18 Days to go - What is a Hogshead?
SO MUCH FOR KNOWING EVERYTHING...
Every now and then I learn something new, and scratch my head as to how I never knew it before. What I learned yesterday was like that, and is even more baffling as a) it is beer-related, b) it is English in origin, and c) it derives from 1423 which is my go-to period for reading (though common food blogging etiquette says not to delve into Plantagenet history in the first paragraph, so I shall move along swiftly…)
Back in 2014, a new pub opened on Main Street in Canmore with the cool-sounding name of ‘Hogshead’. Now I had always assumed (admittedly superficially) that the name was just a reference to an animal that would no doubt grace the menu. but how wrong I was! The restaurant’s name, as I learned only yesterday, was taken from a historical unit of measurement that refers to wine, beer and cider, and is described by some as a ‘very large barrel’, and by others as ‘just bloody huge!’.
Well this piqued my interest enough to do some research, and indeed a Hogshead is a unit of measurement that has evolved through time to become 63 gallons of wine or 64 gallons of cider or beer – obviously beer drinkers need the extra few pints. Not content to stop there, I discovered that using measurements of the day, a hogshead of beer was the equivalent of 3 kilderkins or 6 firkins, and a hogshead of wine was 1.5 tierces or 3.5 rundlets – and all those words were accepted by spell check so it must be true!
How this designation came about also seems pretty fascinating – it was voted by an act of parliament in 1423, which was at the very start of the minority rule of King Henry VI, who had ascended to the English throne the year before at the age of 9 months. I must absolutely must commend the regency council that was appointed to govern while the king was not yet on solid food, as instead of trying to fill in Henry V’s shoes and wage war on France they focused on the far more pressing issue of standardizing measurements for bloody huge quantities of booze. Respect.
Hogshead restaurant will always hold a unique place at Canmore Uncorked – at last year’s launch party we held our first ever ‘Chef of the Festival’ competition and it was won by Chef Trevor Whitehead, Hogshead’s head chef. This was made even more remarkable as Trevor only entered the competition 48 hours beforehand as a late replacement. More about Trevor to come in another blog later this week…
PUB OR RESTAURANT?
I never quite know how to describe Hogshead – is it a pub, or is it a restaurant? My wife and daughter (who is now 12 and in her fourth year as official blog taster) both chose “pub” based on the relaxed surroundings, while Hogshead’s manager paused briefly before going for “restaurant”. The label is of course not important – the reality is that you are walking into a very welcoming atmosphere where the food is great (and locally sourced wherever possible) and the staff are super-friendly. Several of the tables are large and long, meaning they are excellent if you have a big group but also allow for a family-style concept where you can get to know other guests as you eat and drink, or take in special events like their Monday quiz night. It is a very ‘Canmore’ affair where you can have a fabulous dining experience surrounded by a mix of locals, visitors, and regular weekend warriors, and whichever you are you will be treated like family.
The $22 Uncorked three-course menu focusses on value, offering a couple of regular menu favourites at a great festival price. The choice for the main is between the pulled brisket sandwich and the house specialty elk burger. When I asked our server which to choose she emphatically said “oh my gosh it must be the elk”, which made for a pretty easy decision. And indeed it lived up to billing – a very tasty patty made from regionally-sourced elk ground with Alberta pork and served on a brioche with a bed of delicious creamy goats cheese. This dish has apparently been on the menu from the start, introduced by the original head chef and kept due to its popularity.
KICK UP THE SPICE!
Our server also suggested the hot sauce which is made on site, with peppers ground in the kitchen to produce a very tasty addition that unlike many hot sauces does not overpower with vinegar and has a decent kick. If you like a bit of spice I highly recommend it.
Dessert was not part of the plan, but somehow we were persuaded as the Apple Crisp is part of Uncorked – and of course because our 12-year old is the decision maker in the family. The crisp was perfect portion size and was served with a side of vanilla bean gelato and a nice caramel topping. So much for my commitment to laying off sugar until the festival starts.
While the draught IPA was very nice, there is a side note for cider-lovers here in that Hogshead carries Old Rosie in bottles, which as a self-confessed cider snob qualifies on my OK-to-drink list. My mother owns a cider orchard back in the UK so I have been rather spoiled through the years and am not a fan of the usual high-fizz-made-from-concentrate stuff more commonly available. Old Rosie is well worth trying – a citrusy, cloudy and lightly carbonated affair that is decently close to a traditional draught cider. Beware the alcohol content though – at 7.3% you may want to share one. And definitely don’t try and order a whole hogshead of it!
721 Main Street, Canmore Alberta 403.675.0500