The BeerDreamer MVP, or, My First Tasting Event

Tonight is my first tasting where I’m providing the food and beer. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, but I definitely want to nail it, especially since the room will be a combination of friends and early-adopter / influencer types. I’m excited to have my own stage. It may be a mini one in the corner, but it’s mine.

Following is the tasting I did last night to select the menu (a little too much tasting based on this morning's headache. Note to self to eat dinner first next time and drink way more water). 

Round One: Olive and Pickles on one side; Stoudts Pils and Brooklyn Lager on the other.

I’ve got three types of olives and three types of pickles. On the olive side we have Beldi, which are black, wrinkled, and incredibly salty due to their being cured; Castelvetrano, whose bright green color makes them almost look raw, but nonetheless have a wonderful, fresh taste; and the good old Kalamata, a purplish-black with a smooth skin and a similarly wonderful but more pickled taste.

For the pickles I have McClures Spicy, Brooklyn Brine Damn Spicy, and Brooklyn Brine New York Deli. The Damn Spicy are damn spicy; too much so. I can’t enjoy them. The McClures Spicy is a more reasonable flavor that I can still enjoy, and the New York Deli tastes like a classic sweet and sour pickle.

I went in thinking the olives were for the pilsner and the pickles were for the Vienna lager, but to my surprise I found that the reverse.  Both were good with the Kalamata, but the Brooklyn Lager was better. It’s a tossup for the Castelvetrano.  Neither paired particularly well with the Beldi, whose brininess was too dominant. Maybe a gueuze would have done the trick but that’s too expensive for tomorrow.  Winner: Brooklyn Lager with Kalamata and Castelventrano.

Now to the pickles. Both go pretty well with the New York Deli style but the Pils takes the lead with the McClures Spicy. The Damn Spicy is too strong for either; if anything can stand up to it it would be an IPA or a Rye IPA.
Winner: Stoudts Pils with the New York Deli and the McClures Spicy.

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Round Two: St. Agur Blue Cheese, Borough Market Stilton, and Damn Spicy pickles on the food side; Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA, Lagunitas Sucks, and Founders Red Rye PA.

Where to begin? The lagers are going to my head. Let’s start with making sure these cheeses will spread onto the mini toasts I got w/o them crumbling.  The 90 Minute needs to warm up a bit and the Red Rye to cool, so that leaves the Lagunitas to start (do I call it the Sucks?). It is wonderfully aromatic; its taste is smooth and grapefruity, with just the right amount of hoppy bitterness. I remember I was supposed to start with the cheese.

The Stilton destroys the toast, but only on taste. You hardly notice that the toast is not simply a delivery mechanism. It is wonderful with the Sucks (there, I said it). Let’s see how the St. Agur is ... it’s amazing. Less salty, creamier, and more subtle than the stilton, I think it’s going to win out. The pairing with the Sucks is stellar; now let’s break out the 90 Minute and the Rye PA and let the rumble begin!

As expected, the Red Rye PA is deeper and redder than the other two. The 90 Minute is a teeny bit darker than the Sucks. The Red Rye PA has that bit of je ne sais quoi that characterizes the rye flavor, and I like it. The 90 Minute feels boozier than the other two, reflecting its 9% abv. All are aromatic but I think I like the Sucks the best.

On to the full range of pairings. All three are so good with the blue that it’s like picking my favorite child. I’m going to have to do these again to be sure. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

Winner: Lagunitas Sucks, to my surprise. I didn’t think anything could beat the 90 Minute but it did. This is a Cassius Clay – Sonny Liston moment. The rye is good but it can’t keep up.

Let’s some of these Quicos, giant corn kernels semi-popped and roasted with olive oil and salt.  They were too strong for the lagers but they do a little better with the I/Rye Pas. It’s a meeting of equals, but the blending is 1+1 = 3, not 5, and I want that 5 god dammit! I continue to be amazed by the booziness of the 90 Minute. Let’s see how everything does with the Stilton. I’ve decided on the Blue, but this should still be fun.

This one will go in reverse order. The Stilton and the 90 Minute are each so powerful that I want a UN intervention before someone goes to the nuclear option and we have a humanitarian disaster on our hands. Good, but overwhelming. Next up is the Rye, whose subtlety I find better suited for avoiding nuclear warfare. The Sucks falls somewhere in between.
Winner: Red Rye PA, but still a tough sell.

I find myself yearning for the softer flavors of the Midas Touch and the dessert beer. But first, let’s see how the PAs go with the damn spicy pickle, just for kicks.

Damn these things hurt. They start sweet but before you know it your tongue and the roof of your mouth are on fire. The Lagunitas and the Dogfish Head can stand up to it, but it’s not like the flavors meld; they just stand side by side, each on their own, but unyielding. 1+1 = 2. Not interested.
Winner: Nobody.

I need a break. I take a spoonful of guac and a spoonful of peanut butter (separately!) to cool off my mouth. It’s hard to keep these beers at the proper temperature so the break is good for a quick adjustment and appreciated all around.

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Round Three:Dogfish Head Midas Touch and Saint Angel Triple Cream.

That was a nice break. There isn’t really any competition this round, just a taste to verify that the Midas Touch and the Saint Angel pair indeed. I can only be hopeful in the absence of an alternative.

Somewhere between a barleywine and a wine wine, reminiscent of a tripel, the Midas Touch always amazes. It is the rare beer without hops – if you can even call it beer; the Germans wouldn’t – and it brewed with honey, white muscat grapes, and saffron as the “bittering” spice.  I expect it to go well with the triple cream but I’m not going to take anything for granted.

The triple cream spreads nicely on the toast like I expected. It is rich, like a blend of butter and brie. It’s not quite blending with the beer though, which worries me. I can’t deliver a 1+1 = 2 or even 3. It’s an interesting pairing with the Lagunitas Sucks, but that’s still not going to do it. I give the Midas Touch a little chill, which accentuates the grape a bit against the barley, but it’s still not right.
Winner: Nobody. 

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Round 4: Dessert. Chocopologie Chocolate Truffles; Brooklyn Dark Chocolate Stout.

Someone’s got to win now, after two disappointing rounds, but all I have is the Brooklyn Dark Chocolate Stout. Luckily this one seems like a home run. Let’s see.

The chocolate truffles are rich, dark, velvety. A match made in heaven. I would like for the dessert to be warm and caramelized, but this is a pretty good compromise. It only gets better as the beer warms.

Winner: me.

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