Creative co-existence at Edmonton's Biera
Nestled in a residential area south of Whyte Ave., the brewpub and its neighbours fill Ritchie Market's high ceilings with a life largely absent from its surrounding neighbourhood
Local chef Christine Sandford has been quietly building her reputation for years. With patience and perseverance, she has worked her way across Europe and around Edmonton, all the while leaving her vast fan base wondering when she would finally stand at the helm of her own ship. At long last, with the completion of the grand Ritchie Market building nestled in a residential neighbourhood south of Whyte Avenue, Ms. Sandford's talents finally have a permanent home.
Biera co-exists within Ritchie Market with local coffee superstar Transcend, butcher shop Acme Meat Market, Creekside Cyclery and new-kid-on-the-block brewery Blind Enthusiasm. This communal collection of complementary items fills Ritchie Market's high ceilings with a life largely absent from its surrounding neighbourhood.
It wouldn't be incorrect to describe Biera as a brewpub, but its offerings far surpass archetypical pub fare. Chef Sandford's menu is meant to pair with the many brews made on the other side of a glass wall separating Biera from Blind Enthusiasm.
One might start with a flight of beer – a "sampledoodle" ($8) as they are called here. Of note are the striking lager FAB 1.1 and robust ale DEB 2.0. It is a privilege to drink such quality brews mere metres from the towering stainless steel cylinders where the alchemy of fermentation occurs.
Biera's menu reads as an homage to Ms. Sandford's tour of duty through kitchens in Western Europe.
To start, thick slices of tangy sourdough ($9) beg for generous smears of sweet kefir butter or sinfully unctuous whipped lardo. Next, juniper-smoked beef-tongue pastrami ($13) is gorgeously marbled and gently kissed with a wisp of evergreen smoke, offset by crisp wheels of peppery radish. Flammkuchen ($13), though nattily dressed with nasturtium leaves and marigold flower petals, is a sturdy sourdough base smothered in onions and funky Maroilles cheese. It's a whole new level of pungency – not for the faint of heart.
The menu isn't all fermented and smoked, though. Meatier fare includes a glorious, crispy fried skate wing ($25). This stingray-like fish is a rare appearance on landlocked menus and, at Biera, is given an appropriately maritime treatment of sea asparagus and seaweed emulsion.
There's an entire menu subsection devoted to Biera's charcoal grill. Shiro bok choy ($16), floating on a cloud of zesty, chalk-white buttermilk cheese, proves that veggies deserve equal standing on the grill. Acme "Korean cut" beef ribs ($28) are from Acme Meat Market, right across the hall. They're lightly charred, tender, and dark with wort glaze. Here, the ends of the circle meet: The wort is the liquid extracted from mashing process of Blind Enthusiasm's beer.
Hops – 50 per cent of that divine union that makes beer – appears for dessert in a sorbet ($7). Here, the commendably citrusy sorbet leans against a wedge of grilled pear with honey. It is the essence of co-existence, just like Biera and its neighbours.