I love hanging around “beer people.” Not only are beer people generally laid back, friendly and helpful, they rarely settle for the status quo. Whether it’s pushing the envelope while brewing or searching for their next favorite beer, they are never content to let things get stagnant.
There is also a point in time when beer people realize that beer is not only great on it’s own, it is even better with food. I’m not talking about beer and pizza. I’m talking about a Flanders Red with a goat cheese omelet. Crazy stuff that pushes the imagination and the palette to new heights and experiences.
That brings me to Barleywine Weekend V. Over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Nicole and I were honored to be invited to attend a long weekend with beer-loving friends in the mountains. The tradition started five years ago when a small group of hard-core beer geeks wanted to have a weekend centered around an under-appreciated style of beer; they chose barleywine.
The general format of the weekend is this: Friday night is beer theme night (this year’s is canned beer), Saturday is food and beer pairing, and Sunday is nothing but barleywine.
The weekend started off with a dramatic flare. The owner of the house somehow forgot to let the property manager know that we were coming, so the quarter-mile long uphill driveway on the top of a mountain was not plowed and was still covered with snow and ice.
None of our cars could make it very far up the hill, so we parked at the bottom of the drive. However, after getting in touch with the property manager, he was going to come out and get some things touched up for us. So, we needed to move our cars so he could get his truck up.
Well, I had a small mishap while backing up my car, and while looking over my left shoulder to prevent sliding down a 15-foot hill, I got too close to the other side and the car slid down into a two-foot ditch.
Luckily, LeRoy, the property manager showed up about 15 minutes later and happened to have a truckload of firewood. A 65-year veteran of the mountain, he immediately set us to chopping wood, clearing the snow in front of the car, and built a small ramp for me to drive my car out of the ditch. The car only suffered some minor scratches. I am eternally grateful to LeRoy, could have been a disaster…
Once we finally got settled in, we began our canned beer tasting. 24 beers were sampled, and PBR and Natty Light were not in the mix. As a matter of fact, there was only one Oskar Blues beer in the spread, Dale’s Pale Ale.
Saturday was an incredible display of culinary ability. It was like an amateur version of Top Chef with beer pairings. Everyone brought there A-game, as there were 11 dishes in all. We started at 1 pm and finished around 11. There is nothing like eating for 10 straight hours.
With the smaller portions of each dish, I somehow managed to avoid getting full until around the 7th or 8th round. However, each dish was amazing, and I had to try each. It was a struggle toward the end, but I persevered and made it. (It took about five days for my digestive system and my weight to return to their pre-BBW status.)
I’ve included photos and a description of a few of the dishes below if you’re interested in the pairings.
On Sunday we started the day a beautiful pre-lunch mini-hike down a snowy road below the house, where an offshoot lead to a natural bridge. Upon our return we were treated to a pairing of two of soups and grilled cheese.
Later that afternoon we broke into the barleywines. We started out with five or six homebrewed barleywines, which were just as good as the commercial versions we tried afterward. We had some talented brewers in our midst.
In total, we had 24 barleywines to taste, but once we got to about 15 or 16, it became obvious that we wouldn’t make it through them all. Barleywine is rich, malty and typically over 10% ABV.
So call us pansies, but in the interest of public safety and next-day headaches, we called it at 16. Like the end of a cigar, it just wasn’t tasting good any more.
We had so much good beer, good food and silliness, but three days is about all my 34-year old body can take. I wish I could stay in the mountains forever, but it was good to get back to clean livin’ with lots of water, exercise and vegetables.
However, I’ve already started brainstorming for BWW VI. I’m not a rookie anymore, and it’s time to bring the thunder.
The Beer & Food Pairings
If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to go with the mojo marinated pork tenderloin on a bed of collards. The collards cooked in stock and a ham bone all afternoon. They were incredibly tender and succulent. The moderate hop flavor and bitterness from the Sweetwater IPA provided a spicy contrast to the savory pork and collards. Great job, Matt and Christina!
Compliments to all the other chefs, as well. Each pairing was amazing, and I’m not just saying that to be nice. Beer people know their food. They go hand in hand, and these beer geeks know their palate.