Beer Bloggers Conference 2012 Food Review

Greetings all, I just returned to DC from the 3rd annual Beer Bloggers Conference and I wanted to share some of the fantastic pairings that I enjoyed over the weekend.

Goose Island Dinner

On Thursday night, there was a pre-conference beer dinner hosted in Chicago by Goose Island.  While I can find some Goose Island beer out in DC, there were quite a few brewpub-only offerings that I would have loved to spend some more time with. I arrived for the dinner a little early, so I ordered a Green Line pale ale to start.  I wasn’t aware of the menu at the time, but if I had known, I still would have gone with the Green Line. It was a very balanced pale ale, lots of floral hop and tang, with a clean and slightly bitter finish. The Goose Island folks were taking great care of us bloggers, though; we were each given a glass of the Goose Island Saison to start with before dinner.

Beer Bloggers Conference Food Review

The first course was trout with heirloom tomatoes, chevre, and balsamic vinegar. It was paired with the Lolita, an American wild ale. To me, this dish was more complemented by the Saison and the Green Line pale ale than the Lolita. The fish was very delicate, and not heavily seasoned; it couldn’t really stand up to the raspberry funk in the Lolita. I know that I’m biased; I’m not really the biggest fan of Belgian influence in beer. The tang of the chevre and the tomatoes matched beautifully with the Saison. Normally the earthiness in chevre isn’t my favorite, but in this case, it worked really well with the beer.

The second course was a pasta with pork belly, pappardelle, rosemary, and Camembert foam paired with the Matilda. The Matilda is a Belgian pale ale, and was pretty powerful ale. Right away I noticed a lot of sweet yeasty aromas, spice, and an underlying funk. I know that this beer is regarded as a great example of the style; unfortunately it’s not something that I enjoy personally. I loved this dish, but it really needs something to stand up to how rich and fatty it was. I would have paired this dish with an equally big beer, something with a very clean finish to cut through the fattiness of the pork and the cheese. I’d love to make something like this at home and serve it with Schlafly American IPA.

Pit Stop at Layfayette Brewing Company

On Friday, the bloggers all took a bus down from Chicago to Indianapolis, making a quick stop in Lafayette for lunch at the Lafayette Brewing Co. We were given a sampler of three of their beers to enjoy with a buffet of barbecued brisket and pork, and I was really impressed with their Tippecanoe Common Ale. Some common ales that I’ve tried in the past have left me feeling kind of lukewarm, I feel like some of them are missing that crucial malt backbone. The Tippecanoe was really excellent, though; some nice Amarillo hop notes peeking through and a very clean finish. I paired it with a lunch of some barbecue and then a small spinach salad.

Beer Bloggers Conference Food Review

For dessert, we were brought out some of their vintage (13 year old!) Big Boris Barleywine paired with a chocolate truffle made by a local candy shop. The overwhelming richness of the truffle really enhanced the aged quality of the barleywine, which was very easy to drink despite the 9% ABV.

Saturday Conference Festivities

Beer Bloggers Conference Food Review

On Saturday, we were treated to a lunch courtesy of Leinenkugel’s, out of Chippewa Falls. I haven’t tried very many of their beers, but this lunch was focused around their Big Eddy line, which made me very curious.

Just as we had been given the Saison to start off at Goose Island, we were greeted with a special hefeweizen, which I’ve never seen in bottles. It was a really great example of the style, lots of banana and clove notes, with some toasty malt. This was a really enjoyable beer, and I was glad to have the chance to try it. I only wish I was able to find it in bottles.

Beer Bloggers Conference Food Review

The first course was a salad with pretzel croutons, potato relish, sea salted pecans, duck crackle, and a raspberry vinaigrette paired with the Summer Shandy ale. This might surprise you, but prior to yesterday, I’d never tried a shandy style before. I was actually pleasantly surprised, although I don’t really think it’s my kind of thing overall. It was very refreshing and light, very drinkable for summer, and paired well with the salad. The dressing was a little overpowering for the potato and duck added in, but it was a good opening course.

Beer Bloggers Conference Food Review

The second course was a seared curried chicken breast, paired with the Big Eddy Imperial IPA. This beer really blew me away, sometimes I think that imperial IPAs can be too sweet and overpowering, but this one was very balanced. It was also very drinkable for the style, lots of caramel malt and bittering hops. Not the most complex example of the style I’ve tried, but really enjoyable all the same. I think pairing the imperial IPA with chicken was a good decision, I would have loved to see more of the curry flavor really come through though, I felt like it was seasoned pretty lightly. I also think the beer would go very well with a garlic-butter or herb Dijon salmon.

Beer Bloggers Conference Food Review

For dessert, we were given a chocolate hazelnut mousse cake, with candied hazelnuts, paired with the Big Eddy Wee Heavy scotch ale. The dessert was nice and light, not too overwhelmingly chocolatey, but I think if given the choice, I might have chosen a different beer. The wee heavy was chock full of malt, burnt sugar, and a lot of fruitiness. The alcohol was pretty well hidden, but it did have a nice warming finish, and of course, tons of smoked peat in the flavor.  I think on some level the pairing worked, but the scotch ale might have done better with a heavier meat course, like duck or wild game. I probably would have paired with chocolate dish with an imperial or double stout, a porter, or maybe even a hoppy American barleywine.

Attending BBC was a really wonderful experience (in fact, so wonderful that I’m still recovering) and I can’t wait to go back next year. I really appreciated the hospitality of Goose Island, Lafayette Brewing Company, and the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co (not to mention countless others), and the weekend wouldn’t have been the same without them. I’m so grateful that I was able to attend, and look forward to many more conferences where drinking during the keynote speech is encouraged.

Lindsay Burton is a craft beer enthusiast, blogger, and novice homebrewer. For more, check out Adventures in Beerland.