Monday, March 29, 2010

Boulevard Beer Pairings

As you probably know, Boulevard has been partnering up with several local chefs & restaurants over the past year or so to provide some pretty fabulous beer pairings. In case you haven't been to one yet, I highly recommend you go. I went to my first one last summer at Extra Virgin and it was incredible. My favorite pairing was the fig tart and Sixth Glass ice cream with Sixth Glass (dessert - of course!).

It took me a while to make it to another one, but we did take the opportunity to go to their Brewmaster's Luncheon featuring J Gilbert's. I wrote about it over on a while back and am rehashing it here for a few reasons:
  1. I keep meaning to re-print (re-post?) it here
  2. I haven't posted in ages
  3. Another dinner is coming up, this time with Blue Grotto, and it promises to be another delicious event. 
Without much further ado, here's my experience from February's beer luncheon. The next one is on April 23rd.


Boulevard Brewery  has started up their Brewmaster Luncheons again, kicking off 2010’s series last week with a meal prepared by J Gilbert’s. My husband, John, and I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend this one – our first since they started the events.

Attendees gathered in the tasting room around 11:30, where we signed in and were greeted by a few Boulevard employees. A tour of the brewery commenced shortly after 11:30, leaving any latecomers to find our group tucked between transfer pipes and stacked bags of ingredients. While the group watched an introductory video on beer ingredients and production, I wandered around our little area to capture some pictures of typical brewhouse surroundings. Like many breweries, Boulevard adds hop aroma and bitterness with both whole hop flowers and pellets (crushed flowers compressed into little bits looking much like rabbit food). I also noticed several sacks of brown sugar, which are presumably used for a Belgian-style Smokestack beer.

From there, we settled into the barrel room where some smokestack beer laid aging in whiskey barrels. Brewmaster Steven Pauwels joined us there, offering us glasses of Collaboration #1 while discussing the genesis of the Imperial Pilsner. The beer had been poured from draft, which is a treat only available at the brewery.

After marinating in the earthy, wooden goodness of the barrel room, we then moved on to gather under the fermentation tanks to watch a video on yeast and the process of turning sugary wort into beer. Again, my attention to the video waned and I wandered about, taking note of all the dials, controls, clamps, and other hardware in our surroundings. I’ve been on nearly two dozen brewery tours now, and the ones I enjoy the most are those that describe the marvels and factoids of the brewery’s gadgetry. While standing under the fermentation tanks, we learned that they hold about 600 barrels of beer, which is 1200 kegs or nearly 150,000 pints of beer. We also learned that Boulevard has a centrifuge that removes particles from most of their beer – then walked right past it without further mention. 1 for 2 isn’t bad.

It was then on to the packaging line, where we watched Single Wide IPA go from being poured into unlabeled bottles all the way to ending up in the box. While the video about bottling played, I became completely mesmerized by the rotating bottle filler, the winding paths of the bottling line, and the organized alignment of the bottle boxes. My stomach was complaining, though, and I couldn’t wait to get to the food!

Right after watching the bottling video, we were seated in the banquet hall in the new building; first to the table was a fantastic scallop and fennel dish paired with Boulevard Pilsner. The pilsner was a perfect match with the seared scallops, as its high carbonation and light, hoppy flavor cleaned the palate after every bite. It’s worth mentioning that the scallops were properly cooked – lightly seasoned and not overdone in the slightest.

The main entrée was a sage potato gratin with blackened beef filet and mushrooms sautéed in Boulevard Wheat, paired with the Irish Red. I thought the flavor of the beef was overwhelmed by the seasonings, but I find that somewhat common with “blackened” foods. The toasted malt and moderate hop bitterness of the Irish Red took on the seasoning well, however, and I thought the pairing was well-matched despite my opinion of the steak.

Finally, we were presented with dessert:  an amazing bread pudding with Rye-on-Rye blueberry chutney, paired with Boulevard’s Dubbel. The Dubbel is a recipe they are still modifying and testing, but I found it to be quite drinkable. It had a fantastic fruited-malt flavor, with just a hint of spice. Pauwels stopped by around the time we were finishing off our bread pudding and explained that his affinity for star anise led to its inclusion in the Dubbel. It was a nice touch, adding a bit of an earthy balance to the molasses flavor in the beer.  As for the dessert, I never would have thought to pair Rye-on-Rye with blueberries, but it was a perfect blend of flavor. In hindsight, it makes sense since blueberries and spice go so well together. Surely, a rye-on-blueberry cobbler is in my future. (Or perhaps a barrel-aged rye-blueberry braggot? Oh my.)

Overall, I found the luncheon to be well worth the trek to Southwest Boulevard in the middle of the day. Though I’d rather have the Boulevard tour guides – not videos – provide us with all of the brewery information and history, that’s not really much of a complaint as it is a preference. The staff were all friendly, the food was fantastic, and the beer was delicious as always. I certainly enjoyed the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone considering signing up.

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