Sunday, November 29, 2009

Winter & Holiday Beer Tasting

On Saturday, we finally had the opportunity to present the Craft Beer Tasting we donated last year for our school's fund raising auction. We selected "Winter & Holiday Beers" for the theme of the event. Winter is my favorite time of the year for beer so I really looked forward to doing this. The tasting was held in the home of the winning bidders, who were able to invite two additional couples to participate.

We selected nine beers for the tasting. Since we were going with a seasonal theme, each of the beers was paired with a food that one might serve at a holiday gathering. Colleen had prepared some of the foods in advance, but stayed busy in the kitchen finishing up the courses and dishing them up at the proper time during the 2 hour event. Our son acted as the server, bringing plates to the table and clearing them after each course. (Since this was to benefit his school, it was only right that he worked too.) I had the fun job of describing each beer and food pairing to the six eager participants.

Here are the beer and food pairings we presented.

Anchor Our Special Ale 2009 - This Winter Warmer was served with homemade gingerbread cake and lemon curd. Folks really enjoyed the Anchor Christmas beer. It set the mood for the evening and many of the folks continued to talk about it throughout the event.

Blue Mountain Lights Out Holiday Ale - We paired this Old Ale with olivada, mozzarella, and pita chips. The olivada is made from calamata olives, roasted pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. I had some trepidation that the intense olivada flavor would overpower the beer, but the pairing worked quite well.

Sierra Nevada Celebration - For this course we went with a "classic" IPA and spicy Buffalo wings pairing. Afterall, wings are very popular this time of year. The citrusy IPA served as a change of pace from the preceding malt-heavy beers.

Ommegang Hennepin Saison - This is a year-round beer and not a holiday release. However turkey and cranberries is a popular holiday meal so we decided to devote a course to it. Hennepin is one of my favorite beers to pair with turkey and indeed it went over quite well.

Brooklyn Winter Ale - This Scottish Ale was served with spicy beef and provolone on toasted ciabatta. The beef was slow cooked in the Brooklyn Winter Ale with peperoncini. The mild hoppiness of the beer melded wonderfully with the meat and the slight saltiness of the ciabatta.

Tröegs Mad Elf - This winter favorite from Tröegs was paired with a cheese plate consisting of Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Danish Style Blue Cheese. I was curious how the unique flavor of Mad Elf would go over, but as it turned out most of the attendees really liked the beer. One person who claimed to not be a fan of blue cheese said he actually enjoyed the cheeses when followed by the beer.

Delirium Noël - For this course, we served blueberries & raspberries on lady fingers topped with custard. The dark fruit and sweetness of the beer complimented the fruit plate very well. Although similar in style to the previous beer selection, the two different pairings helped to illustrate the variety possible when working with beer and food pairings.

Old Dominion Winter Ale - We matched up this Baltic Porter with cheesecake with a raspberry drizzle. Typically we'd use a chocolate dessert with a dark porter or stout, however the cheesecake worked very well. One participate at first proclaimed the Winter Ale to be too sweet, but after eating the cheesecake and drinking more of the porter, he said the sweetness of the beer seemed reduced.

Samichlaus Bier - As the final course I brought out some 2007 Samichlaus. This beer is brewed on just one day a year, December 6, or St. Nicholas Day. This strong Dopplebock (14% ABV) was served with a plate of mixed nuts. I had expected some of the tasters might be put off by the strong, sherry-like flavor. However, with just one exception, folks were quite excited by the beer. While they found it very unusual, the Samichlaus was given rave reviews.

The participants all had some previous exposure to craft beer, but most of the beers were new to everyone. Everyone had a great time. All of the beer and food pairings worked quite well, if I do say so myself. There were many compliments made regarding the food. The dishes that Colleen served up were as visually appealing as they were delicious. Unfortunately we forgot to bring our camera so were unable to take photos. It was interesting to see how folks' perceptions of various food and beers changed as they enjoyed them together. It goes to show how a beer's flavor can affect the flavors picked up in the food being consumed, and vice versa.

We donated another beer and food tasting to this year's auction, which was held a couple of weeks ago. We look forward to putting that one on too. Now I have to decide on a theme for next time...

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