My email inbox yesterday had a query from a reporter who asked the question “Are we becoming too serious about beer?” The article he is writing centers on that question and the fact that more tastings, food pairings and serious beer events in general keep popping up. He may be the first person to refer to my enjoyment of beer as a serious endeavor. Last night Ye Olde Landmark Tavern in Bouckville took that level of enjoyment to serious heights at the annual Hop Fest Paired Brew Dinner.
Ye Olde Landmark Tavern was the perfect location for the dinner, as it is found in a historic octagonal building built over 150 years ago by the Coolidge family. The very same family that introduced hops to Central New York about a mile away from the inn. That introduction led to Madison, Oneida and Otsego Counties becoming world leaders in hops production in the early part of the last century. So it was fitting that we kicked off Hop Fest last night in that building.
The dinner this year was a four course meal prepared by Chef Andrew Hengst who runs the landmark with his brother in a very successful small family business success story.
The first course was an Autumn Squash Soup paired with Ommegang’s Rare Vos. Rare Vos is a Belgian style amber ale. It is an easy drinking beer with a moderate 6.5% ABV. It paired very nicely with the soup which featured numerous chunks of diced apples which were still crispy giving a nice texture change to the soup and a crispness to contrast to the earthy flavors of the squash in the soup. The spices in the beer paired very well with the spices used in the soup making this an outstanding start to the meal.
Before each course a representative from Tri-Valley beverage, Sara Elacqua spoke about both the dish that Hengst had created and the beer it was paired with. We learned that Rare Vos was Belgian for Sly Fox and this beer is named after the Sly Fox cafe.
The second course of the evening was a seared scallop. It was plated with a raisin vinaigrette, pureed cauliflower and topped with a caper relish. The scallop was paired with an Old Slugger Pale Ale from Cooperstown Brewing Company. The scallop was perfectly cooked, a clean, fresh taste on the tongue that exploded with flavor when tasted with all of the ingredients on the plate. The cauliflower puree was outstanding, with a creamyness that made it light and smooth. The beer paired ok with this dish, maybe a bit overpowering when mixed together with the lightness of the scallop, but Old Slugger is one of my favorite pale ales, so I wasn’t complaining.
The main course for the evening was a Roast Port Tenderloin with a pretzel spaetzle, mustard jus, pickled pear and Brussels sprouts. This was paired with Ithaca Beer Company’s CazcaZilla Red Ale. The red ale is made with Cascade Hops and the earth tones in the beer paired so very well with the earthy tones on the plate. The pork was well seasoned, tender and juicy. the Brussels sprouts were roasted to perfection as well. The outsides caramelized giving them an crispy, earthy taste. There was not a bit left on the plate when the course was done. By far this was the most perfect food and beer pairing of the evening.
The meal was topped off with a dessert course featuring a Pumpkin Honey Cake with vanilla ice cream and toasted pralines. This was paired with the Post Road Pumpkin Ale from Brooklyn Brewing. A disclaimer here first, I am not a fan of pumpkin anything. It doesn’t matter if it is beer, cake, pie or bread. I usually do not like it. This however was a perfect ending to an autumn themed dinner. The honey in the cake did an excellent job of balancing out the pumpkin, giving it a much lighter and less dense taste than many pumpkin themed desserts. The toasted pralines gave it a wonderful crunch and of course you can not go wrong when you add ice cream to almost any dessert. The beer was a very good pairing with it. Post Road Pumpkin is a typical fall seasonal and provided a stronger pumpkin taste than the cake. The spices in the beer and the overall pumpkin flavor made it a great choice as a dessert beer.
The dinner this year was a sell out and the nearly 50 people in attendance all walked away with positive reviews and a better understanding of the beers and the foods they were paired with. If this is what being serious about beers is all about, count me in and pour me another!