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December 12, 2007

Garrett Oliver at The Daily Planet

Img_3915_3If there is anybody who deserves the title "American  Beer God," it's probably Garrett Oliver. He's the brewmaster and Vice President of New York's Brooklyn Brewery, sits on beer-judging panels and authored The Brewmaster's Table, an authoritative tome on pairing beer and food. Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the Daily Planet's third beer and food pairing (they're doing them regularly, these days).


I first heard Oliver give a talk during a beer 'n' cheese pairing at
the American Cheese Society conference in Burlington last summer. There, I was introduced to the argument that beer is actually a better accompaniment to food than wine is. Why? Beer-o-philes say that that caramelized, roast-y flavors that come from malt and the bitter, bright notes courtesy of hops, match up well with the flavors in foods that we eat (and that the yeasty, fruity qualities of wine don't do so quite as well). Plus, the "scrubbing bubbles," as Oliver jokingly referred to them, help to refresh the palate.

Img_3919Last Sunday, after attendees milled around sipping Brooklyn Local 1 -- an ale that is re-fermented in the bottle (like Champagne) -- and sampling a trio of Vermont cheeses -- Vermont Ayr from Crawford Family Farm, Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill Farm and Bonne Bouche from Vermont Butter & Cheese , we settled at our tables to listen to Oliver talk a bit about beer, with the wit of a culinary comedian. His first point: That the "beer" produced in the United States before the craft brewing movement doesn't even qualify as beer. "It's not made of the stuff that beer is made of. It's not made how beer is made," he opined. Same thing goes for the real bread vs. the supermarket stuff, and American "cheese" that is only 80% milk. "Cheese is 100% milk," said Oliver, "Kraft Singles are plastic."

Img_3923And then it was time for the meal. Here's the menu:

~ Tuna tartare with sesame lemongrass dressing; Lager   

~ Spicy gazpacho, guacamole and a baked-chicken taquito; East India Pale Ale

~ Moroccan Lamb Tagine; Brown Ale

~ Ancho Chile Dusted Molten Chocolate Cake; Black Chocolate Stout

The tagine was my favorite dish that evening -- it was complex, meaty and sweet -- and I'm a huge fan of the Local 1 and the Brown Ale, but my favorite pairing was the spicy gazpacho with the I.P.A. The "hot" soup and the citrus-y bitterness of the beer worked really well together.

I'm definitely sold on this beer pairing thing.


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