March 6, 2014

Rosemont Allagash Beer Dinner

I attended the first ever Allagash Rosemont beer dinner last night and had a great time. I was a little apprehensive at first, not knowing what to expect. But I shouldn't have been, knowing the Rosemont and Allagash guys know how to throw a good party. It was like an Allagash brewery tour on steroids - with great food and endless beers at every stop. 

To start, the dinner began with snacks and tastes of two beers in the tasting room. The Allagash Brewery has expanded since I was there last, and the renovation looks fantastic. A group of about fifty assembled in the tasting room, and snacked on pretzels and beer cheese; chips and a creamy, truffled dip; and little bites of scallops over lentils topped with bitter orange. We drank the White and the house beer. 

The official programming was a bit of intro from Joe Appel of Rosemont Market and Rob Tod and Jason Perkins of Allagash. Rosemont provided all of the food, with a mind towards incorporating the beer into the food, like as a braising liquid for meats or using the spent grain in the baking. 

After about an hour in the tasting room, we went into the brewhouse, where brewers work round the clock. The new system is huge and has expanded their capacity dramatically. I assume most of the production is for the White, which is the most widely distributed of all of their beers. 

Our next course was pork sausage in a beer-yeast-leavened bun with sauerkraut. The sausages were poached in wort (the grain liquid that is fermented to make beer) in the brewery's small pilot system. Employees can brew small batches of experimental beer with this system. Rob Tod joked that the next batch of pilot beer is going to taste like sausage. 

The beer pairing for this course was the Saison, a Belgian farmhouse style ale. During this course, my boyfriend's cousins arrived, and I was so happy to have some company. I was starting to feel "middle school dance" awkward since I was attending the event alone. 

Next, in the wild beer room, we enjoyed a curried goat stew paired with a ginger wit (a "ramped up" version of the White with loads of ginger added) and smoked beef ribs over a potato pancake and sauteed spinach with a Curieux reduction. The Curieux was also the pairing for this course.   

Several of Allagash's beers are aged in barrels, either old wine or whiskey barrels. All this talk of barrels led to a conversation with a man who makes flooring and other items (like the cribbage boards sold in the gift shop) out of reclaimed barrel staves. It was incredibly interesting to learn about his business River Drive Lumber in Buxton. Check out his site to see examples of the beautiful types of flooring he does. So very cool. 

The wild beer room is the original brewing space, and now home to beers that are fermented using, according to brewmaster Jason Perkins, "yeasts that 99.9% of breweries try to keep out of their beers," - as does Allagash in their other beers. But these wild yeasts add different flavors. We saw beers fermenting with peaches, cherries with fun names like Victoria's Secret and Farm-to-Face. 

Last, we went into the barrel room, where beers like the Curieux and Coolship beers are aging. Our last course was french toast, made with spent-grain bread and topped with fresh cheese, fried onions, and malt vinegar. Sounds strange, but it was so good. The french toast was perfectly creamy, with crunchy, salty onions on top. 

Beer pairings were the Coolship Resurgam and Lil' Sal (like Blueberries for Sal), a coolship beer aged with blueberries. Coolship beers are fermented in an open, shallow vessel (looks like a swimming pool), allowing wild yeasts to grow. They're sour and tart and fruity if they've had fruit added in.

The event was great fun, educational with delicious food and drink. It certainly wasn't your average beer dinner and would appeal to beer nerds and casual drinkers alike. Both the Allagash and Rosemont staff expressed that the event was a success, so look for another beer dinner from the two!