What if I told you that you could:
- Stay three nights in a 5 bedroom mountain home with a guest house
- Sample 60+ beers over those three days
- Dine on gourmet dishes, including a 9-course all-day beer/food pairing
It was a personal beer festival. How much would you pay for such an adventure? Over MLK weekend, 9 friends and I spent about $230/person to pull this off. All it takes is some creativity, a fearless sense to push the envelope of pleasure, sprinkled a little bit of work and preparation. I thought it was a deal. Hell, Savor in DC is over $100/ticket, and you’re only there for three hours.
Friday night we started off with homemade pizzas on the grill. We had three different varieties: Margherita, homemade sausage with pappadeaux peppers, and the Figgy Piggy (figs, bacon, caramelized onions and arugula), all cooked over a charcoal grill. The homemade sausage was spectacular and won the night.
Our beer theme for Friday was saisons. We ended up sampling about 16 saisons while we ate pizza. My personal favorites were Foret and Odonata.
As with many weekend reunions with friends (think weddings, getting together with college buddies, or going to Las Vegas), I feel like I shot myself out of a cannon Friday night. I may have had a little too much of Matt’s homebrew before beginning the saison tasting, but Saturday started a little rough.
However, this was Barleywine Weekend, dammit, and I had 9 beer and food pairings to crush on Saturday. Four cups of French pressed coffee and a gatorade later I was back on my horse!
Such an excursion of culinary brilliance can only be explained through photographs:
Course 1 by Bobby Congdon
Course 2 by Brian and Nicole Cendrowski
Course 3 by Matt Schaefer
Course 4 by Ed Westbrook
Course 5 by Bobby Congdon
Course 6 by Bryan K. Smith
Course 7 by Cristina Schaefer
Course 8 by Nicole Cendrowski
Course 9 by Morgan Westbrook
Unfortunately, not pictured: Scottish sticky toffee pudding paired with a variety of beers and mead.
While every dish pairing was awesome (I’m not just saying that, they all really were delicious, no duds), I have to nominate the Porter Pancakes and the Chocolate Bacon Tart as my favorite pairings.
The Porter Pancakes had a lot going on, between the coffee whip cream, candied pecans and framboise reduction syrup, but all those flavors bounced off each other like kids in a mosh pit during 311’s Happy Slamdance Song (Do You Right) in 1996. The bouncer that restored order was the Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti. It was an intense delight to behold.
Then, toward the end of the night, when all palates were shot and you didn’t think you’d be able to taste a block of pure high-fructose corn syrup, in rode the Chocolate Bacon Tart on its horse with two Sunturnbrew six-shooters by its side. Holy smoke. A graham cracker crust with bacon crumbled into it, chocolate tart filling made with Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips, then topped with toasted cocoa nibs and more bacon crumbles.
The Sunturnbrew is a smoked barleywine from Norway, but not overly intense on the smokey side. The smokey-sweet intensity of the beer was a perfect pairing with the chocolate and bacon. It may have been the best pairing ever, and I give credit to Camron Read at the Greenville Beer Exchange for the Sunturnbrew idea. Home run, my friend.
After the saison cannon Friday night and eating food the entire day, Saturday night was a bit more tamed. I think lights were out in the house around 11 pm. It was a good night for rest and recuperation, for we knew what was ahead: Strong Ale Sunday.
The Duck and Strong Ale Sunday
I have long had an affinity for duck. Ever since I had my first dish of roasted duck with steamed buns at P.F. Chang’s many years ago, I have been drawn to this majestic amphibious avian.
Now, whenever I see duck on the menu when I’m out to eat, I must order the dish. It’s bordering on an obsession. So, it had to be that I would find a way to serve duck this weekend.
My inspiration came when Bobby told me he was going to bring his smoker and was planning on doing barbeque pork Sunday for dinner. After learning that they sold frozen whole ducks at the Asian grocery on Wade Hampton (for only $15), I knew I had to bring it. We needed a smoked duck.
I grabbed the first recipe I found when I Googled “whole smoked duck.” The marinade included fresh orange zest, sesame oil, white pepper, grated ginger and salt. After sitting with the marinade overnight, the duck spent three hours on the smoker, getting up to about 160 degrees.
The sauce that went with the duck drew rave reviews. A hoisin base was combined with chili-garlic sauce (I used Sriracha, the best hot sauce ever), fresh cilantro and basil (basil was my addition to the recipe) and grated ginger. It was awesome.
To top it off, Nicole prepared a large bowl of Asian slaw with Ramen. (Unfortunately, the slaw is not pictured.) While not a pairing with beer, the slaw and duck was amazing, if I do say so myself. (Thanks also go out to Matt, who also brought his smoker, upon which my duck rested.) Duck, while already high in my esteem, has risen even further. I hereby dub it the official Fowl of Barleywine Weekend.
The beers of Strong Ale Sunday were so numerous that it’s hard for me to even recall what was had. Some of my favorites that I do recall: 2009 North Coast Old Stock, the flight of Westbrook barrel-aged tripels (four varieties aged in different types of wine barrels), 2011 AleSmith Old Numbskull, 2010 Untamed Barleywine, and the 2008 Dogfish Head Immort Ale.
I will admit, I only made it to number 17 of the 27 total beers sampled that night. The good news? I wasn’t hung over. At 35, any time I can avoid a hangover and still enjoy good beer, I consider that a win.