This past Thursday night as a prelude to the Oregon Garden Brewfest, the Oregon Garden Resort hosted the Brewer’s Tasting Dinner featuring six courses paired with special beers (and one cider) all from brewers pouring at the Fest (thought the beers themselves weren’t necessarily pouring), and I have to say, it was even better than last year’s Dinner. Here’s my brief recap.
First course: cheese plate, Fontina, Boursin and a dill Havarti with dried fruit and crostini, and paired with a Flat Tail Brewing blend of their Pre-Prohibition Pilsner with a peach sour (not the Dry Hop Petit Saison that was on the menu). This was a great pairing, and the cheese plate by itself was generous; paired with the light and fruity beer, it worked really well together. The beer itself was really good—not sure I would have seen a Pre-Prohibition Pils and sour blending well together, but it really worked.
Second course: Blackened shrimp martini with fresh pico salsa and crab meat paired with Fort George Roses on Roses. I absolutely loved last year’s bourbon-barrel aged (and bottled) Roses on Roses, but this version (a newer batch, at 8.5% abv) wasn’t as memorable for me and I think was still a bit young for my tastes I think. (Important to note that others felt this version was better than the bottled one I liked.) The shrimp and crab cocktail was good but a bit awkward to eat.
Third course: Pork and baby apple bruschetta paired with 2 Towns Ciderhouse Traditions Ciderworks Vintage Amity Rose. This dry cider (named after the Willamette Valley orchard the fruit is sourced from) was aged in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels and had a lovely crisp fruity presence. It paired really, really well with the pork and apple; the only criticism I have of that dish is the “bruschetta” bread wasn’t toasted or crispy, but soft.
Fourth course: Spinach salad with smoked pears, walnuts and lemon vinaigrette paired with Alameda Brweing‘s White Peppercorn Saison. The key here is “smoked pears” which I really, really liked (this was the most memorable dish for me); they had a smoked meat kind of smell (really appetizing actually) and when combined with the other components of the salad were pretty amazing. The Saison was 4.5% abv, brewed with French Saison yeast, and in addition to adding peppercorns to the end of the boil, Alameda also “dry hopped” the beer with the peppercorns (dry corned?). It was a tasty, interesting beer and paired well with the salad.
Fifth course: Cornish game hen with grilled strawberries and root vegetables paired with Falling Sky Who Loves the Sun (a Winter Spice Ale). What the menu failed to menu was that the (half) game hen was wrapped in bacon(!). And, grilled strawberries are amazing. And even more so when wrapped in bacon. The beer was complex, brewed with “lots of herbs” and coconut sugar (never heard of this before) to 8% abv; additionally, elderberries and elderflowers, coriander, and chili peppers were added to this beer. Unfortunately there really wasn’t much of any heat I could get from the chilis (to my disappointment) but it was an interesting beer all the same.
Sixth course: Flourless chocolate cake with black cherry compote, paired with Santiam Brewing‘s Sangre De Cristo, an oak-aged Cabernet Stout. The dessert was amazing, but the beer was the most interesting piece: 13% abv (!) with 30% of the fermentable sugars coming from Cabernet wine grapes; I don’t remember if it was aged in wine barrels as well, but it would surprise me. The aroma of this beer was all Welches grape juice—not kidding—and it had a sweet, wine-infused property that actually hid the high strength of the beer well while still being a little “hot” and young. Likely the most interesting beer in a field of interesting ones, if not the best. I would definitely look for this again.
After dinner there was of course great company and more beer pouring; many of us retired to the Lounge after a bit to finish off the night, and I got to touch base with a number of other folks. All in all, it was a great evening and one of the most interesting beer dinners I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Definitely recommending this particular dinner to folks again for next year.
Disclosure: I got a free pass to the Dinner, as well as a night at the Resort and passes to the first day of the Oregon Garden Brewfest on Friday (detailed in the next post).