In a previous article in this series I stated that the usual procedure when hosting a beer and food pairing is to start with the lighter beer and progress towards the heavier or darker beers. I also mentioned that at least in my case there is a lot of consultation with the brewmaster during the course of writing the menu. A prerequisite of being a brewmaster is an extremely sensitive palate because of all the subtle nuances various ingredients impart on the final product. Hence I always look to the brewmaster for criticism and comment on my choices for pairing foods with their brews.

All this is leading up to a dinner I co-hosted with the gentlemen from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company at The Clift Hotel in July of 1999. I deviated from standard procedure by starting the dinner with Hop Ottin IPA their highly hopped version of India Pale Ale, serving Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout with the entrée and finishing up with Boont Amber for dessert. At the outset the brewmaster and his sales manager voiced concern over my choices for the progression of the event. Their worry was that the bitterness of the IPA would wipe out every ones taste buds for the remainder of dinner and ruin a wonderful evening. Their concerns were very valid and I do not normally vary the course of events in this manner. However I had served IPAs with the first course a couple of times and I was confident that the food would save the day.

After dinner both gentlemen were happy, much relieved and they decided that it is okay to bend the rules once in a while. Anderson Valley Brewing Co. is located in Boonville, California just northeast of Ukiah. They share a valley with several sparkling wine produces as well as apple orchards. This award-winning brewery started as a brewpub in 1987 and eventually grew to a full-fledged producer of a full line of kegged and bottled ales. 

The first course that evening was Seared Artic Char with Leeks, Roasted Corn Butter Sauce and Salmon Caviar. The sweetness of the vegetables helped to balance the hop bitterness of the beer and the somewhat higher alcohol content cleansed the palate of the oily fish and buttery sauce.
Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout has become a benchmark for oatmeal stouts and is rife with toasted malt flavor and a big mouth feel. This was served with a Smoked Prime Rib of Buffalo with Espresso Barbecue Sauce. In this case the beer and the sauce complemented each other.
When it was time for dessert I felt that Boont Amber had notes of apple and caramel so I paired it with a Quesadilla of Roasted Fuji Apples and Cambazola Cheese. (For a complete review go to www.celebrator.com and look for BBQ with the Brewmaster in the October 99 issue)
Lastly beer and food pairing is a subjective thing and experimentation is the way to go. Just remember the three Cs, Cut, Complement and Contrast. Now get out there and try some beer or better yet come to a beer and food pairing dinner.


Chef Bruce