Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beer and Food Tasting Event

This weekend we held the first of two beer and food tasting events we donated to benefit the school's fund raising activities. These tastings are always a lot of fun to do, and always a lot of work. Admittedly, I had the easier part. I selected the beers and did a lot of talking about them. Colleen spent the day before, and the morning of, cooking all the food to be served. She also worked in the kitchen to prepare the dishes for serving. Food serving, and clearing between each course, was handled deftly by our son.

I selected beers that were readily available in our area, and represented some of the variety of American Craft beer. Of course, there were many beers I could have included but we did want these folks to go home eventually!

Jomo Lager
Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, Virginia
Amber Lager (4.6% ABV)
Paired with Artichoke Dip and Tortilla Chips

Prima Pils
Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, Pennsylvania
German Pilsener (5.3% ABV)
Paired with Cheddar Bacon Bites

Port City Optimal Wit 
Port City Brewing, Alexandria, Virginia
Belgian White Ale (5.0% ABV)
Paired with Peaches and Cream French Toast Casserole

Bell’s Pale Ale 
Bell’s Brewing, Kalamazoo, Michigan
American Pale Ale (5.2% ABV)
Paired with Buffalo Chicken Sliders

Dale’s Old Chub
Oskar Blues Brewing, Longmont, Colorado
Scottish Strong Ale (8% ABV)
Paired with Spicy Beef and Provolone Ciabatta Panini

Flying Dog Wildeman
Flying Dog, Frederick, Maryland
Farmhouse IPA (7.5% ABV)
Paired with Olivada and Mozzarella on French Bread Crostini

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout 
North Coast Brewing Company, Fort Bragg, California
Russian Imperial Stout (9.0% ABV)
Paired with Brownies and Ice Cream

Brooklyn Local 2
Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York
Belgian Dark Ale (9.0% ABV)
Paired with Stilton Cheese, Sugared Walnuts, and Pears

I started out with an explanation of the ways in which beer is a superior beverage for pairing with foods, different types of glassware, how to taste and what to look for, and all the usual beer geek stuff. Then we got down to the tasting.

At this event two of the participants were not beer drinkers, and let me know up front they didn't like beer, but I think they gained some appreciation for good beer. (And they spent money to help the school!) I'm happy to say that even the more experienced beer drinkers learned something new, so the afternoon was a success.

One of the most fun parts of doing these tastings is the feedback on the pairings. We can drink beer pretty often, but the opportunity to sit down and really explore how various beers and food work together is a more rare event. And I must admit that the highlight of the whole event was the food. There's no denying that Colleen put together an amazing array of tasty foods.

The Jomo Lager and Artichoke Dip we started off with was a good ice breaker. Nothing extravagant, but a typical pub food combo. Next up was a pairing we had never served previously, but an educated guess said it would work. And it did, very well. The mild smokiness of the Cheddar Bacon Bites complimented the bitter Prima Pils perfectly. That appetizer recipe can be found here. I think everyone was unanimous in selecting this as the best pairing of them all.

The Optimal Wit paired with the Peaches and Cream French Toast Casserole was inspired by a Christmas breakfast I enjoyed a few years ago. This was another winning combination; check out the recipe here. The Buffalo Chicken Sliders are a Musings favorite, easily one of the most popular blog posts on this site. The Old Chub and Panini combination worked well. The spicy beef had been slow cooked with a brown ale. That was quickly followed with the Wildeman Farmhouse IPA and Olivada. This one didn't work as well as I had hoped. We may have to adjust this course to use a traditional Saison-style beer as we have in the past.

We typically close with a surprise dessert of a stout and ice cream float. However this time we paired Russian Imperial Stout with a homemade brownie served à la mode. The vanilla ice cream with the stout worked exceptionally well. Interestingly the brownie was a bit too "tame." I think a touch of bitter dark chocolate melted on top would have been just the trick.

Finally the Brooklyn Local #2 course. This refreshing dish was a very fine finish to the event. Folks seemed pleasantly surprised at the lighter flavor profile of the dark Belgian ale. The blue cheese and sugared walnuts complimented the dark fruit of the beer quite well. Food preparation finished, this is when Colleen was also able to come into the dining room and enjoy a class of Local 2 herself.

We finished off with some coffee and more conversation. It was a fun afternoon packed with good beer and good food. Colleen's recipes were in demand and she's promised to share them with the folks at the tasting. As I sat down afterwards to write down some notes, while the afternoon was still fresh in my mind, I had a full belly, but was already considering opening another good beer. I think I needed one to sip in silence to unwind.

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