Imperial Session Beer Dinner Pop Up Series

A new pop up is starting up in Portland this time focused on food with another PDX famous love, beer! Advanced Cicerone Ryan Spencer (you may have seen him at Bailey’s Taproom) and Chef Spencer Watari (Clyde Common, Pok Pok) are collaborating together under the name Imperial Session to launch a quarterly dinner series focused on beer and food pairing. The first Imperial Session Beer Dinner will be a five course dinner with pairings for each course on Sunday September 18th at Shift Drinks’ Makeshift Room (former home of Nomad PDX). The dinner seating starts at 7 PM with reservations via tickets available now on EventBrite, with a suggested cash donation of $55 paid at the end of the meal.
Imperial Session Beer Dinner Series, this pop up offers guests the ability to experience a wide range of beer and food interactions without boundaries of a single brewery or single restaurant

Ryan and Spencer are working together to break down the biases and commitments of a typical beer dinner, with the goal of offering guests the ability to experience a wide range of beer and food interactions without boundaries. For instance, usually beer dinner events feature a single restaurant working with a single brewery.

“The problems we found with these dinners were that they all felt more promotional than genuine. Brewer’s wanted to showcase their flagship beers and restaurants wanted to promote their establishments. Both parties seemed to be looking out for their own best interests with little collaboration taking place. We wanted to create a dining experience where we could pour whatever we wanted and serve food that created the ultimate pairing.” Ryan and Spencer explained.

Imperial Session Beer Dinner Series, this pop up offers guests the ability to experience a wide range of beer and food interactions without boundaries of a single brewery or single restaurant

Meanwhile, Imperial Session has intentionally selected beers that are a little outside of the norm. For instance, for this initial dinner, 2 of the 5 beers are unavailable in Oregon, 2 are vintages which are no longer available, and 1 is a small batch brewery only release.

The dinners are intentionally small in order to have guests easily interact with Ryan and Spencer as well as with other guests and allow for smaller batch sourcing of quality ingredients, including rare beers.

Down the road Imperial Session hopes to feature different local chefs to create unique tasting menus for the dinner series, where Spencer operates as the permanent chef and assists the guest chef in formatting their menu into their constraints while also working with Ryan to create pairings.

They have also discussed the opposite situation where they bring in someone from the beer industry to curate a selection of beers to pair with one of Spencer’s menus. Imperial Session could be a venue and opportunity to work out some creative ideas with people whose formal positions in the food and drink industry don’t currently allow that chance.
Imperial Session Beer Dinner Series, this pop up offers guests the ability to experience a wide range of beer and food interactions without boundaries of a single brewery or single restaurant

Background on Imperial Session

Ryan and Spencer have known each other for the majority of their lives, both having grown up in the Portland Metro area and first meeting in third grade and then attending University of Oregon where they home brewed together. Growing up in The Pacific Northwest, surrounded by a wide range of food and beverage,  they said it seemed pretty natural to both of them to pursue careers in those two fields.

Ryan got his start as a dishwasher position at Hopworks before expanding to jobs at Deschutes, Gigantic, and his current position at Bailey’s Taproom where he also has been getting cicerone certifications (the equivalent of a wine sommelier, it requires various levels of examinations). Meanwhile, after college, Spencer moved around for a bit until he settled at Pok Pok for two years before he transitioned to Clyde Common to continue to develop his skills with a more diverse range of cuisines.

For years they have both talked about going into some type of venture together. The specific idea for joining forces to do beer and food pairing dinners came from attending several “Brewer’s Dinners” throughout Portland when Ryan was studying to take the Master Cicerone exam and trying to gain experience with beer and food pairing. Imperial Session is finally those talks, their history, experience, and their expertise coming together for them.

Menu for Upcoming Beer and Food Pairing Dinner

Here’s a look at the menu for this first Imperial Session beer and food pairing dinner. For this particular menu, a few of the dishes were dishes Spencer was really excited about, they tasted through them, and Ryan tried to find beers that might work. On the other hand, a few of the pairings started with a beer that Ryan felt would be really interesting and food friendly, then they designed a dish around the beer. They hope to impart some of the knowledge they acquired from the beer and food pairing process to guests as part of the dinner.

This is the omnivore menu, a vegetarian version is available by advanced notice at their discretion.

Course One:

Grilled corn, kewpie mayo, togarashi cracklin, and avocado puree
Paired with Trillium Pier (a hopped American Pale Wheat Ale from Massachusetts)

Course Two:

Radish and turnip salad, caramel egg dressing, carbonated citruses
Paired with Breakside Carte Blanche (American Wild Ale with Brett, gin and hops)

Course Three:

Lamb pierogies, mint chimichurri sour cream, peas, spring allium
Paired with De Garde/Heater Allen Doppelbock (Eichenbock, an oak barrel-aged Doppelbock)

Course Four:

Sai oua sausage, fingerling potatoes, charred green onions, mushroom demi-glace
Paired with Holy Mountain The Goat (Saison / Farmhouse style ale from Washington)


Paired with Block 15 2015 Kriek (Kriek is a cherry sour /wild ale style)




  1. I love that restaurants are now developing tasting suggestions for beer as well as wine. Some food just BEGS for an IPA, an amber or a pils.

  2. I’ve always been more into wine pairing with food, but have always been interested in pairing beers as well. Not only does the food sound delicious, but I think this would be such an informative event as well!

  3. This sounds like a great series, Pech, I really appreciate the approach they are taking. We’ve all experienced those pairing meals that feel more commercial than genuine, and when they are all over, you’ve had a good meal, but you don’t feel as though you’ve learned much. This sounds not only delicious, but informative as well.

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