Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Dinner With Tomme

5/21: Tomme Arthur beer dinner at Union hosted by the Rare Beer Club. Six courses of American Bistro-Style cuisine paired with beers by Artisinal Brewer Tomme Arthur. Woo woo! This should be good. Tomme says that he doesn't brew Belgian-Style beer but Belgian-Inspired beer, cool with me, but they're still Belgian-Styled beers.

• Hors d'oeuvres: Nice firm and nutty prosciutto with toasted Spanish almonds and batter fried quail legs served with the Lost Abbey Devotion ale. Dry, drinkable and dry-hopped glass of "6". Firm resinous bitterness and soft conditioning. A nice pair with the prosciutto not so much with the quail (too much batter coating, tough, dry meat).

• Foie Gras Terrine with Pear Mostarda (pear candied with mustard) served with Mahleur Brut Reserve. The Lost Abbey beer "Signature" was not available due to Customs SNAFU so was replaced by the Brute. Amazing glass of beer; elegant aromas of perfumed tropical breezes, deep earthy cellar flavors, luscious velvet-like mouthfeel, warming and heady at the finish. Excellent pair with the liver, both similarly rich on the palate but played with the spicy/sweet pear/mustard and the effervescent Brut. Nicely done.

• Seared Halibut with Braised Morel, English Peas served with Lost Abbey Avant Garde ale. Tomme Arthurs' Blonde Biere de Garde didn't display the dry, earthy richness I associate with this type of beer. A fine, dry cracker malt character, bitter forward (slightly too much so) and a tad too much spritz in the condition. Seemed to close to the Devotion. The dish was similarly a little loose; fish slightly overdone, not enough morel and the peas too firm. Better yet would have been a larger proportion of morel presented as ragout placed over a rich puree of peas and topped with a flash seared piece of fish. The highest quality halibut can stand to be served slightly less than medium. No matter what the Health Department says.

• Braised Veal Cheek with Potato and Ramp Puree, Roasted Artichokes served with Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale. EEK! The servers are swirling the bottles! Yuk, serving the lees should be optional at best. I'm careful to select from the brighter pours from here on. Tomme Arthurs' updated Pizza Port SPF 45 Saison; a very expressive mix of earthy perfumes, spices, lightly resinous bitterness, tart mineral-like yeast and firm effervescence. Paired with a drop dead amazing dish of intensely rich and flavorful fall-apart-under-the-fork cheek, rich buttery puree and fleshy artichoke. Good pairing where the beers' black peppery notes complimented the dish and forward bitterness and firm conditioning kept the palate bustling.

• Roasted Venison served with Lost Abbey 10 Commandments ale. Tomme Arthurs' updated Pizza Port SPF 8 Saison; strong, dark and richly flavored, firm bodied and dry chocolatey, light rum and raisin flavors complimented by a light peppery yeast character. Served with a very rich and firm medallion of venison loin with a red wine/dried cherry jus. A good dish but after that veal cheek, it just doesn't show very well. Pairs with the beer OK, nice warm spiciness of the beer compliments the venison. I might have chosen something else, duck, goose or wild boar, to pair game with the 10C. Texturally the venison was just too big and chewy.

• Chocolate Terrine, Coffee Ice Cream, Pistachio Brittle served with Cuvee de Tomme 2005. Aromatic and funky; strong, dark chocolate, bourbon oak, meaty cherry pit and wonderful Brettanamyces tang. A delicious take on the Belgian Sour Red. Served with a challenging chocolate terrine; too starchy tasting with a slightly gritty texture. OK ice cream and just a dusting of the brittle. Better yet would have been a single simple chocolate truffle faintly infused with black pepper. The Cuvee de Tomme is a deeply flavored glass of beer. Almost too much to serve just to wash down a desert. Maybe a sliver of a hard, aged cheese, Manchego or Edam; a slight salty/nutty counterpoint to the fruit and tang of the Cuvee would be nice. I could go on and on. Man, it was tasty.

Does it seem like "earthy" as a flavor descriptor is overused here? What the hey, if the shoe fits... "Beer Style" or the language we use to define and describe beer flavor always reflects where the beer comes from. Tomme Arthur is partial to Farmhouse or Country Style beers, Saison and Blonde/Brune Biere de Garde are just the starting points. These types of beers come from the land and the people who work the land. These beers will share aromas and flavors with the things that come out of that ground and that ground itself. Tomme Arthur considers himself an artist, his palette is beer flavor and he has deep talent for creating a true expression of where beer comes from.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Brewers Cup Runneth Over

5/5: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day One. Showed up early out at Redhook Woodinville to help pull entries and whatnot. Sat two flights. Seven Pilsner entries; Germans and Bohemians and one Classic American Pilsner (Advanced to BOS). Seven Stout entries; all the substyles represented except for Russian Imperial Stout. The best was a very nice Foreign Extra.

5/12: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day Two. Showed up early out at Redhook Woodinville to help setup, pull entries and yes, whatnot. Sat three flights. Nine American Ale entries; Pales and Ambers. One of the Pales was nice, scored a 37. Seven Belgian and French Ale entries; three Wits, a Belgian Pale, a Saison and a "Specialty Ale" (no French bieres). One flight of 4 Other Smoked Beers and 3 Wood Aged Beers; good entries overall, the Smoked Dunkelweizen advanced to BOS. Excellent beer; sweet roll malt flavors, firm banana, warm spice phenol (clove, cardamom) and firm smoke. Think Bananas' Foster over the campfire. Should have been the big session but only 6 judges showed. Bummer.

5/16: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day Three. Pick-up judging session at Mountain Homebrew to make up for getting stiffed last Saturday. Sat one flight of Specialty Beer (Huzzah!). Interesting ingredients, etc.; a very fine Berliner Weisse (firm carbonation, soft lactic character, dry with green apple notes) and a handful of entries that appeared to be Dogfish clones (a Golden Shower-like Strong Bohemian Pilsner, an Indian Brown and a Black & Blue-like beer but with cherries along with the blueberries instead of blackberries).

5/19: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day Four. Lake Washington Rowing Club at 9AM. Sat a flight of Russian Imperial Stout with 8 entries. Solid low to mid 30's and then a 41 for the final entry. Great glass of beer; rich complex malt flavors, tons of chocolate, dried dark fruit and alcohol, low carbonation with a velvety mouthfeel. Sat the Best of Show round. That was a bit of allright, took a bit long to get it knocked out though. Win, Place, Show turned out to be a Weissbier, an American IPA and a British-Style Premium Bitter. The Best to Brew prize went to the 41 point RIMP.

Cheers to the Brewers' Cup Organizer for pulling the Competition along kicking and screaming. For a club that has a national level competition written into the bylaws you'd figure that it wouldn't be so hard to get the clubs' judges to participate. Sheesh. Anyways, I believe that I now have enough experience points fer me National pin. Yes!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Real Corker

5/8: Batch primed, dosed with a bit of fresh yeast and bottled the Golden Strong. Put it into "Belgian-Style" brown glass bottles (750's with the broad shoulders) and corked 'em. Cages took a bit to get a suitable method down. Fingers crossed.

Got down to 2P for terminal gravity. That dose of sugar at high krausen must've worked well. Out of the carboy the beer is a deep gold, has a fine malt sweetness, a firm phenolic spiciness and a quite forward hop character. Bitterness apparent with a firm spicy/herbal hop flavor. Finishes a bit grassy, sl. chewy with a lingering anise-like note. Should be great after conditioning.