Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hooray for the Beer Pairing Dinner

For my birthday this week, my wife took me out to one of my favorite growing phenomena - the beer pairing dinner. The concept - putting fine food together with fine beers to create a wonderful tasting experience - would have been nothing short of ridiculous 30 years ago, when American brews offered all the gourmet pleasures of, oh, an Arby's. Now, however, beer is moving rapidly into the territory that wine once dominated in being food-friendly.

How do I know? I heard it Tuesday from some really good sources - the brewers themselves. Left Hand Brewing owner Eric Wallace said he's doing four to six beer dinners a month now, and the events aren't relegated to the Front Range alone. People's eyes are being opened to what is out there, and they're loving what a good beer can add to food (since these are, really, two of the greatest things in life).

There is the way the flavors of the beer can complement a meal. At this particular pairing at Duo Restaurant in Denver, Left Hand's Milk Stout, for example, was the perfect lead in to the desert of marscarpone ice cream, the slightly sweet dark body of the beer paving the way for the taste-bud-blowingly cream and sweet feel for the food.

And sometimes, the beer becomes far more than a complement and actually enhances the flavor of the food in a way that no other beverage would. This was made clear when we combined the simple roasted pork dinner with Avery's Out of Bounds Stout. The pork was nice on its own; when you first ran the thick, chocolatey stout over your tongue before eating it, however, it was like you were coating the meat in a new taste, almost like you'd created a mole pork dish in your mouth.

It's worth noting, I suppose, that had I written about beer-drinking in this way 30 years ago, I probably would have been stared at before having a Coors bottle smashed upon my head. But just in case this has made you curious about the beer-pairing dinner sensation, it's worth noting that Duo ( is doing another one on June 18 with Breckenridge and Tommyknocker.

I had the honor of attending another beer pairing dinner last night at the Rioja restaurant in Denver. The Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) hosted the meal as part of the American Craft Beer Week. They were sponsoring beer dinners in 10 major cities this week including dinner. They paired 3 beers (Summer Ale, Boston Lager, Cherry Wheat) with a 3-course meal (Scallops, Beer Braised Short Ribs, Vanilla Cherry Beer Float). It was simply to die for. I'd highly recommend anyone to go attend these beer dinners. It was simply wonderful.
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