The Lagerheads kicked off last month’s DC Beer Week with an Allagash beer dinner at Granville Moore’s, where Rob Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Company, and Teddy Folkman, executive chef at Granville Moore’s, led us through six outstanding courses. Gathered that night were about thirty beer lovers who listened intently (though admittedly less so as the night went on) to descriptions of each beer and dish as they were poured and plated right at the bar. The pairings were “f*&%ing awesome,” as Rob Tod put it, but it was the intimate setting and a charismatic hosting duo that made the night. The event was the first of what we hope will be many beer dinners to come at Granville Moore’s. (And we’re not just saying that because of their generosity with extra pours and second servings.)
Allagash beers are well-known in DC, the brewery’s third largest market. They have been producing Belgian-style beers for almost fifteen years, since long before the Belgian beer craze hit our corner stores and neighborhood bars. “The first ten years were a major uphill battle because no one was drinking Belgian-style beers. I used to walk into accounts with a bottle of Allagash White and pour people the beer. It was kind of cloudy and the first thing people said was ‘What’s wrong with it? Why does it look weird? Why can’t you filter this beer?’ ” Tod said.
We were pleased that the night’s beer bill was balanced between Allagash’s authentic Belgian-style beers (like the White) and more experimental beers (like the Black) that show how the brewery pushes traditional guidelines to create unique styles. Tantalizing details on each beer and dish after the jump…
#1: Hugh Malone – You may be fooled by his fictional online biography, but “Hugh Malone” is actually a pun on humulone, one of the chemical compounds found in hops. Seems like everyone is making a Belgian IPA these days, but this hybrid between a hoppy American IPA and a malty, spicy Belgian beer was the first of its kind to come from an American brewer. It was paired with a spread of cured meats and cheeses (including pâté and fondue!) that sat along the bar for guests to pick at as folks arrived. A great way to start the night.
#2: White – This wheat beer is Allagash’s flagship, accounting for 80% of the brewery’s production. Light filtering leaves a veil of yeast and protein in the beer that contributes to its hazy, straw-colored appearance, spicy flavor, and silky texture. The White is brewed with coriander, orange peel, a secret spice (that Tod confesses he will divulge if gotten drunk enough). It was masterfully paired with a roasted golden beet salad served with orange-cumin vinaigrette, boucheron, and arugula that was so good we gulped ours down with little time for analysis.
#3: Dubbel – This dark, sweet, fruity beer had cherry, toffee, and port aromas and flavors. Tod described it as having “a very dry, nougaty, Toblerone finish.” The beer’s drier side seemed to come out more with the food, a house-cured pork belly brasied in the Dubbel served with collard greens that were cooked with reduced Dubbel and vinegar. While plating the dish, Folkman explained that he had gotten drunk on the beer and then wrote down ideas for pairings. We say, “Drink more, Teddy!” Had it not been for that cheesecake sauce, we would have declared this the best pairing of the night.
#4: Tripel – According to Tod, who has eight-year-old bottles that he thinks are still improving, this is a perfect beer for aging. A bit dry for a tripel, this beer was malty, spicy, and pretty darn fruity; we detected hints of peach, lemon, and banana. It was paired with a crudo of yellowtail and bigeye tuna served with rainier cherries. Folkman encouraged those hesitant to try the fish to enjoy the cherries with the Tripel, selling the pairing by declaring, “It does something to me that I can’t quite explain, and you probably don’t want to know.”
#5: Curieux – This beer is Allagash’s Tripel conditioned in Jim Beam bourbon barrels for six-to-eight weeks, an express aging process which sucks the bourbon out of the wood and into the beer. We got a lot of dill, vinegar, bourbon, and vanilla aromas and flavors on top of the Tripel’s usual fruit and malt profile. It was paired with a Curieux-marinated and braised lamb shoulder served with melon-pistachio cous cous. We weren’t as dazzled by this pairing and wondered if the dish would have gone better with the Tripel.
#6: Black – This relatively new addition to the Allagish line is a 7% ABV stout that is fermented with Belgian yeast. Tod described the beer as having “a cool balance between the burnt, roasted character of the dark malt and the sweet, creamy, powedered milk character of the yeast.” It was paired with a perfectly textured house-made cheesecake served with a caramel sauce made from reduced Black and raw sugar. The sauce was DA BOMB, a worthy finale to this fantastic meal.