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Support Your Local Brewers' Dinner

by: BeerAdvocate on 02-26-2003
The "beer dinner." We're sure a handful of you have gone to these events where a restaurant/bar (usually a high-scale one) decides to invite a big name in the brewing industry to match beer with its food. The menus are unique, the food is exceptional, the pairings are thoughtful, and the education and support for beer are usually phenomenal. The only problems with these wonderful events are that ...

1) The people who attend these events are usually regular patrons or friends of the venue so that the beer love is not spread very far.

2) The industry press who are invited to write-up the event usually end up freeloading, and their support equals the amount they paid for their meal - nada.

3) The dinners are not accessible to the general public due to lack of awareness or a high price tag - many of these beer dinners can hit $90 or more per person.

4) These events can often be quite pretentious in their presentation and in their guest list, mimicking wine events instead of letting beer stand on its own, which it can - even more so than wine.

5) Often times these beer dinners are sponsored by a big beer company or distributor, and the beers tend to be boring, mainstream and unsupportive of the local brewing scene, becoming simply marketing tools for the brands.

Enter the Brewers' Dinner ...

Unfortunately, many brewers' dinners tend to get little mention in local papers, but we're guessing this is probably because it doesn't sound chi-chi enough for their food and wine writers - after all, it's just beer. Hell, even the local beer rags fail to support these events to the fullest, focusing more on generating ads and reporting the same old mundane "what's on tap" - yawn, zzzz. Regardless, brewers' dinners are a great chance to introduce beer and the wonderful world of appreciating beer with food to the masses. They're comfortable events, half the price of highbrow beer pairings, full of beer education and allow the attendees to relax a bit more and talk to the brewers in a casual bar-like atmosphere.

We recently attended a magnificent feast of beer and food at the Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC). In this particular brewers' dinner, CBC offered a five-course meal, each course perfectly paired with one of CBC's handcrafted ales (half pints). The event took nearly three months to plan and was put on by owner Phil Bannatyne, Executive Chef John Palughi, Sous Chef Chris Carlson and, of course, Brewers Will Meyers and Ben Roesch, who were on hand to answer any questions about the pairings and beers. Our selection of the evening consisted of the following:

Wild mushroom and lobster soup with lobster caviar crouton paired with Golden Ring Abbey Pale Ale.

Maple syrup smoked salmon crepe soufflé with whole grain mustard crème fraiche paired with Tall Tale Pale Ale.

Watercress, red onion and smoked hen salad with tomato-bacon vinaigrette and red wine pickled eggs in a Parmesan bowl paired with Cask Ale.

Seared rare venison with mission hill fig port wine sauce, chestnut polenta and asparagus paired with Barrel-aged Porter.

It was all amazing and quite artful across the board; however, the highlight of the meal was a flight of their Blunderbuss Barleywine (2000, 2001 and 2002) served in 3 oz. samples, presented in a vertical tasting and paired with the dessert course. We opted for the pear, fig and three blue-veined cheeses (local great hill blue, cheddar stilton and cambasola blue-veined brie) with an intense fig Blunderbuss Barleywine syrup and garnishes of fresh pears and strawberries. This pairing was absolute bliss and, in our opinion, worth the price of the dinner alone.

What was the price? $40 per person. That's un-fucking-believable! Less than half the price of a fancy-pants beer dinner, with better beer and equal to, if not better, food and pairings! To boot, the CBC doesn't make much money off these brewers' dinners. They do them because they are fun - now there's a concept that needs more attention! Kudos to the entire staff at CBC for their passion, efforts and creation of such an awesome event!

Now, in the Boston area, we have a few brewpubs that host semi-regular brewers' dinners, such as the CBC (617.494.8958); John Harvard's Brewhouse (617.868.3585) in Harvard Sq., Cambridge; and Watch City Brewing (781.647.4000) in Waltham. Many local breweries, like Concorde Brewery and Harpoon Brewery, will occasionally team up with a restaurant and offer a similar format, too. Keep an eye out for all of their scheduled events. Your best bet is to call them directly or frequent  http://beeradvocate.com/events. 

For those of you outside the Boston area, check with your local brewpub or brewery. Chances are that there are events happening, and you might not even know it. Get informed, spread the word and don't miss the chance to learn a bit more about beer appreciation while supporting your local beer scene.

Respect beer.
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