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Cheers Beers’ First Beer Dinner

What better time to experience our first ever beer dinner than during Frederick Beer Week at our favorite hometown brewpub – Barley and Hops.  The Barley and Hops Spring Beer Tasting and Dinner not only featured their stellar house brews, but the event and the menu were all organized by head brewer and culinary creator Larry Pomerantz.  Each item on the menu, shown below, was designed to pair with one of Larry’s exceptional beers.

If you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland, stop by Barley and Hops for a quality pint or two and a great menu!  http://www.barleyandhops.net.

This was Barley and Hops’ premiere beer dinner  – hopefully the first of many to come (we’ve heard rumors that various themed beer dinners may be held quarterly!).  They seated 20 or more of us at a long family style table.  When beer and food are involved, it doesn’t take long for new friendships to form. We were all chatting and laughing and oohing and ahhing over the meal items as Larry explained his thought process behind the pairings and sought our reactions to tastes and flavor combinations.

Dinner is Served

We were so absorbed in the dinner that we missed most of our photo moments. Take my word for it…the cheese course was delicious!

Celery Heart Salad with Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with Larry’s fabulous Sugerloaf Saison and a Saison Vinaigrette.

Stout ice cream…a great way to top off any meal!

1st Course

A cheese course consisting of local goat cheeses that included a soft tangy baby swiss paired with his flavorful sweet and malty Highway to Helles;  a tangy cheddar that brought out delicious notes in the Tuscarora Red Ale; a spicy tangy jalapeño cheddar paired with the Hoptopsy ESB; and a magnificent soft zesty gouda paired with the Annapolis Rocks Pale.

2nd Course

A unique celery heart salad served with bacon wrapped shrimp, topped with a zesty saison mustard dressing, and paired with the Sugarloaf Saison.  The Saison is amazing by itself, but this course brought out the tangy citrus flavors in the beer.

3rd Course

A fork tender Cocoa and Ancho Chili Crusted Pork Tenderloin paired with his 80 Schilling Scotch Ale.  Wow, lots of smoky and chocolate flavors from the beer.  I would never have thought of matching a Scotch Ale with southwest flavors, but boy did it work.

4th Course

Stout Ice Cream with chocolate sauce – I keep telling you all that beer ice cream rocks!  By the end of this course, 20 people practically had their faces planted in their bowls trying to salvage every last bit.

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A Few Pairing Tips 

  • When pairing foods, match stronger flavored foods with stronger flavored beers….and visa versa.  Lighter foods with lighter flavored beers.
  • Hoppy beers pair well with hot and spicy foods.
  • Malty beers pair well with grilled and smoky foods

But the most important tip of all is slow down, stop guzzling, and pay more attention to how your beer and your food complement one another.  You might find that your meal is even more interesting and enjoyable.

Beer dinners are happening all over, so check out your local brewpubs and beer bars and find one near you.  They’re tasty, they’re fun, and you’ll learn how to get the most from two of life’s greatest pleasures – beer and food!

Bon Appetite and Cheers Beers!

The Victory-Garden BeerVenture

Cheers Beers has been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award!  Many thanks to Anne at Zen and Genki for her gracious acknowledgement.  As part of my acceptance, I shall follow a few simple rules…

Instructions for the Beautiful Blogger award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Paste the award on your blog
3. Link the person who nominated you for the award
4. Nominate 7 bloggers or less
5. Post links to the 1-7 blogs you nominated

Ground rules aside, I’m happy to recognize several of my long time, personal award worthy favorites for this BEAUTIFUL award …

The Victory-Garden Tour

Feeling the need to post something beautiful, our Victory-Garden Tour should be just the ticket!  We visited Longwood Gardens a few weeks ago, on (as luck would have it) one of the most gorgeous spring days yet.   Longwood Gardens is located in PA, just over the Delaware line.  Of course, when we travel, there’s always beer involved.  It just so happens that Victory Brewing Company is located only 30 minutes away.  Yay!

