Usually beer pairing dinners are pretty straightforward – the brewer and the chef from a brewpub work together to highlight the best that the brewpub has to offer. On June 2, 2014 however, Iron Hill Brewery in Chestnut Hill presented a phenomenal twist on the standard beer pairing. During its “Collaboration Beer Dinner”not a single Iron Hill beer was served. Rather, seven offerings from other breweries were matched with a perfectly balanced Iron Hill menu.
The dinner began with a welcome from Head Brewer Paul Rutherford, who explained the reason why Iron Hill wasn’t serving their beer at this meal: this dinner was designed to give him, and his fellow brewers (in town for Philly Beer Week 2014) the opportunity to step away from the tap handles and enjoy a meal together. The concept was well received – the feeling of friendship between the brewers was palpable and resulted in a great atmosphere.
The first course was a fried goat cheese paired with Anderson Valley Horse Tongue Wheat, a wild ale that had aged 6 months with Belgian yeast, then aged another 6 months in Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces.
I was lucky enough to be seated across from Nick Johnson, Regional Sales Manager for Troegs, who introduced Troegs Sunshine Pilsner as the compliment to sauteed razor clams with
chimichurri, garlic butter and citrus. During his introduction, Nick’s excitement about the craft beer industry (and being able to spend time with his friends during PBW14) was evident, as he explained “What’s cool about this industry is that we drink each other’s beers. You don’t see the Coke and Pepsi guys hanging out and drinking the other’s products.”
A truly special beer from Coppertail Brewing out of Tampa, Florida was served with glazed Hawaiian blue prawn. Although Coppertail Brewer Casey Hughes couldn’t be at the dinner, he made his presence felt when we tasted his IPA – which had not been served outside of his brewery until this dinner.
As a surprise off-menu offering, Rick Hoffman from Stewart’s Brewing Company in Bear, Delaware, brought one of his most popular seasonals – the Stumblin’Monk with Raspberries – a Belgian strong pale ale brewed with 1.5 pounds of raspberries per gallon. Served with a raspberry popsicle, it was a sweet and wonderful palette cleanser between courses.
The fourth course was a German-inspired pork loin stuffed with bratwurst, smoked potato salad, house-made sauerkraut and beer mustard. Mike Fava from Oxbow presented the perfect match for these hearty flavors – the last vintage of his 2013 Oxtoberfest. Brewed with smoked malt and cold-conditioned since last summer, the Oxtoberfest had the taste of bacon that enhanced the potato salad and pork.
For dessert, Dan Conway from Left Hand Brewing Company provided his ultra smooth Nitro Milk Stout, which was served with Chef Jared Cannon’s exciting take on a S’more – topped with Cocoa Pebbles ice cream. As a surprise nightcap, Jeff “Chief”O’Neal from Peekskill Brewery and Bob Barrar from Iron Hill in Media shared a collaboration imperial stout – “Vaporizer.”An all malt imperial stout with Nugget and, as Jeff said, “the sluttiest of all hops – Mosaic,”this 12.5% brew was a perfect finish to a fantastic night. The Vaporizers quickly disappeared bringing the meal to an end, and it was clear that Paul’s idea had been a rousing success. As we left Iron Hill, the brewers and friends gathered in the brewhouse for a photo that will surely serve as a record of another great event during Philly Beer Week 2014.