Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Make Summer 2012 the Season of the Beer Dinner

Beer festivals are great collections of many breweries, but if I learned one thing at the Colorado Brewers' Festival a week-and-a-half ago, it was that 100-degree weather and voluminous drinking don't always pair well. So, how's a sweaty beer drinker supposed to spend the summer?

The answer: It's beer dinner time. Think about it. You're indoors, in air conditioning, with people serving you great food and great beer, while you don't have to move. The crowds are much smaller. And I've never seen a brewer say, "Sorry, we ran out of our specialty" in the middle of dinner.

With the Beer Geekette, I recently attended one of the finest beer/food pairings in memory - the Colorado Brewers Guild's monthly Colorado Beer Tour event at the Bridgewater Grill in Golden, this one with Ska Brewing. And through it, attendees can see all the elements that make beer dinners such worthy events.

First, a knowledgeable brewery representative - we'll call him Eric Kaizer, for the sake of this article - was there to explain the history of each beer, both the traditional history of its style and how it came to be in Ska. Eric threw in stories about the brewery leaders' antics (no surprise, if you've met Dave Thibodeau), had trivia contests with prizes (love the shirt) and just made you feel like you were part of the brewing team for one night.

Second, the fine chefs at the Bridgewater incorporated beer into many of the dishes, giving you something you couldn't find if you'd just gone to a restaurant and ordered a good beer. A ginger and beer syrup for the blackened scallop (pictured above, with more emphasis on the scallops than in the opening shot), beer mixed into the chicken jalapeno poppers and - the piece de resistance - beer salt made from several Ska brews on appetizer popcorn was quite the mix.

And third, there was the food, which was not only  intricately cooked but very well paired with the beer. Let's face it, the hot dogs sold at outdoor festivals don't really bring out the character of your IPA. But when the citrus on the macadamia-crusted tuna blends wonderfully with the sharp candy taste of True Blonde Dubbel and the Modus Hoperandi compliments the hint of sweetness in the glaze on the bone-in beef ribeye (pictured above), you can truly appreciate why beer pairs better than wine with excellent food.

The Colorado Beer Tour continues at the Bridgewater Grill with a July 11 Left Hand dinner and an Aug. 1 dinner with Oskar Blues. Yes, both of those dates conflict with book signings I'm doing at Vine Street Pub and Twisted Pine Brewing, respectively. So, I can only recommend that you come visit me on one of those nights and hit the restaurant on the other. (Because it's not like you've got anything else to do this summer, right?)

Also, Freschcraft has a July 18 dinner featuring beers from Dry Dock, Funkwerks and Great Divide, among other breweries. And in Colorado Springs, Trinity Brewing just announced a six-course dinner on Aug. 19 featuring its sour and saison beers.

And there will be many more pairings throughout the next two months as well. So, vow to beat the heat, eat some meat and find ways to support local breweries that won't leave you panting with exhaustion.

Oh, and happy Fourth of July, everyone. Let's celebrate by drinking some American beer. 

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