Our first trip to Longwood Gardens, it was spectacular.  Fabulous for kids of all ages.  Tulips were at their season’s peak, and trees were flowering everywhere.  But the real show was inside the conservatory, where florals, fruit trees and greenery filled every room.  Every turn offered an entirely new experience – new colors, sounds, smells.  Not our last visit, I assure you.

The brew pub at Victory Brewing Company in Downingstown, PA never disappoints.   We followed our usual game plan and bellied up early in front of the growler fillers.  What can I say?  It’s stupid simple entertainment for us big kids.  And of course we had to get a sampler, because the list at Victory always  includes new and rare items that we may have the chance to try again.  Their tap list is long and includes something for everyone – stouts, IPAs and hoppy bevs, belgians, barley wine, german style lagers, wheat beers, and three cask beers.  One of my favorites, St. Boisterous (maibock) was bellowing my name.  I also love the Golden Monkey.

A stand out was the smoked lager.  Smoked beers, when done well, are amazing, and the sure sign of a masterful brewer.  In fact, that’s one thing you can expect from Victory.  Whether or not you like their beer, you can’t say it’s not well brewed.  They have rightfully earned their elevated position in the craft beer hierarchy.  We’re just glad they’re within driving distance.   In fact, we’re considering a year-round pass to Longwood Gardens to justify more trips northward.  I hear the garden fountain exhibit (opening June 9th) is spectacular!

Ah, and here my wordy tour ends with some actually beauty – a small sample of our Victory Garden Beerventure… Cheers beers!


Jolly Good Beer at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery

Our final beer destination on this year’s State Capitols and BeerVentureJolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jolly Pumpkin always seems like our beer of choice on a beautiful relaxing evening outside by the fire pit or on the front swing. We’re seeing it more and more in the mid-Atlantic region, but its still rather hard to find, so this visit was a much anticipated venture for us.

The pub is a spacious two story building, with full bars on both levels, and an upstairs rooftop patio. I love the dim, relaxed, artsy fartsy atmosphere, and the walls are filled with artwork adapted from their artisan beer labels.

As for the beer, the actual brewery, located in Dexter, Michigan, is well known for their openly fermented, oak barrel-aged, bottle conditioned artisan beers. I tried their Raspinical, which is an Abbey del Norte brewed with spinach. This experimental beer is only produced in small batches for their brew pub. Raspinical has medium body, and a dark, sweet, malty belgian character. Excellent brew for those who enjoy darker belgian-style ales.

I also enjoyed their Bam Noire, a dark farmhouse ale – one of Jolly Pumpkin’s better known beers and one of my personal favorites. Their description tells it best:

Bam Noire– Dark Farmhouse Ale
Dark, smooth, delicious. Aromas of worn leather and cool
autumn nights. Notes of sweet plum and toasted raisin, hints of
coffee and cacao. Lingering tart and refreshing finish.
Only available for a few short months. Not to be missed.

Seasonal released in September
4.3% Alc./Vol.

750ml bottles – 12 case

The pub also offers a full line of non-sour beers brewed at their “sister” brewery, North Peak in Traverse City, MI. North Peak‘s beers include the Diabolical IPA and the Siren Amber Ale, Majestic Wheat Ale and Vicious Wheat IPA, as well as a number of seasonals. The Diabolical IPA is fully aromatic and flavorful with floral and citrus hops, but distinct pine notes and a dry earthiness give it a really unique taste that sets it apart from other IPAs.

Their rustic food is prepared fresh and designed specifically for pairing with their rustic beers – warm flatbreads, marinated olives, cured meats and cheeses, pizzas, truffled fries with rosemary, and artisan sandwiches. Don’t let the upscale interior fool you – Jolly Pumpkin is relaxed, casual, easy, warm, and inviting, much like its Ann Arbor surroundings. The pub is surrounded by streets full of great shops and artsy attractions – glass galleries, speciality food stores, clothing, and more – so be sure to set time aside to walk around the downtown area. It’s a perfect location for this artisan brewpub, as Jolly Pumpkin clearly demonstrates that brewing original rustic craft beers is indeed an art.

Cheers beers!

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