Anyone who is familiar with I-70 West from Denver knows Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub is a small, mountain town establishment in Idaho Springs. Images of miners, gold panning, and the old "Wild, Wild West" come easily, in the rustic colors of time gone by.The culinary team of Atwater on Gore Creek found themselves coming back to these themes when brainstorming with the Tommyknocker craft beers for Saturday's "Small Plates & Craft Beer Pairing." Four beers were selected from the six presented, with the end goal of an interesting and unique culinary rustic mountain element for each course. You'll find that their presentations will fall along these same lines, with cast iron skillets and the like.The delicate lemongrass flavors in the Tommyknocker Jack Whacker Wheat brought to mind a light, broth-based seafood dish. The lychee and the bright day boat scallop and black cod flavors balance the dry finish of the beer. "The coconut water element in the broth lends that wonderful savory taste to complete the dish," said Jay Spickelmier, sous chef. Though not as rustic as the other courses that follow, it's a perfect way to begin the dinner.Tommyknocker's Imperial Nut Brown Ale sparked an immediate "breakfast all day" sort of reaction for Chef de Cuisine Stephen Belie with its maple flavors, inspiring savory breakfast items with a smoked meat element to bring together that snowy, outdoors, home-cooked feeling. The result is baked wild blueberry pancakes, spiced pecans and smoked pheasant with pure maple syrup.The next course brings classic pub fare into the mix with a hearty braised Colorado lamb shepard's pie. Paired with Tommyknocker's Hop Strike Black IPA, the English peas and potato lattice complete that classic pub picture, though a parsnip element adds a sweet floral note that is certainly not traditional.The final pairing was completely reworked from the original plan for Tommyknocker's Butt Head Bock. The group sketched out an idea for a first or second savory course initially, but when they went back and tasted the beer the second time it took them a completely different direction. "When the beer warmed up a little, we got these really cool cherry notes that inspired dessert," Chef Belie said, "and we ended up creating a sour cherry cobbler to stay with the rustic theme. To bring the mountains and forest further into the dish, we added a pine nut crumble and basil ice cream."
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