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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Break From the Usual Tasting... Sierra Nevada Belgian Brewers Beer Dinner

Where to even start?  Sierra Nevada hosted an amazing Belgian Brewers Beer Dinner last night in their Big Room on the brewery campus as a benefit for the Abbey of New Clairvaux as an extension of the partnership already created around the Ovila Abbey-Style Ale collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the Abbey.  

Special guests that night included master brewers Tomme Arthur (Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey), Adam Avery (Avery Brewing), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Brewery), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada Brewing), and Rob Tod (Allagash Brewing)... a who's who of the North American craft brewing pioneers.  Each brought some of their rarer, Belgian-inspired ales to be paired by food put together by Sierra Nevada's Chef Michael Iles.  Below are some hazy shots of the menus and (most of) the custom coasters brought out for the event.


Each of the six course were amazing, the standouts being the Duck and Waffles (inspired by the old jazzman and bluesman 2am meal between dinner and breakfast of fried chicken and waffles) and the Pork Two Ways.    But this is a beer blog, so let's get down to the beer!  

Wild ales, sour ales, and witbiers dominated the evening, with the two biggest surprises being the Avery Dihos Dactylion Sour Ale and Depuceleuse Wild Ale being among the best sours our table had ever tried and the uncharacteristically delicate and subdued Namaste White Beer and Red and White Witbier with Pinot Noir offerings from Dogfish Head, a brewery known for big, bold beers.  As Sam said, he felt like he brought a knife to a gun fight.


The complete list of beers, with a couple of thoughts on each-

Allagash Tripel Reserve- A fantastic Tripel I would put against any true Trappist Tripel

Allagash Coolship Red- Not many brewers would trust spontaneous, open fermentation, but Rod Tod took a gamble and won.  The raspberries were a great compliment.

Avery Dihos Dactylion- My favorite of the night.  Cabernet sauvignon brarels added the perfect complexity to this sour.

Avery Brewing Depuceleuse- A close second... this wild ale took on the sour notes of cherries and the Zinfandel barrels.

Dogfish Head Namaste- Sam, never have I experienced a nose as big and aggressive as this, and I certainly wasn't expecting the taste to be as delicate and nuanced with lemongrass and citrus as this.

Dogfish Head Red & White- A witbier made with coriander, orange peel, and pinot noir juice... light but complex.

Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Oak-Aged Life & Limb- A fun and tasty collaboration between two great brewers, probably the biggest and boldest of the bunch. 

Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale- In the company of the best sours I have tried, this one stood loud and proud.

Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa- Another great sour that unduly suffered by being served at the end of the night ;-)

Lost Abbey Inferno Ale- Paired perfectly with the cheese and was a nice, earthy grounding after a night a sour and wild ales.

Sierra Nevada Ovila- I have a bottle of this at home waiting for a dedicated tasting, so we'll just say it was good for now.

If it sounds like I am gushing, I am.  Sharing a table with other dedicated beer lovers of all stripes, we were in awe and impressed by every course served and every beer that graced our table.  When you bring five of the the most iconic brewers in the USA together in the same room, everyone is bringing their A game.  The brewers were all gracious, humble, and exuded an enthusiasm that couldn't be faked.  I feel fortunate to have been able to attend this one-time event, meet so many great brewers, and support the Abbey of New Clarivaux. 
Me crashing the brewer's table.
Father Paul Mark Schwan 
Cutting Loose as the Night Went On...
Dad and I

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