This quarterly dinner series by Imperial Session duo Advanced Cicerone Ryan Spencer (Bailey’s Taproom) with dishes from Chef Spencer Watari (Clyde Common) pairs beers and food. Unlike many beer and food dinners, this pop up concept does not beholden itself to any particular breweries or restaurant so they can select any beer or dish to make an interesting pairing without worrying about representing or promoting any business. The last dinner focus was on beers from New England.
The six beers were selected from various breweries from Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. The $60 ticket price included food, pairings, and gratuity for the welcome beer and five courses with five beers. I ate the omnivore pairing, while F enjoyed a vegetarian version which interestingly in two courses I thought may have been a better pairing then the omnivore dish! Here’s a look at the courses and beer.
Welcome Beer: Great Notion Juice Junior
Two Spanish cheeses, a Schnebelhorn and Bucheron goat cheeses with Honey and sprinkle of Jacobsen Finishing Salt, Warm Baguette Slices, Fruit Preserve with Mustard and pickled vegetable
Paired with Allagash Coolship Resurgum
I thought this was a great cheese plate pairing with the beers. I found the welcome beer, an IPA to be a better pairing with the aged harder Schnbelhorn because the IPA bitterness complimented that of the citrusy vegetal bitterness in the Schnebelhorn which was then balanced out with the sweetness of the honey and bit of salt. Meanwhile the effervescent with bit of funk Allagash sour gueuze added a bright crispness that toned down some of the funky soft Bucheron creaminess. Each beer and each cheese was fine on its own, but each beer + cheese combo transformed each component to bring out new tastes: exactly what you’re looking for in a beer pairing dinner. The pickled vegetables and other cheese board accouterments also were great with the cheeses.
Seared shaved brussels, Bearnaise with tarragon and capers, Lardo, crispy crostini
Paired with Von Trapp Helles
The vegetarian version of this dish just excluded the lardo but still had that fabulous bearnaise sauce.
Another fantastic pairing where though the beer was a solid German beer, and food a wonderful combo of creamy with greens, together the beer and food highlighted the herbaceous qualities in the beer and in the sauce while the beer balanced out the lardo and sauce from being too fatty and rich.
Squid Ink Tagliatelle, Chanterelle Conserva, Snap Peas, Roasted Winter Squash
Paired with Hill Farmstead Dorothy
This was more of individually the beer and the dish was delicious, but the pairing didn’t reveal new layers like the previous two courses had. The Dorothy has a combination of lemony citrus and brett and is a tasty beer, but the dish seemed to be more on the earthier side with a touch of sweetness from the roasting of the vegetables.
The vegetarian dish, which swapped out the squid ink tagliatelle with a rye wheat pasta instead, was lighter so that the lemonyness of the beer was highlighted more.
While Spencer was preparing this dish the power went out so I think that also affected the dish so I don’t hold it against them that maybe this dish just didn’t come out as planned in the end.
Duck Roulade, Kabocha Squash Curry Sauce, Duck Ginger Jus, Fennel Fine Herb Salad
Paired with Trillium Pot and Kettle Oat Porter
The squash curry and salad portion of the dish helped bring out some of the notes of the herbs in the porter and some malt tones. Meanwhile the duck’s meatyiness was geared valiantly trying to equally partner with the chocolate and coffee notes in the beer. Because there was so much coffee flavor in the beer, I was intentionally using the sweetness of the squash to try to balance it out.
The Vegetarian version of this dish swapped out the duck roulade for an awesome chickpea patty that had crispy edges, sort of like a mashup between a tofu and a falafel.
Horchata Crème Brûlée
Maine Beer Co Mean Old Tom
With the strong coffee flavors in the Mean Old Tom beer, I understood the thought process with the cinnamon vanilla and splash of rum. Haha with the strong coffee though I could have used more sweetness (even though creme brulee is already a lot of sugar) but I’m usually a person who puts lots of cream and sugar in my coffee while F was fine since he can drink coffee black.
Thanks to Ryan and Emily for keeping us hydrated with water and beer, and Spencer for creating all the yummy food.
It looks like the next Imperial Session beer and food pairing will fall sometime in June, probably during Portland Beer Week, so in the meantime make sure to keep an eye out by following them on the Imperial Session Instagram and subscribe to their newsletter at their website www.imperialsession.com