Now in its second year, the craft beer program at Atwater on Gore Creek has significantly grown, and so has the culinary team’s comfort level in fashioning unique pairings that go beyond the confines of standard methodology.
“There are resources out there that will give you guidelines for pairing specific styles of beer with food, and many breweries will suggest specific pairings for their individual beers,” said Laura Lodge, coordinator of the craft beer program. “However, I no longer bring style descriptions, ingredient lists or suggestions from other places to the table for these tastings. Our culinary team is now comfortable working directly from the beer samples themselves, using their palates and imaginations as their guide.”
Breckenridge Brewery selected beers that took the chefs in extremely different culinary directions for this menu tasting, with diverse flavor profiles that are reflected in the resulting dishes. The lightest beer for the Saturday beer pairing dinner is the Breckenridge Agave Wheat. With its dry finish and subtle agave element, it inspired ideas such as roasted asparagus, peaches, watercress, gingersnaps and, of course, tequila.
“Ultimately, this beer is perfect for putting the fire out. So we needed to create a fire,” said executive chef Todd Bemis.
Several of the elements tossed out in the brainstorming came together to create that fire, resulting in a jalapeno gremolata crusted peach with bread cheese and Agave tequila sauce.
The second beer, Breckenridge Autumn Ale, came right off the bottling line and took the team directly into the fall season with inspirations such as duck, coffee, cacao nibs, cherries, plums, wild rice and faro. This dish took the least work, as many of these initial thoughts coalesced into a plum-stuffed duck breast, with saffron faro risotto and a cacao nib stone fruit sauce.
Breckenridge’s 471 IPA was next in the sampling lineup, challenging the team to create a dish that would stand up to its big flavor profile.
“Strong flavors are necessary to bring to the table with this beer,” said chef de cuisine Jay Spickelmier. “Things that are raw, rich and peppery came to mind right off the bat.”
Specifically goat cheese, sushi, arugula and raw or seared beef were thrown out on the table, finally sorting out to be American Kobe carpaccio, sauteed wild chanterelles and pecorino al tartufo bianchetto (white truffle cheese).
For dessert, the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter took the team in a multitude of flavor directions that spanned hazelnut, rocky road ice cream, peanut butter and jelly and finally ended as a combination course.
Sous chef Adam Smith will serve a Rocky Road ice cream souffle and the team will prepare an additional treat, a deep-fried, Justin’s Almond Butter PB&J.