Brewmaster’s Dinner + Beer Tasting Seminar

Last night’s Brewmaster’s Dinner was excellent, as is traditional for this event. Even though it is an extra ticket fee, I’ve been to every one that’s been on offer since I’ve been attending these NABA Conventions, and they have all be excellent. Sometimes, the food is cooked with beer; sometimes, there are different styles of beer paired with different courses of the meal. This one was one of the latter, primarily, although our first course was a beer-cheese soup that was quite delicious.

The first course (the abovementioned soup) was paired with a ‘white IPA’ which I’d never heard of before, but those at my table said was a trend commencing in the industry. Most tastings leave the hoppy IPAs for the final or end-sampling, due to it’s extreme hoppiness/bitterness that tends to overwhelm the palate. Beginning with this style was fine, however, because the soup was strongly flavored and the white IPA stood up well to it.

Hinterland’s brewer Scott Kissman was our guide through the beers and his choices in pairings with the food served. Their White IPA is called, I believe “White Cap.”

Next we had a salad paired with the Hinterland Saison, a golden Belgian-style, with a crisp citris flavor and a spicy finish. It was delightful with the salad, which included sweetened, cinnamon walnuts, & dried cherries, topped with a champagne vinaigrette.

The main course was a lovely tenderloin, gently topped with a wild mushroom sauce, potatoes, & fresh asparagus with yellow bell peppers. This course was paired with an Amber Ale, which had a slightly caramel flavor, and held up quite well in complement to the beef & mushrooms.

Dessert was a chocolate layer torte, of course, paired with Hinterland’s Luna Coffee Stout. I don’t normally eat chocolate late in the evening, nor do I normally care for stouts. But this was an excellent pairing that I thoroughly enjoyed and, unfortunately, paid the price for eating in having a difficult time falling asleep several hours later. But it was definitely worth it.

I plan to go visit Scott at Hinterland today for lunch.

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NABA often offers members who don’t care to tour the host city activities at the hotel, and today (Thursday) was no exception. The first seminar was an update on the progress of our long-awaited, rebuilt website (nababrew.com), that is very close to being fully functional. It can already be visited, but there are several areas still under construction, and the member sign-up is still unavailable.

The 11 o’clock seminar was about tasting micro beers, judging a beer’s qualities (given the style the brewer intended) what to expect when sampling a brewer’s offerings, etc. We began with the AB standard, Budweiser. Our guides on this adventure (a team of folks who know their stuff either from home-brewing, brew-judging, and connoisseur tasters, led by Fred & Mary Clinton [who used to write the “Travels with Barley” column for the NABA magazine, The Breweriana Collector]) advised that, as a beer warms up the ingredients/flavors become more noticeable, and recommended we re-taste the Budweiser after letting it warm for about 15-20 minutes. They pointed out that, whereas a good microbrew will get better with warmth, a Bud gets worse, because the additives and preservatives come to the forefront, overwhelming what little flavor is there in the original brew.

Next was an Oberon Belgian style, light and flavorful, to compare with the standard American mass beer. After that was an amber ale from a brewery I’m afraid I didn’t recognize (and failed to write down, I hate to report). Stone Arch, the brewpub we visited yesterday, offered their Scottish Ale, and next was a porter with a crow on the label. I’ll go to the Clintons and get the participating breweries’ names, I promise.

We finished with one of my favorite all-time brews, Bell’s Brewery Two-Hearted Ale, a smooth, hoppy IPA.

Questions and discussions surrounded pasteurization and its effects on flavor; the trend in Belgian-style brewing toward “sour” beers; alcohol content and hops as shelf-life extenders; and weird micro-brewer additions like thyme, coriander, and berries, and their relative successes and failures. It was a great seminar, where some of the participants offered insights along with the leaders.

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