this time. I did get a little sloshed; that’s just what happens. One thing is certain; there will never come a time I will pass through the doors of Crossroads and not order a beer, something appropriate to pair with the fabulous cuisine. A new journey begins…wow…I guess I truly am at a crossroads.