Urban Oyster Co-Founder Dave Naczycz has been posting reports from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado:Intro | Day 1 | Day 3
So, day 2 turned out to be all about the growing focus on beer and food and how the line between the two is blurring, as many brewers are getting into food and vice versa. The day started off with a press luncheon featuring different beers from around the country paired with several dishes. The meal was delicious as was the beer. I’ll share the menu with you here:
Welcome Beer: (Yes there was a welcome beer. Perks of going as press)Taps Fish House & Brewery
(Brea, CA) – Belgian White
Roasted Carpaccio Beet Salad with Fennel, Green Apples, Goat Cheese, and Bacon served with Vinaigrette
Paired with: Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen
(Bellingham, WA) – Vienna LagerMcKenzie Brew House
(Malvern, PA) – Saison Vautour
Grains of Paradise Seared Lamb Loin, Ginger Forbidden Rice with Apricots and Cranberries
Paired with:Nebraska Brewing Co.
(Papillion, NE) – Melange A TroisDevils Backbone Brewing Co.
(Roseland, VA) – Danzig
Pumpkin Bread Pudding topped with Ska Ten Pin Porter
Caramel Sauce and Lefthand
ESB Ice Cream
Paired with:Barley Brown’s Brew Pub
(Baker City, OR) – TurmoilRock Bottom Breweries
(La Jolla, CA) – Moonlight
American Artisan Cheese Plate:
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company – Original Blue and Toma
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese – Flagsheep,
Cowgirl Creamery – Mt. Tam
Paired with:Pagosa Brewing Co.
(Pagosa Springs, CO) – Pagosa PaleFat Head’s Brewery & Saloon
(North Olmstead, OH) – Head Hunter IPAFreetail Brewing Co.
(San Antonio, TX) – Bandito
Handmade fermentation tank at Strange
So needless to say this meal was amazing. All of the food was delicious as was the beer. The lamb was some of the best I have ever had, and the Grains of Paradise really added a lot. For those that don’t know or don’t watch Sam Adams commercials, Grains of Paradise is a historic brewing spice that you can still find today in some beers. The pairings sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. There was some grumbling about that among the assembled press corps, but I always feel that food and beer pairing is not an exact science, and part of the magic are the unexpected successes. I felt the best pairing of the meal was the McKenzie Brew House Saison Vatour with the salad. The tart fruitiness of the Saison helped to highlight some of the bright flavors of the salad. It really made the salad come alive. Alternatively I didn’t think the Vienna Lager did anything for the salad, but it was still a fine beer.
After the luncheon we headed out for a tour of local Colorado breweries. Perhaps the highlight of that trip was a stop at Strange Brewing Co.
, which is a new brewery in Denver located in the middle of an industrial area where you would never think to find a brewery. Think Brooklyn Brewery circa 1996, except in an industrial strip mall. It is a tiny brewery with a bar in front and a three-barrel system in the rear. Yes, three barrels – and even that small capacity is due to a recent expansion. The brewery was reminiscent of the early days of craft brewing due to the fact that much of their equipment was either custom-built or repurposed dairy equipment. Their mash tun was an old dairy separator, and two of their fermenting tanks had been hand built. These were all hand-me-downs from older breweries that had once used them to get started; so in effect, this is the first generation of craft brewers, all grown up, supporting the second-generation siblings. We tried their 7 Barrel Saison, the Fresh Hopped Pale Ale, and their Cherry Bomb, which was created due to a mistake in their attempt to brew a normal cherry beer. They lost a lot of water to evaporation when adding the cherries, and the resulting brew was quite a bit stronger than they had planned on. However, it was so popular that they keep making it. All three beers were delicious, and I recommend a trip to the brewery if you are ever in Denver.
Strange Brewing Co.
The bus then went on to LoHi Tap & Burger. This is a bar and grill that prides itself on excellent food and a great beer selection. We enjoyed pairings with Oskar Blues
HGH (I’ll talk more about this later) and Odell Brewing
Mercenary (DIPA) and their Bourbon Barrel Stout. Pairings included meat sticks (kind of like jerky) made from meat direct from the Oskar Blues farm. The beers were delicious, as was the food, though by this time my stomach was starting to rebel. Finally, we were dropped off at Wynkoop Brewery
in Denver, which was founded by the current governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper. They were hosting Pints for Prostates
, which is a fundraiser for prostate research, and a couple dozen breweries were there pouring rare beer from their collections. I tried a couple, but at this point I was past the point of being able to appreciate either food or beer. So I quickly retreated back to a hotel to rest and get ready for the night session.
Three Floyds pairing
The food and beer did not let up in the evening. It was relentless. First, I had a ticket to visit the special Farm to Table pavilion, where breweries had teamed up with chefs from around the country to offer spectacular food and beer pairings using local, straight-from-the-farm ingredients. The first table I visited was our own Brooklyn Brewery
, whose Garrett Oliver is widely considered the preeminent expert on food and beer pairing. They were pouring their latest batch of Brooklyner Weisse and the Black Chocolate Stout and pairing it with a cheesecake topped with barley sauce and a barley tiramisu prepared by Patrick Sheerin of the Signature Room
in Chicago. The beer was of course delicious, but I had my doubts about the food and wasn’t sure that a barley tiramisu would be that great. However, it was absolutely delicious with a rich caramel flavor that went very well with the Weisse. Another highlight was the Three Floyds Brewing
table that teamed up with another Sheering, Mike of the The Trencherman in Chicago, to offer their Moloko Milk Stout with a Lamb Bacon. I thought I had died and gone to some sort of food and beer heaven. The rich creamy stout joined forces with a tender and savory strip of lamb bacon to produce perfection. The things I do for this company.
Beer scholarship panel
The rest of the night was food and beer marathon where I had to tear myself away from the Farm to Table pavilion, which was easily the best part of this year’s GABF, and attend a couple of presentations. The first featured Garrett Oliver along with other brewing luminaries as they discussed the lack of quality beer scholarship when compared to wine. The second featured former Top Chef Winner Stephanie izzard teaming up with Goose Island Brewery on a food and beer pairing. This session was a bit of disappointment. The beer and the food were not that great, and the presenters seemed to be having fun amusing each other rather than explaining what they were doing.
Luckily the third session made up nicely for that, as it featured Oskar Blues. Most people know Oskar Blues from their popular canned beer, Dale’s Pale Ale. They were the first craft brewery to can beer back in 2002, and now well over 100 breweries are canning beer. The brewer owns a brewpub, has recently purchased a farm and is now taking the merger between beer and food to its next logical step by creating a complete cycle between brewery, farm, and restaurant. The session illustrated this by pairing vegetables and beef raised on the farm (using spent grain and grey water from the brewery) with their HGH Double Dry Hopped Strong Ale. The HGH is made with hops grown on their farm so that everything we tasted in the session had been growing on the farm just a few weeks ago. The dish was amazing, and the beer was also spectacular. Sustainable, locally produced food and beer are big topics on Urban Oyster’s tours and I have been inspired by my experiences at the festival to produce a more detailed post about different practices around the country being used by brewers to enhance the sustainability of their production. That post will be coming in the next month or so.
By the end of day 2, my stomach and liver were both maxed out and I went to bed happy and very, very full.
Oskar Blues panel
Read Dave's other blog posts from GABF: Intro | Day 1 | Day 3Stay tuned for our last blog post about our experience at GABF tomorrow. For questions or comments about this blog post, please contact Andrew Gustafson or leave a comment. If you would like to follow this blog, subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for the Urban Oyster email newsletter. All photos courtsey Dave Naczycz.