Saturday, January 16, 2010
Last November, I was invited by Tina Clabbers, who is from Devries Public Relations to attend a media dinner that consisted of a Samuel Adams Beer and Food Pairing at Animal Restaurant to launch the 2009 Sam Adams Limited Edition Utopias Beer. I'll go more into the Utopias Beer towards the end of this post, but for now, let's talk food and beer pairings.
Initially, we had a cocktail hour where we were served a total of 5 appetizers that included a Bean Bruschetta, Goat Cheese with Fennel Marmalade Bruschetta, Chicken Liver Pate, Squash Arancini and Fried Codfish Balls. Our choice of beers included the Winter Lager and the Fezziwig Ale. All the appetizers were pretty tasty and if this was going to the indication of the meal, I foresaw a delicious dinner as well.
Soon we sat down to dinner, which was going to consist of 4 courses of 1 to 3 dishes and each paired with a Sam Adams Beer. At the beginning of each course, Sam Adams Master Brewer, Bert Boyce and Chef John Shook would come out to discuss the beer and the food respectively.
The beer paired with our first course dishes was the Coastal Wheat Beer. It's a wheat beer that is brewed with Eureka and Lisbon varieties of lemons that come from three growing regions in California. The lemon notes from the beer paired well with the tart citrus flavors that were in the first three dishes of our meal.
First to arrive was the Crispy Hominy with Lime. The hominy could have been a little crispier, but I liked the fact that it wasn't oily and the squeeze of lime juice squirted on it gave it a little zing.
The Crispy Hominy was followed by a salad that had lettuce, beets, avocado, pita, feta and topped with a sumac dressing. For those of you unfamiliar with sumac, it's a berry that grows wild throughout the Middle East and in parts of Italy and has a tart, sour and lemon taste to it. This was my first experience with sumac and when eaten with the feta cheese, the salad had lovely tart and slightly pungent flavors that were appealing.
Our first course dishes ended with a fluke dish which had a grape and yuzu granita, apples, oranges, serrano chiles and fresh mint. This was a wonderfully delicate dish that was also refreshing and the addition of the serrano chiles added just nice little hit of heat.
On to our second course dishes, which were paired with the Cranberry Lambic. The Cranberry Lambic is a fruit beer that has been fermented with a special wild yeast strain and is brewed with cranberries. Since this was a stronger beer, it needed to be matched with stronger foods.
The first of our second course dishes was the Melted Petit Basque (cheese made from sheep's milk), Chorizo and Grilled Bread. You can never go wrong with melted cheese and chorizo and this dish was no exception.
Next was the Poutine, Cheddar and Oxtail Gravy dish. The heaping pile of oxtail was definitely a generous serving, but it along with the cheddar cheese overpowered the more delicate poutine (cheese curds). You almost forget the poutine was even an ingredient of this dish. If the intent was to showcase the poutine, this dish didn't do that; yet, I still enjoyed digging into it.
The last of the second course dishes was my favorite of the night, Pork Belly Sliders with Slaw. Oh my! Can I say that again? Oh my! The pork was juicy and flavorful and the coleslaw had a wonderful crunch to it. I'd order this again in a heart beat.
Our third course was paired with the Boston Lager, which is dry hopped and brewed using only four ingredients, which includes two row barley as well as German Noble aroma hops. While Chef Shook had more leeway in regards to choosing the menu, he was instructed to prepare a roast meat for this course because it's considered the best kind of pairing for this particular beer.
There was only one dish for our third course and it was definitely a substantial Ribeye Roast topped with Escargot Butter with Mashed Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts. That meat was juicy and so tender that I didn't even need a knife to cut into it.
For our fourth and final set of courses, they were matched with the Holiday Porter. A total of five varieties of malted barley were used in the brewing process for this beer including a German malt called Carafa®. The Holiday Porter was referred to as the equivalent to a red wine, which means it's very tannic.
This Holiday Porter was served with a trio of desserts starting with the Panna Cotta with Saba (sweet grape syrup), which was delicate and a slight creamy texture to it.
Our second dessert was the Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar. I liked the smokiness of the bacon, but found the chocolate bar too much on the dry side, almost a tad chalky. I was prepared to really like this dessert, but it's not something I'd order again.
Last, but not least, was Joe's Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugar and Caramel. This was the perfect dessert to end the meal and was actually quite a treat since it's only offered in the fall and winter. The doughnuts were airy inside and appropriately crisp on the outside and eating it with the caramel was a wonderful treat.
It was definitely quite a meal, but we weren't done yet. After dinner, we got to sample a couple of offerings from their Extreme Beer Line, starting with the Triple Boch. The Triple Boch was brewed in 1993, released in 1994 and is actually no longer in production. It represents Samuel Adams' journey into extreme beer brewing, because it's a beer with 17.5% percent alcohol by volume. With its heavy woodsy and earthy flavor notes, it can be compared to a port, sherry or cognac.
The finale of the evening was the introduction 2009 Sam Adams Limited Edition Utopias Beer, also a part of Sam Adams Extreme Beer Line. Utopias is the current Guinness World Record Holder for world's strongest beer at 27% Alcohol by Volume. In fact, the alcohol content is so strong that 13 states prohibit its sale because the alcohol content exceeds the legal limit for beer.
The alcohol content is so strong because Utopias goes through a 15 year aging process. It's aged and finished in a variety of wooden barrels. The barrels themselves were previously used for different kinds of alcohol, from port to sherry to whisky and more. The variety of barrels used contribute to the flavors of the Utopias, which means it's never quite tastes the same with every new release. The Utopias comes in a ceramic-and-copper bottle that resembles a tiny brew kettle.
The long production cycle is what limits its availability to once every two years. For the 2009 holiday season, only 10,000 bottles with the suggested retail price of $150 a piece were released. Compared to the Triple Boch, the Utopias is also similar to a vintage port, sherry or cognac, but it's lighter on the palate and is more refined. Another thing to note is that the Utopias has even received 96 to 100 points from the Wine Enthusiast Magazine in November, 2003.
Overall, this was a really educational event. When I think of beer and food, I automatically think beer and pizza. It was really eye opening to see how versatile beer really is, especially with desserts. Beer and panna cotta would not be the first thing I would think to put together; yet, it worked. It just goes to show you that when it comes to food, you need to keep an open mind. You just never know what will please your palate unless you're willing to try something new.
Click here to visit the Samuel Adams Website!
435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048