How did you celebrate your 21st birthday? If you are like most Americans, it was probably spent sucking down shots of Sour Apple Pucker or doing a keg stand at some creepy frat party. Or, if you are like me, it involved two bud lights at an Outback Steakhouse in Topeka, Kansas in between work at play rehearsal. Yep, I was a bit of a party animal in my younger days… Well, I went to one of the coolest 21st birthday parties ever this week hosted by my friend Abigail Kempf, marketing guru for New Chicago Beer Company. She orchestrated a craft beer and food pairing dinner for a friend of the family and I was insanely jealous that I did not have someone to guide me through a craft beer tasting when I became of legal drinking age.
Abby outdid herself on food and separated the evening into four courses (appetizers, salad, dinner, and dessert) and each course was paired with three beers. The appetizer course consisted of kale chips; cheese and crackers; French bread with olive tapenade; and mini pigs in a blanket, and these were paired with Baderbrau Pilsner (Chicago, IL), Victory Prima Pils (Downingstown, PA), and Metropolitan Iron Works Alt (Chicago, IL). These lighter beers paired very well with the cheeses. As these beers were lagers and a lager hybrid, I discussed the differences between ales (top-fermented at warm temperatures) and lagers (bottom-fermented at cool temperatures), as well as what constitutes a hybrid beer (an Alt is fermented at warm temperatures and then dropped to cooler temperatures). Out of these three, the birthday girl liked the Metropolitan Iron Works the best as it did not have as much of a bitter finish as the other two.
The second course was a summer salad with dried cherries, gorgonzola cheese, pecans, croutons, and a homemade champagne vinaigrette dressing. This course was paired with Two Brothers Domaine DuPage French Country Ale (Warrenville, IL), Half Acre Daisy Cutter (Chicago, IL), and Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen (Chico, CA). Of these, the birthday girl enjoyed the Kellerweis the best as, again, it was the least bitter. This selection of brews sparked a good conversation regarding ingredients. I discussed how the Daisy Cutter probably had a relatively simple malt bill in order to showcase the hops, and that the Kellerweis was a wheat beer that demonstrated banana and clove flavors thanks to the yeast.
The fourth course was a pork tenderloin with asparagus and it was paired with Abita Turbo Dog Brown Ale (New Orleans, LA), Stone/Victory/Dogfish Head‘s Saison Du Buff aged in Red Wine Barrels (San Diego, CA), and Lakefront Fixed Gear American Red Ale (Milwaukee, WI). All of these beers were a little on the advanced side so the birthday girl didn’t really care for any of them. I was a little disappointed with the Saison Du Buff; it was difficult to pick out the flavors imparted by the barrels since the herbs were so pronounced.
For the dessert course, Abby put together a scrumptious brownie sundae bar, complete with homemade brownies, three flavors of ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, and cherries. Yum! The beers for this course were the Bully Porter from Boulevard Brewing (Kansas City, MO), Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout (Kalamazoo, MI), and my contribution to the evening, Three Floyd’s 2012 Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (Munster, IN). The birthday girl did not particularly enjoy the Bully Porter as it was bitter in a roasty-coffee way. And while everyone was thrilled at the chance to try the coveted Dark Lord, it was still too young and should remain in the bottle a bit more; there were intense stone fruit flavors that should develop nicely with time.
Abby did a phenomenal job of putting on a fun and educational event for a dear friend. The birthday girl kept looking at Abby, expressing her gratitude that someone would go to so much trouble to put on such a great birthday party. I would like to thank Abby and her husband, Dan, for allowing me to participate in this event and talk the guests about some of the basics of beer and brewing. Abby and I discovered that we make a pretty good team so keep a look out for similar events in the future! Cheers!