Ambition, class, fun, innovative. All these words came to mind while attending the gala dinner awards ceremony in Chicago during the Brewers Association 2010 World Beer Cup. Much of what happened is an experiential metaphor for things going on in the beer world right now, and much of it is due to craft brewers.
Just look at the menu (pdf). Wow. What a display of bravado on the pairing front. Wine would never have worked as well with the food choices presented to the crowd of more than 1,800 people. That makes the World Beer Cup Gala the largest known beer dinner on the planet. Plus I gotta love at the same time having the fortune of attending the awards ceremony for the world’s largest commercial beer competition with many brewers in the audience to accept the awards.
Here’s the numbers for the World Beer Cup competition and then onto the food at the dinner. 3,330 beers from 642 breweries from 44 countries with 179 judges and 62% of the judges were from outside the U.S. WOW. And as far as domestic entries 47 of the 50 U.S. states entered. Poor North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia. Next time (2012 as the World Beer Cup is a bi-annual event) I hope you guys throw your hats in the ring too. Check out the winners list.
And the pairing menu. When it comes to beer and food, and also cooking with craft beer, I love talking about the principals my mind and mouth have figured out and sharing what I have learned from so many beer experts. How the bitterness from hops cut through fat, how salt counters sourness of beer and wine, how the sweetness of malt from craft beer really knocks it out of the park and soothes the heat of spicy food. Also it’s important to talk about how cooking with craft beer concentrates flavors so bitter beers are a trick to work with, and letting people taste how beer’s flavors are emphasized when cooked down.
I love when it’s proven that craft beer picks up where wine leaves off in pairing (wine mostly contrasts against food where as craft beer both contrasts and complements). Ok enough already…here is the start to my notes from the dinner prepared by Chef Sean Paxton and the great Randy Mosher.
First Course: Local Cured Meats, A Selection of Mid West Cheeses, Served with Amarillo hop encrusted nuts, Cascade hop infused local honey, spent grain crackers and much more. Paired with: 2006 World Beer Cup gold award winner, Rye Beer, Piece Brewing, IL
Wow, hop honey. Really? Seemed somewhat sour with a very different nose than flavor. First beer of the evening went down so easily. Lots to sample from this selection as the table got settled and we confirmed our seating mates. Note to self: Josh Noel (pictured) from the Chicago Tribune is so down to earth. Check out his blog on the event here.
Second Course: Cream of Pearl Barley Soup paired with 2008 World Beer Cup gold award winner, Brown Porter, Bell’s Brewery, MI
One of my favorite pairings of the night. The barley added great texture to the creamy soup. Perfect example of how roasted malt (from the Porter) links in with flavors in food such as the earthyness of mushrooms in the soup and takes the taste buds to another dimension (I promise to blog about umami soon) .
Stay tuned. My fingers are tired and my stomach is hungry. More to follow in the next post.
Julia Herz a.k.a. Kid in a candy store (during this dinner!)
Beer photos © 2010 Jason E. Kaplan