Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Winter Beer Feast

As we have done a couple of times previously, (here and here) Colleen and I offered to donate a beer and food tasting event for the annual fundraising auction to benefit our son's school. In previous years, we loaded up the car with food and beer and took the tasting on the road to the winners' homes. This year we hosted it at our house, so we were not as limited in what we could serve. And it was indeed a feast!

The theme for the tasting was "Winter Beers." Each beer was served with a food chosen to demonstrate the variety of food flavors that work when pairing with our favorite beverage. We poured 3-4 ounces of each beer and used of a variety of glassware. There were nine courses served featuring nine different beers. The menu for the tasting and pairing experience is listed below, along with some comments.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Winter Warmer (7.5% ABV)
Paired with gingerbread cake with lemon curd
This winter seasonal from Great Lakes Brewing was a perfect match for the gingerbread cake. This was a great start and our guests all commented how good it was, but there was much more to come!

Starr Hill The Gift
Maibock / Helles Bock (6.5% ABV)
Paired with humus, olives, labneh, and pita
This pairing was a nod to the foods we enjoyed on our trips to Italy and Israel. The fresh baked pita with herbs was a hit, as well as the beer.

Sierra Nevada Celebration
American IPA (6.8% ABV)
Paired with Buffalo wings and ranch dressing
The only food that wasn't prepared in our kitchen, the wings were picked up at a local sports bar. This course answered a question I was asked at the start of the tasting, "What beer can I serve with spicy food?"

Gouden Carolus Noël
Belgian Strong Dark Ale (10.5% ABV)
Paired with mixed berries on pound cake topped with custard
The Gouden Carolus Noël came from two bottles I had been saving for a few years. This was a different style of beer than most of the participants had experienced previously, and was enjoyed by all. I think that most were surprised how well it went with the berries. Fruit with beer, not in beer I always say!

Tröegs Mad Elf
Belgian Strong Dark Ale (11% ABV)
Paired with Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola, and Roquefort
This was another beer from our cellar. I've always preferred aged Mad Elf to new, and these bottles had held up quite well. I think several of our guests are planning to put away some of this Tröegs seasonal for the future.

Old Dominion Baltic Porter
American Porter (7% ABV)
Paired with marinated flank steak and garlic ciabatta
This was a last minute addition after I saw it on a store shelf and remembered how much I had enjoyed it previously. Folks were impressed with the beer, but I have to admit, I think the grilled flank steak was the real hit of this course.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga’
American Strong Ale (9.99% ABV)
Paired with crème brûlée
This pairing was one we had never tried previously. As I was, um, refreshing my memory on the flavor of this beer recently, I came across a mention of crème brûlée served with a barleywine and thought it would work here as well. I dare say this just might have been the hit of the menu. One guest admitted that his wife loves crème brûlée and he's always shrugged it off. Now he has to go home and admit that he's been wrong in his opinion. We still have some Brown Shugga’ left, and I'm going to have to convince Colleen to recreate this pairing for dessert real soon.

Williamsburg AleWerks Coffeehouse Stout
Milk / Sweet Stout (5.4% ABV)
Paired with chocolate almond panini
This was a beer that I purchased especially for this event, but had never tried until recently. Like our friend with the crème brûlée, I've been missing out. Everyone commented on the distinctive coffee aroma and flavor of this beer.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Russian Imperial Stout (10% ABV)
Served with Hershey chocolate, and in an ice cream float
Chocolate and Imperial Stout. What more is there to say? Admittedly, we might have gone overboard with this pairing. By this point, everyone was remarking how stuffed they were. We'd been eating and drinking, a lot, for several hours. We served a 2009 vintage, both a small taster with a bit of chocolate on the side, as well as an ice cream float made with vanilla ice cream, Black Chocolate Stout, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.

It was a fun afternoon of indulging in good beer, good food, and lively, interesting conversation. There were five guests for our meal, and everyone had a good time. Some were old friends and we also made a few new friends as well. Is there a better way to spend a day? And to top it off, the whole thing was done "for the children."

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