Saturday, May 17, 2008

Samuel Adams beer dinner recap

Samuel Adams Beer Dinner at RiojaAmerica is celebrating American Craft Beer Week and breweries all over the country are helping to spread the word about craft beer and how well it goes with all kinds of food.

The Boston Beer Company set out on a 10 city tour and partnered up with some great restaurants to showcase their ales and to share some great meals with the beer loving public. I was lucky enough to receive two complimentary tickets to the May 15th Denver beer dinner at the Rioja restaurant in downtown Denver. I wanted to share this experience with some friends so I brought along a couple of co-workers with me.

The Rioja restaurant is in the heart of downtown Denver Colorado and is in a perfect location. It is close enough to walk to from the theater center and about 5 blocks from Coors Field. We arrived just a few minutes before the dinner was to start. We were ushered into a side room where 40 to 45 fellow craft beer lovers were enjoying a sampling of one of three Samuel Adams craft beers.

Our hosts for this evening were Bob Cannon and Katie Powell from the Boston Beer Company. Bob is one of the brewers for Samuel Adams and Katie is part of the Marketing group. Once everyone had gotten a chance to get to know each other, we all took our seats. Bob Cannon then spoke to the crowd to share his insights into the joys of fine craft beer and how well it pairs with food.

The menu for this evening was personally selected by the head chef and co-owner of the restaurant, Jennifer Jasinski. Prior to the meal, Jennifer worked with Boston Beer to sample and pair each of the three beers to be served with some of the best dishes she could come up with. Placed on each setting at the table was a custom printed menu for the evening. Every course of the meal would either be cooked with some of the paired beer or contain some of the same ingredients found in the beer. As you can see from the menu, we were going to be in for a real treat tonight.

The first selection of the night was called the "amuse". This was a small item meant to awaken the palette. The amuse contained two types of seafood including some crab meat. We also received our first beer of the evening which was their Samuel Adams Summer Ale. This ale was a freshing wheat beer that had several exotic spices including some coriander. It had a wonderful citrusy aroma and would go great with many types of food including fish. Perfect type of beer for a warm summer day. The amuse was meant to be a quick start to the meal. Just enough to wet the appetite.

Quickly after, the appetizer was served. This was the 1st course of the meal. We were served a wonderful "coriander crusted scallops" dish. Atop the scallops was a tuna tartare, along with a carrot coriander nage and a pickled cucumber salad. Notice the inclusion of coriander - one of the main spices of the Summer Ale. I was really getting into this. The scallops were cooked to perfection and paired perfectly with the Summer Ale. I was really "digging" this food and was ready for more.

The proportions of this course was perfect as I still had plenty of room for the rest of the meal. Again after this portion of the meal, Bob stood up and told us a bit more about their next beer and about their special custom made Boston Lager glass that came with it. Each of the guests were given a complimentary Boston Lager glass with their meal. This glass had a lot of curves built in and had a laser etching in the bottom which made the beer bubble up from below. Their flagship beer "Samuel Adams Boston Lager" was to be the beer to be paired with the main course.

The main dish tonight was the "Boston Lager braised beef short ribs". Along with that came some faro risotto, herb roasted organic stuffed squash and some crispy onion toppings. This time, the food was cooked in some of the beer it was paired with. The ribs were melt in your mouth good and again, served in just the right proportions. We received a full glass of Boston Lager with this course. One of my friends there wasn't a big beer lover but stated that once you tasted the beef and then took a drink of the Boston Lager the beer really tasted superb! I'm a big fan of ribs and this meal was definitely hitting the spot.

The last course of the meal was dessert. The servers brought out a small beer glass filled with vanilla ice cream and cherries with an edible straw in the middle. Beside this was two chocolate cookies with cream filling. I first expected to have their third beer poured into a separate glass but then saw the servers pour the Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat beer on top of the ice cream. This created an awesome looking Vanilla Cherry Float. The cherry wheat beer really brought out the aroma of the cherries in the glass. You could stir up the concoction with the straw and sip it and then eat the rest of the straw. Wow. That was tasty. I've tried beer floats with porters and stouts before, but never with a wheat beer. It was great! I also tried the Cherry Wheat beer by itself. You don't notice the cherry aroma or flavor as much as a stand alone but when you taste the beer with the ice cream and cherries, the cherry flavor is really brought out.

Midway through the dessert, our wonderful chef Jennifer came out of the kitchen to talk with the crowd. She received a wonderful and well deserved round of applause from the entire room. Jennifer was kind enough to describe how she paired her recipes with the beer and pose for a quick pic with yours truly. The food here at the Rioja is truly a work of art and is highly recommended. I'm hoping that Boston Beer selects the Rioja again sometime for a dinner.

The meal wrapped up shortly after 10pm. The entire meal was the perfect example of how great craft beer can be paired with a wide variety of food. From seafood, to beef, to even ice cream there's bound to be one beer that will taste great with it. The three of us had a fantastic time. We'd definitely do this again. A big thanks to Bob, Katie and Jennifer and the wonderful staff at Rioja for hosting this most excellent meal. If you ever get a chance to attend a beer dinner sponsored by one of your favorite breweries - DO IT! It just may inspire you to cook some of your own meals and pair it with your favorite beer.

I took a short 3-minute video of one of Bob's beer talks. It was taken with a very low res digital camera. The image quality is poor but I believe you can hear Bob if you turn up the volume a bit and capture a taste of what the evening was like. Can't wait for the next dinner. Salute!

Related articles:
- Samuel Adams Cream Stout review
- Samuel Adams Honey Porter review
- Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock review

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