Saturday, June 21, 2008

Denver Trip - Beer Dinner at Duo Restaurant

My visit to Denver coincided with a beer dinner held at Duo Restaurant, a small restaurant in the Highlands section of the city. I attended the dinner with Josh Mishell from Flying Dog Brewery. Josh also writes the BeerDinners.com blog so I knew I was in good company for the event.

The three course dinner featured six beers, three from Tommyknocker Brewery and three from Breckenridge Brewery. As a welcome beer we were served Tommyknocker Ornery Amber Lager. A nice American Amber Lager, it had a mild sweet caramel flavor and a light hop presence. We sipped on this while folks were getting settled and the first course was being set out.

Our first course was a spicy Seafood Curry consisting of shrimp, mussels and calamari over rice. I'd probably pick this as my favorite dish of the evening, although all the food served was absolutely delicious. Two beers were paired with the dish, Tommyknocker Jack Whacker Wheat and Breckenridge Avalanche Ale. I thought the two-beer pairing was an interesting way to show the diversity of beer-food pairing possibilities. Jack Wacker is a spicy American Pale Wheat Ale with a strong lemon grass flavor and a mild hop bitterness. The beer worked very well with the dish and calmed the spiciness but did not overpower or wash it away. The Breckenridge Avalanche Ale had a mild caramel malt flavor that did not stand up as well to the strong flavors of the curry and seafood.

The second course of the evening was maple glazed Prime Rib with a shallot jus, served with crispy potato skins and a horseradish sauce on the side. The beer selected was Breckenridge 471 Extra Special Bitter. The ESB had a strong sweet malt flavor, along with a slight alcohol warmth. It seemed more like an English Barleywine than an ESB. The Breckenridge web site describes the 471 ESB as having a "complex hopiness balanced with traditional English Ale maltiness." I did not note much in the way of hoppiness. Unfortunately, even though it was a tasty beer, I found it much too sweet for the steak dish. Perhaps a traditional ESB might have fared better. The prime rib itself was nicely prepared.

For the third and final course we were served Panna Cotta with a strawberry compote. Two beers were chosen for pairing with this dish as well, Tommyknocker Tundraberry and Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. I've never been a fan of fruit beers, so I was not expecting to find this pairing particularly attractive. The Tundraberry has a strong fruity aroma and the dominant flavor is a sweet berry blend. It's not a flavor profile that I search out in a beer. However, the creamy dessert had the effect of moderating the fruitiness of the beer and I found the combination to be very pleasing. This particular pairing truly shined. The other beer offered with the dish not work as well for my taste. The Vanilla Porter had very prominent vanilla flavor which I found too strong. I left the rest of the porter in my glass and went back to enjoying, to my surprise, the fruit beer with my dessert.

I enjoyed this beer dinner very much. The event was the last of a series of three small beer dinners the restaurant hosted this Spring. The dinners were well-attended and the restaurant will be holding more. The small dinner concept works very well. Having just three courses keeps the cost reasonable and pairing multiple beers with a dish helps to exhibit the diversity of choices when matching beer and food. It also offers options for different preferences in beer that folks may have. All of the food was extremely well-prepared and I look forward to returning to Duo again, even if it isn't for a beer dinner.

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