Beer and food: The biggest perks of beer weeks

I didn’t attend the Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival and preceding Alaska Beer Week in Anchorage in January, but I read about it through our ace Alaska beer writer, Dr. Fermento. His blog kept me up to date with the events – 72 of them over the 10-day beer “week.” Not only did Fermento keep me abreast of what I was missing, but the week following, in his 16 page re-cap, had me salivating over the menus and beer pairings I missed.

Beer and food. It’s a lovely combination.

There are beer dinners, beer brunches, lunches, cheese and chocolate pairings, and all having swept the nation in recent years. Especially with the onset of beer weeks. They’re everywhere. The Beer and Barleywine fest, once only a two-day barleywine festival, has become a full blown 10-day beer-laden week leading up to the culminating event.

Here in Southeast, we will have the fourth annual Southeast Alaska Beer Week the week before the Great Alaska Homebrew and Craft Beer festival in Haines, the Saturday of Memorial day weekend. It was started not only to promote the love and appreciation of craft beer in Juneau and throughout Southeast, but to have a reason for beer dinners in our town, too. And our town has excelled.

Last year we had events throughout Juneau – local beers on tap throughout town, beer dinners at various venues – a Polynesian BBQ dinner hosted by Alaskan Brewing at the Prospector, a glorious dinner at Zephyr sponsored by Deschutes Brewing, (complete with IPA ice cream,) an amazing beer brunch with Midnight Sun brews at the Baranof Hotel, and a dinner at the Flight Deck featuring Merchant du Vin’s line-up of English, German and Belgian beers. All this before hopping on the ferry to attend a 250-seat beer dinner at the fairgrounds in Haines, leading up to the festival itself.

But I digress. Back to this past Festival. What stood out in Fermento’s blog were his descriptions of the food and the enormity of the food and beer pairings.

A fantastic looking five-course meal of seafood skewers, panzanella salad, wild rice and cheddar soup, peppered tenderloin and hard apple tartlet paired with various Sleeping Lady and Belgian ales near the beginning of the week; Kenai River had a locals pizza event in Wasilla – and on and on, remember 72 events? – and then he got to the one I truly missed – the Bretty and Sour beer dinner at Humpy’s/Sub-Zero. In the past tagged as a Belgian beer dinner, resplendent with Belgian beers, this year seemed to turn more ‘bretty and sour’ with the inclusion of Anchorage Brewing, New Belgium, and Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – not all Belgian beers by origin, but by style.

A quick re-cap of bretty and sour beers for the unexposed: These are beers which use bacteria and wild yeasts in the fermentation — think sour beers to beer as sourdough is to bread.

According to Fermento and his mouth-watering notes, after the reception beer, the meal started with Anchorage Brewing Co.’s ‘the Experiment,’ paired with bibb lettuce wraps of ‘the Experiment’ green apples and gorgonzola. According to Fermento “it was an unbelievable pairing” with the “contrast between the apples and spiciness and the beer . . . exquisite.”

Following was king crab and baby arugula with parmesan paired with Orval Trappist. And then, one of my favorite Flemish Red ales, the one that turned me on to sour beers and that I, in turn, use to turn novice beer drinkers into sour beer lovers – Brouwerij Veraeghe’s Duchesse de Bourgogne, which was served with a Duchesse marinated lamb chop and a chevre croquette. A croquette! — fried gourmet goodness!

Next, Hanssen’s Artisanal Oude Gueuze with a Gruyere Fuji apple salad in gueuze dressing — sounds like a great palate cleanser nearing a third of a way through — and noted by Fermento, “a hidden touch of smoked endive . . . that brought a burst of flavor to the palate.”

Then there was an Asiago cheese fondue paired with Anchorage Brewing’s ‘Love Buzz’ — which was available in Juneau a while back — and, according to Fermento and the attending crowd, the pairing was “the star of the show.”

But it wasn’t done yet, Anchorage brewing’s ‘the Tide and its Takers’ (also available in Juneau) — a triple with Brettanomyces – was paired with an Alaska king crab cake with hollandaise.

And then Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Projects ‘L’Brett D’or’ paired with Kodiak sea scallops wrapped in prosciutto with bier blanc sauce. Note on Crooked Stave: I asked my various beer friends to try to remember at least one favorite thing from the festival. Beth Fenhause, a brewer at Haines brewery, was well up on her task and sent me a note at the end of the fest which read ‘Crooked Stave!’

And course, what are we on now? I lost track just reading – if I were at this dinner, this is where I’d be too full to continue to eat comfortably, but would persevere for love of beer and food. Next was New Belgium’s Transatlantique Kreik accompanied by pork tenderloin and pan jus and fresh cherry salsa with thyme.

And still more. A deconstructed venison stew with braised root vegetables and fresh herbs was served with Rodenbach Red and, finally, there came dessert. Anchorage Brewing Co.’s Anadromous was served with a layered chocolate raspberry mousse, vanilla bean flan and crushed coffee beans. And the coffee beans, according to Fermento, were a hit. I would believe it.

This dinner, at ten courses, is truly over the top. But they go big for the Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine festival. The brett and sour beer dinner was one of the many dinners to choose from that Wednesday night in Anchorage. I always have trouble trying to choose which events to attend, because I would like to attend them all and hate making decisions. This year it was easier. Just miss them all and drool over the menus.

What I am not going to miss are the events we in Juneau get to experience at Southeast Beer Week. Events are getting lined up for the week prior to the Haines festival, May 19-25, and should prove to be resplendent with beer dinners and brunches throughout Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

Already on the docket is a beer brunch kicking off the week on Sunday, May 19 at the Baranof, focusing on Midnight Sun beers. This was a new event last year, which had fair attendance and an abundant and decadent menu with some spot-on pairings. The Rookery is also slated for an event Thursday evening, and there are dinners and tastings in the works at The Prospector, Rockwell, Silverbow Inn and Bakery and possibly even a salmon pairing event at the Maritime festival.

Events, as they emerge, will be posted on the Facebook page – search SE Alaska Beer Week – check it out, and “like” it to receive updates.

And – get them before they’re gone – as of writing this, there are a mere 14 tickets left (of 250!) for the craft beer dinner in Haines. Go to www.seakfair.org for information and tickets. This year there is a visiting guest chef from Seattle’s Epic ales. The menu is posted and it does truly look epic, but if you miss out on the dinner, there still is the festival – those are going fast too and will sell out.

• Juzeler has a fairly good handle on who is doing what for SE Alaska Beer Week, but if you have any additional events or ideas which should be included, feel free to contact her via SE Alaska Beer Week on Facebook, or at rjuzeler@gmail.com

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