Being the first in a short series of posts about this year’s Oregon Garden Brewfest.
Our Garden Brewfest weekend began Thursday evening with the Brewer’s Tasting Dinner that takes place each year at the Oregon Garden Resort. This was the third year they’ve hosted this dinner, and this year’s was the biggest (they increased the attendance by something like 60 people) and best, offering six courses paired with a range of beer styles from mostly-Oregon breweries (Stone Brewing from California was the dessert pairing).
(Full disclosure: once again, they offered a number of dinner passes and a free night’s stay at the Resort to a number of media reps (and I would imagine brewery reps as well); I was included on that list, so my dinner was comped along with the one night (we purchased a dinner ticket for my wife as well as a second night) as well as attendance for one day of the Fest.)
In previous years the seating was arranged with round tables, eight to a table; this year, with the added attendance they switched to rectangular tables that could seat 12 and had them packed in a bit more. But it didn’t feel crowded.
Here’s the menu they presented:
I’ve got a picture and comments for each course below, but overall I have to say I think the Resort knocked it out of the park this year; for me all six courses were excellent and the beers were great pairings as well, and good all around. Not everyone shared my opinion, of course; several tablemates though the first course (goat cheese fritters) should have had a cream sauce to accompany it, for instance, and others thought the linguini pasta (fourth course) was bland. My wife didn’t care for the dandelion greens (the salad). Personally I enjoyed each course and really have no criticisms this year.
First course: Hazelnut crusted goat cheese fritters garnished with micro greens and a lemon tarragon vinaigrette. Beer: Golden Valley Brewery Pinot Noir Barrel-aged Geistbock. The beer had a nice Pinot character coming through and paired well with the tangy goat cheese.
Second course: Smoked sausage potato cake topped with a garlic and stone ground mustard aioli. Beer: Rusty Truck Brewing Simcoe CDA. The potato cake was well done and I really liked the stone ground mustard. The beer itself was one of the best I’ve had from Rusty Truck, a well-balanced Cascadian Dark Ale (and I’m usually picky about CDAs).
Third course: Red baby dandelion leaves tossed with boursin cheese, shaved pickled red onion, candied walnuts and dressed with a ginger/sesame vinaigrette. Beer: BridgePort Brewing Mettle & Mash Ginger Hibiscus Saison. The dandelion greens were nicely bitter and the beer cut through that well. It was a nice saison with a touch of tart.
Fourth course: Linguini pasta tossed with sautéed garlic, shrimp, laurel and juniper berries in a white wine butter sauce. Beer: Salem Ale Works Juniperus IPA. I really liked this beer, juniper can be a tough spice to work with (you can go from “gin” to “turpentine” really easily) but it was handled beautifully in this IPA. The pasta and shrimp were good as well, the juniper dialed back a bit but still present.
Fifth course: Pork confit inside half an artichoke topped with a honey, ginger, sake sauce. Beer: Cascade Brewing Honey Ginger Lime. This dish was OMG-mazing. The pork was tender and succulent, the sauce incredible, and the artichoke was just as succulent as well. This was simply fantastic. The beer was a good match as well, a sweet-sour-ish ginger beer with a bit of lime tartness; it cut through the pork and sauce and cleansed the palate for the next bite.
Sixth (and final) course: Chocolate turtle tort with hazelnut and sea salt crust. Beer: Stone Brewing 2014 Old Guardian Barleywine. This is the dessert version of the previous course, just amazing, very possibly the best dessert I have ever had. The sea salt was unbelievable. I didn’t even finish! And it was incredibly, incredibly sweet and rich; you’re looking at diabetes on a plate right there. The beer pairing was perfect for it, malty, rich, luscious.
It was a great, lively crowd, and dinners like this are always a good chance to meet new people in the industry: I ended up sitting next to Jamie and Eric “Howie” Howard, owners of Albany, Oregon’s newest brewery, Deluxe Brewing (just opened this past September). What makes Deluxe stand out among Oregon brewers is that they are an all-lager brewery, plus they are also distilling (as “Sinister Distilling”). Their regular line-up includes a Pre-Prohibition Pilsner, Amber Lager, and Schwarzbier (the Pils and Schwarz were pouring at the Fest), and had just brewed a Maibock which would be available soon. They have a 15-barrel production brewhouse and I think will be one to watch.
After the dinner the party moved to the Resort’s Lounge, where there was live music playing and more beer to be had. We stayed for a bit but honestly at that point, full from dinner and plenty of beer (in addition to the copious beer available with each course, I had enjoyed a pint of Double Mountain Vaporizer just prior to dinner (not to mention the two beers I’d had at the Gallon House in Silverton not too many hours before), we were pretty full so headed out shortly after.
All in all, a great dinner and start to the Brewfest weekend. If you get the chance to participate in the Brewer’s Tasting Dinner next year, it’s well worth it and I would highly encourage you to do so!