Last night my wife and I attended Deschutes Brewery‘s Chocolate Beer Pairing Dinner, a five-course chocolate-themed event that paired excellent food with some of the Brewery’s latest chocolate-inspired beers. As I’d mentioned previously, I got an invite to attend on the house, and fortunately we were able to make it.
I took the camera along and snapped a few pictures, though they were mostly of the food (and beer). One picture I didn’t take and I wish I had was of the brewer, Jimmy Seifert, who was the one who created all of the beers on the menu and who talked about each beer as they were served. We were sitting at the same table as him, actually, and in addition to writing up a review of the beer and food we had, I’ve got a few notes about the brewing process on some of these beers and some interesting info on The Dissident, of which Jimmy is the brewer.
In addition to the beer, they were also serving up (free) wine. Someone was telling me later that last year, wine cost $6.50 per glass, but I think making it complimentary, like the beer, is the way to go.
Two pictures: These were the only "wide" shots I took, basically from the same angle. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better so here they both are.
Now, the food. First of all, check out that menu.
Passed appetizer – Cocoa and Ancho Dusted Scallops on a Plantain Chip
Paired with St Abe Belgian Artisanal Ale (~10% ABV)
Plated Appetizer – Duck Enchilada with Mole Sauce
Paired with Chocolate Pale Ale (5% ABV)
Salad – Blueberry and Micro Green Salad with White Chocolate and Lavender Vinaigrette
Paired with Oak Aged Black Butte XX (~10% ABV)
Entrée – Misty Isle Filet Mignon with Seville Orange and Chocolate Demi Glace
Paired with Chocolate Irish Export Extra Stout (6% ABV)
Dessert – White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
Paired with Coffee Black Butte XX (~10% ABV)
I’ve got pictures of each course except the first, the scallop appetizer. Nice big tender scallops with a dusty chocolate touch, and a bit of cubed mango on the plantain chip. The St. Abe Belgian Artisanal Ale was very good; I didn’t realize at first that it’s a whopping 10% alcohol by volume—it’s a sweet, rich, eminently drinkable beer that completely hides its strength. It was also brewed with chocolate (either nibs or cocoa) and, amazingly, some type of pepper—I don’t remember which, only that it was a relatively mild pepper. And indeed there are hints of chocolate in the depths and a spicy pepper heat lurking behind the candy sugar sweetness. Great beer, I’d like to see it bottled.
This was the plated appetizer, the duck enchiladas with mole sauce, paired with Chocolate Pale Ale. (The second beer you see was the one they gave to my wife, who doesn’t drink beer—wine, instead—so I ended up drinking most of that second one myself. Tough job, I know.)
The enchiladas were good, the mole was appropriately spicy without being (too) sweet. The Chocolate Pale Ale was interesting—essentially, it’s a "standard" American Pale Ale with the addition of, you guess it, chocolate. Cocoa, I believe in this case, because for me that’s the character that seemed to come through—an earthy bitter cocoa note shot throughout the beer. Interestingly, another person at our table mentioned—in a good way—that it reminded her of dirt ("good dirt"), referring I think to that earthiness and dark bitter chocolate notes. "Dirt" sounds like a slam, but it really wasn’t. She was enthused about it.
The salad course, paired with Oak Aged Black Butte XX. The "micro greens" reminded me of clover, believe it or not, but this salad was truly excellent; the white chocolate pulled it all together beautifully, but the fresh blueberries, the jicama, the vinaigrette, and, yes, the greens were all perfectly matched.
Speaking of perfectly matched—the Black Butte XX. Let me just say, holy crap this is a seriously awesome beer. My favorite of the night, it’s the same one I noted here; it’s the 20th anniversary Reserve Series, highly limited edition version of their "double Black Butte Porter." It’s absolutely outstanding. Coffee, chocolate, black licorice, all right there immediately, then you get the oaky smoothness of the barrel aging… oh my. This is like The Abyss, and I could drink it all the time.
(In fact, I asked/joked with Jimmy if indeed he did drink this all the time, since he had access to it. Short but good answer: while tempting, no.)
This Oak Aged version was aged in Cabernet and Syrrah wine barrels, by the way.
XX should be released in about three weeks, in the wax-dipped Reserve Series bottles like The Abyss was, and will likely retail for $10 per bottle.
This wasn’t the exact version of XX that will be released in the bottles—though I think it’s very close.
The entree course: filet mignon and sweet potato mash. Paired with Chocolate Irish Export Extra Stout. This was the best steak I’ve had in a long time—so buttery and tender that it almost literally melted in your mouth. Seriously. It was amazing. The potatoes were amazing, too—spiced up with nutmeg, mace, and cayenne (if I’m remembering correctly) and with the fennel, to have a spicy, strong anise (black licorice) thing going on with them.
At this point, I need to mention the chef, as well as the brewer: for each course, Executive Chef Matt Neltner would come out
(I don’t remember his name, sorry—maybe someone reading can help me with that?) and talk a bit about the dish in the context of the beer selected. He and his staff put together an awesome dinner (the menu being created by Banquet Chef Katrina Spatrisano) that really took a beer tasting event to the next level. (Update: got the names of those involved.)
Back to the beer. Interesting to note, this is Jimmy (the brewer’s) favorite beer of the bunch; his goal was to (in his words) combine his two favorite beers: Guinness Stout (the good Foreign Extra Stout variety) and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It was served up on a nitro tap, and he succeeded: smooth, drinkable, and every sip a tasty dry stout melded with lots of sweet chocolate. There’s a hint of coffee in there, too.
Finally, dessert. Again, an amazing dish: white chocolate panna cotta with balsamic roasted strawberries, paired with Coffee Black Butte XX. An absolutely perfect dessert to finish the dinner with, not too heavy, not too cloyingly sweet but rich and creamy.
Now, this version of the XX is a bit different that the Oak Aged—obviously. The "standard" XX recipe has coffee in it already, but for this version, they infused it again with even more coffee. (An Ethiopian blend, I believe is what they settled on). In fact, they experimented with (I want to say) something like 100 types of coffee in this beer before settling on one that was just right.
And a good one it is, too; while I still think the Oak Aged XX was my favorite, this one had different, coffee-syrup-sweet character to it that was almost creamy—and not as bitter as the Oak Aged version, I think. (I’m basing that on the fact that my wife actually found this one pleasant to sip.)
Overall, wow. Fantastic beer and fantastic food and a really, really enjoyable evening. One I’d recommend again, for sure.
Now, I promised some Dissident info. The Dissident is the other super-special, highly limited release this year of a beer unlike any other—truly unlike any other for Deschutes, as it’s a sour beer in the style of a Flanders Brown (or "Oud Bruin"). Here’s some dirt:
- It’s the Brewery’s first foray into brewing with wild Brettanomyces yeast; the beer and barrels are kept under quarantine and the beer will be bottled off-site at a separate facility. (This to absolutely minimize any chance of cross-contamination.)
- The beer was started back in September of 2006—so it’s nearly two years old. (Aging is important with these styles.)
- The blending process sounds rather complex; if I remember rightly, they have four different tanks of this beer—some with no Brett yeast, and some with different strains of Brett—that will ultimately be blended back together for the final product.
- Oh yeah, some of the beer is sitting on Oregon-grown cherries, as well, to add yet another component.
- Jimmy’s estimate is that this beer will sell for $14-15 per bottle (estimate only, folks) and that this is going to be a very, very limited run, moreso that any other of their limited releases.
From everything I’ve heard, this is going to be something that very few brewers in the U.S. (if indeed any) have done. Very, very cool.
No definitive release date yet, though—it’s one of those "ready when it’s ready" beers.