Big Beers dinner showcases rare beers from Epic, Boston Beer
The Village Brewmasters’ Dinner at Terra Bistro on Friday night was a lot like speed dating: 10 different beers paired with five different courses, with each round introduced by a duo of commentators. Samples of beer meant minimal commitment, but like any good romantic comedy meet-cute, many were destined to fall in love.
Beer enthusiasts were greeted with a welcome reception of popcorn two ways: cinnamon-dusted with Samuel Adams American Kriek and chili-lime sorghum with Epic Imperial IPA. Kriek, this one a limited production brew made with Balaton cherries, is typically a more fruit-forward style of Belgian, but the cinnamon did its job of bringing out the earthier, subtle flavors and a bit of the malt. Likewise, the peppery heat of the popped sorghum amped up the spicy notes of the hops in the IPA.
The Kriek appeared to be the more successful date of the first round, as the beer ran out and a Terra Bistro representative confided that more than 90 glasses were poured for the 75 people in attendance. After everyone had found their assigned tables, John Holl, editor of All About Beer Magazine and author of “The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” took the helm with a word of caution about tackling 10 high-octane beers in one evening.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “If you need to tap out, we won’t stop you — but we will judge you.”
FRUIT AND FUNK
The two brewers introduced their beers for the second course, with Dave Cole, co-founder and owner of Epic, bringing out his Brainless on Peaches and Jennifer Glanville, brewmaster at Boston Beer, offering up the Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru. Executive Chef Shawn Miller and his team paired the two very different beers with a crispy rice paper-wrapped salmon with vermicelli, cashews and tamarind-chili sauce.
“The KMF is one of those beers where the grand cru, it’s got such a complex flavor,” Glanville said. “In one way, it makes it easy to pair, but you have to be careful because you want to showcase its darker fruit flavors as well as the tart character.”
The tamarind-chili sauce highlighted the many facets of the KMF and also brought forward the peach notes in the Epic brew, Glanville said, making it one of her favorite pairings of the evening. The dry oak characteristics of the Brainless on Peaches, picked up from being aged in French chardonnay barrels, also helped put out the fire from the spicy sauce, making it a good final sip of the course.
Miller admitted that the third pairing was a way to sneak in Terra Bistro’s popular Wagyu slider appetizer. The mini patties of tender beef were topped with chipotle-cocoa ketchup and bacon jam, with a side of aged white cheddar and duck fries. Glanville poured the Samuel Adams Double Bock with the baby burger, and Cole’s offering was Epic’s Brainless on Cherries.
“The slider had a lot of interesting smoky, earthy flavors in it, and that was a great contrast to the Double Bock,” Glanville said. “It has lots of sweet, toffee, caramel, but it was balanced by that savory, spicy, smoky of the dish.”
The effervescent, magenta-hued Epic beer effectively swept the fatty juices of the beef from the palate, while the bock seemed to do just the opposite, its stickiness encouraging the richness of the meat and the chocolaty hints in the ketchup to linger.
BRINGING IT HOME
At this point in the evening, the conversation started to get louder and the beers started to get even bigger. Miller brought out his take on chicken and waffles, substituting duck leg confit for the poultry, accompanied by sauteed broccolini with a maple duck demi-glace. Epic’s Utah Sage Saison provided an herbaceous note for the buttermilk flavor of the waffles, and the group was treated to the first public appearance of the Samuel Adams Rebel Rouser IPA, an 8.5 percent alcohol by volume beer with a whopping 85 International Bittering Units.
“I thought it was really fun to launch the Rebel Rouser,” Glanville said. “Outside our wholesalers, no drinkers have sampled that.”
The finale of the dinner was a double punch of chocolate, with oatmeal stout chocolate cake topped with chocolate buttercream and chocolate-chocolate chip ice cream. Formerly dubbed the Jack Mormon (but renamed to poke fun at Cole’s own denomination after the state of Utah frowned upon the original moniker) Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout boosted the sugar rush with dark-roasted coffee beans and cocoa nibs.
For her parting gift, Glanville brought out the 2013 Samuel Adams Utopias, a 29 percent ABV, non-carbonated behemoth that poured like a cognac. For his first-ever shot at a beer-pairing dinner, the satisfied looks on the faces of the crowd implied that Miller has a future in the craft brew speed-dating game.
“He did a great job of emphasizing the differences when you pair with beer, cook with beer,” Glanville said. “It’s interesting to me that people know less about wine than they do about beer, but they are more comfortable cooking with wine and paring with wine than beer. Beer is more scientifically complex, so it’s easier to pair. It showed how you can compliment and contrast and have a lot of fun with it.”