Oregon Garden Brewfest: Brewer’s Tasting Dinner

OGBF Brewer's Tasting Dinner menuOn Thursday night, the Oregon Garden Resort hosted the Brewer’s Tasting Dinner precursor to the weekend’s Oregon Garden Brewfest: the first year they’ve done a beer-pairing dinner I believe. I’d been invited to attend (along with a number of other regional bloggers), both the Dinner and the OGBF the next day (see my disclosure at the bottom of this post), so naturally doing what I do I took a number of pictures and wrote down notes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Dinner, both for the company (blogger friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen since last year) and for the food and beer. I will right up front say that not all the beer worked for me, and while I enjoyed the food for the most part, I heard from some folks who weren’t as impressed. As with anything along these lines, you mileage will vary of course. Me, I enjoyed it and had a good time.

The dinner itself consisted of six courses each paired with a special beer from various Oregon breweries, and afterwards guests were invited to retire to the Fireside Lounge to enjoy a drink (with a special coupon discount) and mingle with the featured brewers.

In the interest of blatant blogger name-dropping, among the various people I got to visit with were Lisa Morrison, Michael Umphress, Jeff Alworth, Patrick Emerson, Ezra Johnson-Greenough, Sanjay Reddy, Chris Crabb, Martin Cizmar, Charles Culp, John Foyston, and others that I am forgetting at the moment. Honestly, getting the chance to reconnect with folks and share dinner with them was worth the trip to Silverton alone, everything else was just a bonus. To paraphrase the late Don Younger, it’s not about the beer, it’s about the people.

Of course, there was the beer and the food: you can view the pictures I took from the gallery below (in order by course), and I also jotted down notes for each beer. They were:

First course: 4-year-old cheddar, herbed chevre, and smoked gouda paired with crostini; paired with Logsdon Farmhouse Ales‘ Barrel-aged Seizoen Bretta. (Introduced by Dave Logsdon.)

This beer was aged in a pinot noir barrel and then pear juice was added and it was refermented in the keg. I wrote: “Nice tangy flavors drawn out by the wood; soft and fruity flavors pair well to cut creaminess of cheese.” Indeed this was one of the standout beers of the evening and the cheese was excellent as well.

Second course: Belgian endive filled with a blend of olives, capers,  roasted red pepper and caramelized onions; paired with GoodLife Brewing‘s Traditions Pale Ale. (Introduced by Pratt Rather.)

I heard comments that the dish was too salty but I enjoyed it. The “Traditions Pale Ale” was a batch of GoodLife’s first pale ale that they had put in a barrel (the same one that appeared at last year’s Little Woody I think); if I remember right, six months on wood and then six months on stainless steel. GoodLife’s Pratt Rather remarked that he hoped the beer was okay, he hadn’t tasted it before tonight. I wrote: “Not as good as their regular Pale Ale. Interesting wood character (some vanillin character comes out) but kind of flat”—in other words, 12 months of aging killed the hop character.

Third course: Warm potato salad with Persian Blue potatoes, new red and Yukon gold potatoes, tossed with sweet bacon dressing; paired with Seven Brides Brewing‘s Rose’s Imperial Pilsner.

I enjoyed the dish, the beer less so unfortunately. I wrote, “Sweetness to it which clashes a bit with the bitter and slightly alcoholic kick. Ok.” I wonder if it just wasn’t properly attenuated, done fermenting yet—maybe rushed to have it ready for the dinner?

Fourth course: Fresh spring mix tossed with raspberry vinaigrette and topped with bleu cheese, grapes, and candied hazelnuts; paired with Widmer Marionberry Hibiscus Gose.

The perfect beer to pair with a salad, and while the salad was fine (it was just a salad after all) the beer was fantastic. I wrote, “Ok, love this beer—berry is subtle as is the coriander and salt—super drinkable, lovely tart character where the berries come back out of it at the end—like eating fresh and sour raspberries off the bush.” I wish (hope) they would bottle this beer!

Fifth course: Braised beef short rib slow roasted with a root vegetable demi-glace (also potatoes and golden cauliflower); paired with Gigantic Brewing‘s The City Never Sleeps Imperial Black Saison.

This was a big plate of food, and I enjoyed it—beef short rib tends toward a fattier cut which I don’t think everyone enjoyed but I thought it was well-prepared. Gigantic’s beer is basically their first one, brewed for Portland’s Cheers to Belgian Beers, and with a name/”style” like “Imperial Black Saison” you can’t help but be interested. So I was looking forward to trying it. I wrote, “Roasty, ‘dark’ notes on the nose. Much lighter than I’d expect but refreshing with a fruity and coffee base. Really nice and different, hard to describe—like a… coffee saison?”

It’s worth noting I saw someone else describe it as “smoky,” and another comment was that it was “a good porter.”

Sixth course: Poached pear with a marscarpone cheese filling; paired with Hopworks Urban Brewery‘s Galactic Imperial Red.

I should confess that by the dessert course, I was already pretty full and struggling a bit to keep up. And, this dessert course was the only one that didn’t work for me (and others): the pear was severely under-poached so that it was still almost crunchy. It should have been fork-tender and almost syrupy instead. But the marscarpone filling was great.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong kind of beer pairing as well; I wrote, “Big, hoppy, really good beer but doesn’t pair well with dessert.” Really, nothing at all against the beer; but HUB’s Galactic would best pair with a carrot cake. Perhaps HUB’s new Belgian-style Abbey Ale would have paired better?

Overall I liked the dinner and think it was a success. Following the table service we visited for a bit in the banquet room before heading over to the Fireside Lounge for a final beer of the evening (with a $1 off coupon) and was delighted to discover Widmer’s Lemongrass Wheat Ale (from the Brother’s Reserve series) on tap, and they served it up in a pint glass! Unfortunately it was well past its prime, without the lovely lemony citrus character it should have had. (I wouldn’t be surprised if people just didn’t know what to do with a “lemongrass wheat” beer and the keg sat untouched for a long while.)

Here’s the gallery of photos I took for the evening:

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And, that disclosure I mentioned above: I was offered not only a media pass to the first day of the Brewfest (Friday), but also a pass to the Tasting Dinner and a free night at the Oregon Garden Resort. The media pass consisted of two commemorative glasses and ten tasting tickets. (We paid for a second Dinner for my wife, and paid for a second night at the Resort to stay until Saturday, as well as  extra tasting tickets.)