Monday, July 22, 2013

An Afternoon of Beer & Food

On Saturday, we hosted the Beer and Food Tasting Event we had donated to our school's fundraising auction. Even though we've now put on this event for six years, the days leading up to it are filled with both anxiety and excited anticipation. Choosing just eight beers from the hundreds available is tough enough, but planning the accompanying food menu is a challenge too. The hardest part isn't picking what we're going to serve, it's narrowing it down! Even though planning, and beer shopping, starts weeks in advance, changes happen right up to the day of the event. But the work and stress all pays off when folks arrive and the fun begins.

Table ready for people, food and beer
We had eight people in for the tasting. Over the course of 4 hours we enjoyed eight different beers accompanied by eight different plates of food. I picked beers that showed the wide range of flavors available in craft beer, and purposefully selected beers that are easily found in the area. Colleen did an excellent job with the food. After deciding the type of food we wanted with each beer, she searched for recipes. One of the things that makes this exciting, is that she also uses this as an opportunity to try new recipes, so most of the recipes we've not had before. The menu pairings are based on our prior experiences with beer and food. With few exceptions, we don't repeat things we done previously. If I do say so myself, this menu was one of the best we've put together. All the combinations worked very well, and a few of the pairings were especially notable.

Vienna Lager
Devils Backbone Brewery, Roseland, Virginia
Vienna Lager (4.9% ABV)
Paired with Artichoke Dip and Tortilla Chips

Schwartz Bier
Devils Backbone Brewery, Roseland, Virginia
Schwartzbier  (4.9% ABV)
Paired with Antipasto Platter

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

Festina Pêche
Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware
Berliner Weissbier (4.5% ABV)
Paired with Goat Cheese and Salmon Bites

Grateful Pale Ale
Star Hill Brewery, Crozet, Virginia
American Pale Ale (4.7% ABV)
Paired with Pork BBQ and Cornbread

Hercules Double IPA
Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colorado
American Double/Imperial IPA (10% ABV)
Paired with Salty-Sweet Bacon Panini

Morning Glory Espresso Stout 
American Double / Imperial Stout (9.0% ABV)
Paired with Chocolate Lava Cake

Horn Dog Barley Wine
Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Maryland
Barley Wine Style Ale (10.2% ABV)
Paired with Blue Cheese, Sugared Walnuts and Pears

The two opening beers were chosen with a specific purpose in mind. Both beers are lagers, from the same brewery, both are equal in alcohol content, but the beers could hardly be more different. I wanted to address the false adage that dark beers are "heavy" and/or high in alcohol. Devils Backbone Schwartzbier is light bodied and very flavorful beer. One guest even commented before I made my pitch how she was expecting the beer to be heavy, and that she didn't usually like dark beer.

The Dogfish Head Fêstina Peche with Goat Cheese and Salmon Bites was a very popular serving. We'd never tried this combo, and in fact it's been a couple years since I drank this beer, but my memory of it was spot on. The sour, fruity beer stood up well to the strong flavors of the goat cheese and smoked salmon.

We served another grilled sandwich, this time a hearty, Salty-sweet Bacon Panini, with Great Divide Hercules Double IPA. I selected Hercules specifically for the shocking, strong flavor of the beer. One participant took a sip and immediately let out a "eeww"exclamation, so it worked. We all had a good laugh. The flavor of the beer held up well to the strong brie and bacon fillings.

The wrap up course of Flying Dog Horn Dog Barley Wine with Blue Cheese, Sugared Walnuts and Asian Brown-skinned Pears was a fitting, and surprisingly refreshing pairing. I selected a barley wine style ale specifically as a digestif. By this point in the feast everyone is quite full. Even though the beer is high in alcohol, it's a refreshing sipper especially in combination with the sugar-coated walnuts and fresh, juicy pears.

At the end of the afternoon even the more experienced craft beer drinkers in the crowd had a new appreciation and awareness of the variety available. And the one person who noted she really wasn't a beer drinker at the start, concluded that she actually does like it. It's just a matter of finding the right beer!

As good as the beers were, I have to admit that it's the tasty foods prepared by Colleen which make the event special. It's not just the beers that folks talk about, the tasty delights that Colleen prepares always impress. As one participant noted, "I liked the beer, but it was even better when I had the food with it." And that's why we do it.

All done but the cleanup

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