I know Jack (and Jack Knows Beer)

The lovely lady of Kitchen Treats and I decided to head into Charm City last weekend and explore an establishment that had been on our radar for some time: Jack’s Bistro.  Nestled on the corner of Elliot and South Robinson, Jack’s Bisto would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.  If you haven’t sought out this gem it’s high time you did.  The menu, while limited, is eclectic and has some fabulous choices.  As I have a long term love affair with the enchanting city of Montreal, I was completely smitten with their take on poutine (that included an absolutely beautiful foie gras sauce).

I know, I know.  Food is nice, but let’s talk about what is important: the drinks.  The cocktail menu is a cute collection of some basic cocktails with fun twists (try the jalapeno margarita), but the cocktails were not my primary interest this evening.  Instead, I was focused on the beer and for good reason.  Jack’s Bistro boasts a beer list of over 65 outstanding brews including a small but impressive rotating draft menu and some very select bottled beers.

I started the evening with Brew Dog Brewery’s Dogma ($7.50).

Photo Courtesy of Kitchen Treats

If you haven’t heard of Brew Dog it’s high time you discovered their beer.  While I knew it wasn’t going to be the best pairing with my poutine, I had to have it.  Brew Dog teams up with one of my favorite breweries, Stone Brewing, now and again to come up with some absolutely off the wall collaborations like a golden imperial stoutDogma is an interesting brew.  It’s one of the few beers that contains caffeine.   The reason for this is during the brewing process guarana is added (along with poppy seeds and Kola nut).  This is a great beer and it’s all that much better because Jack’s Bistro serves it as a draught beer (I always find draught to be superior to bottled since the beer isn’t pasteurized, but that’s a conversation for another day).  The Dogma nose was very enticing.  It was nutty, very malty, and had a hint of green earth that seemed to balance it out.  This is a substantial beer (7.8% ABV) and it gave a full mouth feel, but not unpleasantly so.  Surprisingly, during the finish there was just a hint of lemon peel on the sides of my tongue and there was a fantastically long finish that was reminiscent of sunflower seeds with brown malt.  However, this Scottish ale should not be dismissed as a sweet malt beer.  The Bramling Cross and Amarillo hops would not be denied.  they were particularly prevalent as they cut their way through the fat of the cheese curds and foie gras in the poutine.

As I scanned the beer menu there was little question to which my next beer would be.  I love rauchbier and while I could hear the Aecht Schlenkerla singing her sweet siren song to me, my interest was piqued by something I had never seen before: Brew Dog’s Paradox Smokehead ($14).


Brew Dog Brewery's Paradox Smokehead

Brew Dog Brewery's Paradox Smokehead

Photo Courtesy of Kitchen Treats

This was listed under their ‘smoked’ beers section of the beer list.  However, as I was discussing my next selection with my dinner companion, the knowledgeable staff was quick to point out that this was not a rauchbier.  The malt had not been smoked with beechwood.  The smoky characteristics were a result of the length of time the stout sat in Smokehouse’s islay whiskey barrels.

It is understandable that many a person take pause at their first sip of a rauchbier.  Even when one knows what they are getting into, the smokiness of the beer can give a person pause.  However, I am not such a person; I welcome the smoke with open arms.  However, for the first time in a very, very long time I took my first sip of beer, tasted, paused and an expletive came flying out of my mouth.  This Paradox was like no other beer I had tasted.  I wasn’t sure that when I looked down at my hand if the glass I was holding was going to contain beer or morph into a rocks glass filled with Lagavulin.  To give some understanding to my depth of shock you must understand that I am the product of staunch New England Yankee etiquette.  There are certain things that must never do:  You don’t place your elbows on the table, you never confuse your dessert spoon with your coffee spoon, and you never use a cell phone while at dinner.  This beer made me break that final rule.  Upon the initial tasting, I texted a friend who is a scotch connoisseur and a friend who is a beer connoisseur because I wanted them to find this beer post haste.

I have to tip my hat to the brewers at Brew Dog.  The entire experience is a purposeful deception.  The nose is not quite a traditional rauchbier.  The differences are subtle, but noticeable if you’re looking for them.  It’s just a tiny bit sweeter.  The smoke you are expecting is really the peatiness from the beer’s time in the barrels.  At 10% ABV the beer unsurprisingly had a bit of an alcohol note that only enhanced the the experience of combining beer and scotch.   It’s a geeky beer and it isn’t for everyone, but if you’re reading these words, this is a beer for you.

As dinner was winding down, I wasn’t sure how to finish my meal.  Fortunately, our knowledgeable barkeep, Jamie (with whom we discussed wine, rye, the cocktail revolution, and of course beer), suggested the Maredsous Abbaye-Abdij and I am glad he did.  I tend to lean towards imperial stouts as an after dinner beer, however if you have a predilection for abbey style beers, then this is a great choice.  The nose is floral as one would expect.  The beet sugars lend to the high alcohol content (10% ABV) and unlike the Paradox this one comes upon you like a thief in the night.  There is no bite at all from the alcohol and is surprisingly mild with slight notes of citrus with just a modicum of lime and has a very classic Belgium style  finish.

I left completely satiated.  My quest for fine beer and good conversation was completed in earnest at Jack’s Bistro.


~ by its12oclocksomewhere on April 4, 2010.

2 Responses to “I know Jack (and Jack Knows Beer)”

  1. Jack’s Bistro kicks ass. I love, love, love their Mac & Cheese & Chocolate appetizer. They also make a good, surprisingly subtle jalapeno margarita.


  2. Whoops, you mentioned the jalapeno margarita.


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