Sunday, June 2, 2013

Craft beers and food pairings, a delicious new trend

In the past several years, wineries have been springing up all over Iowa, which is a GREAT thing for Iowa wine drinkers, but along with that another trend has been popping up- craft breweries. Luckily for me, I live close to a wonderful brewery just up the highway in Ames. Olde Main Brewing Co. opened in October, 2004 led by brewmaster Puff Irvin. What started as two friends' dream has now become a full brewery and brew pub.

Another very exciting trend is the food and beer pairing dinner. Much like the wine and food pairings everyone is familiar with, each course of the meal paired with a different beer. The Port on Lake Panorama hosted their first Beer and Food Pairing Dinner featuring beer from the Olde Main Brewing Co. The dinner was a sell-out and the beer and menu perfectly complimented each other.

We began our culinary adventure with a brief story shared by the brewmaster, Puff Irvin. He shared how he got his start, how the business came to be, and offered a lot of interesting and informative facts that a lot of beer drinkers probably don't know! He also explained how to get the best tasting experience from your beer and why a glass is so important.

As the first beer, Longface Amber Ale, was being served he explained the brewing process, the flavor notes of that particular beer and the difference in alcohol content. This particular beer had a mild sweetness and a finish with a hint of caramel.  

The chef paired this beer selection with an antipasti platter, a colorful plate of Genoa salami and coppicola, marinated olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and a selection of cheeses. Just like during wine and food pairings, drinking and smelling the beer before and after eating food gives you two totally different flavor profiles.

The second beer was Olde Main Off Kilter Scottish Ale, which was also an amber colored beer. Brewed in the Scottish style without hops and a lot of malt this beer boasted coffee flavors and a subtle sweetness. With this beer the chef paired two light dishes, the first being a cold Cucumber Avocado and Lime soup, which was a smooth, refreshing and sophisticated blend of flavors and textures, with the smooth soup garnished with diced avocado and tomato. 

Served alongside with soup was a Greek salad with fresh green pepper, tomato, kalamata olives and feta cheese tossed in a light Greek vinaigrette.

For the third course Puff introduced us to Olde Main's Dinky Wheat, a Belgian style wheat ale. 

Dinky Wheat has notes of coriander, orange peel and chamomile along with a secret ingredient. A lot of us who like wheat ales like to add a wedge of orange to bring out the citrus notes, but this fabulous brew already had citrus notes brewed in. It was my favorite of the night.

The chef's selection for this delicious beer was a light and flavorful pasta dish. Linguine tossed with sun dried tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, slices of marinated chicken breast, cannellini beans, garlic, olive oil, garlic, a splash of white wine and slices of grilled chorizo tossed in to kick up the flavor. This dish was so delicious and was the perfect match for the Dinky Wheat.

Our fourth and final beer of the evening was the Sodbuster Stout Ale- a dark, thick and rich brew made with malt that had been roasted in a coffee roaster to bring out the deep dark coffee and chocolate flavors. The aroma of the stout in the glass reminded me of a wonderful espresso.

Our dinner was brought to a delicious finale by the chef's amazing Creme Brulee. There was no better dessert to pair with the warm espresso and chocolate notes of the stout. The smooth vanilla custard and crunchy caramelized sugar topping were flawless.

As much as I enjoyed Puff's presentation and expertise at his craft, the meal would not have been possible without the amazing kitchen craftwork of Chef Joe Riccio. He spent a lot of evenings up late after arriving home from work, brainstorming and planning and researching to come up with a perfect four course dinner. Even though this was a one-time event, Joe is hard at work every week at The Port where he offers nightly specials, homemade soups and a weekend prime rib buffet with an ever-changing menu. Stop in for dinner sometime and you can still enjoy a cold Olde Main brew !!

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