May 24, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 2, No. 17
Looking for a beery weekend?

Jan. 31, 2002

There are some attractive air fares out there for the nimble traveler, so it seems like a good time to alert you to a couple of beer events about a month off. The first, Chicago's Real Ale Festival, has been around since 1996 but just keeps getting better. The second is new, a 12-Hour Belgian Beer Party at Pizza Port Brewery & Restaurant in Carlsbad, Calif.


As if the Real Ale Festival weren't overwhelming enough with 175 casks of real ale cellared in the traditional way, a spectacular beer dinner has been added to the festivities. The gourmet meal will feature fine real ales from all over the country and a five-star menu prepared by the master chefs at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. Here's a glimpse at the menu:

* Passed Hors d'oeuvres, including: Fresh oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce and a Gorgonzola Turtelette.
* Grilled Scallopini of Salmon with Malted Tomatillo Sauce and Fried Julienne Corn Tortillas
* Duck Breast Pastrami with Roasted Pears, Bitter Greens and Beer Vinaigrette
* Venison Sausage en Croute with Cherry Beer and Sun-Dried Cherry Zabaglione
* Veal Roast with Jus Natural Perfumed with Beer and Fresh Thyme, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Grilled Vegetables
* Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and Chocolate Biscotti

Ten or more real ales will be served so that each course is paired with one or more beers specially selected by the Real Ale Festival staff and guest host Mark Dorber of the White Horse on Parson's Green in London. Dorber is one of the world's most widely recognized experts on the selection and serving of real ale and he will provide commentary on the flavors and pairings during the evening.

Details: Wednesday, February 27, 2002. Doors open at 6 pm. Cost: $75 per person. 361 West Chestnut Ave., Chicago, IL 60610. Admission limited, advance sales only.

The festival itself begins Feb. 28 and runs through March 1 at Goose Island Wrigleyville. Information is available at

There are many beer lovers who think the 24 Hours of Beer Festival held each fall in Antwerp, Belgium, is the best festival in the world. It doesn't last 24 consecutive hours, but is held in two 12-hour stretches over two days, featuring about 150 Belgian specialty beers.

The Pizza Port party was conceived with that in mind. "We really couldn't bring ourselves to do another festival," said brewer Tomme Arthur of Pizza Port/Solano Beach. The Pizza Port brewers already put in plenty of time helping stage popular Real Ale and Strong Ale festivals. "This is turning out to be a lot of work anyway," Arthur said. The festival will run from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. on March 9.

That might be because he and those involved are so passionate about Belgian beer, and just keep lining up more choices for the festival. "We want people to have fun and realize all the options there are," Arthur said. As of Jan. 30, the beer menu was at 55 and probably not done growing. It includes beers from all six Trappist monasteries, others seen rarely or not at all in the United States, and about a dozen U.S.-brewed Belgian-influenced beers usually available only on a regional basis.

Admission is $20, which includes a special glass and four tastes. Additional tastes (four ounces) will be $1 each. A bottle provides just three pours and many cost well over $3 to acquire, so even with the admission fee Pizza Port will be doing well to break even. Just as Chicago's Real Ale Festival has educated many American beer drinkers about cask-conditioned ales, this Belgian party should be a learning experience.

"We're trying to do a lot of different things," Arthur said. For instance, about 25 beers will be served at all times. Others will be available only for a limited period (because quantities are small). A consumer will be able to step up and spin a wheel with the names of currently available beers on it. Then he or she will have the option of trading a ticket for a four-ounce pour or buying the bottle.

"One thing we are trying to emphasize is people sit down and enjoy a bottle with friends," Arthur said.

Another example: Duvel will be served from 3-liter bottles. "We think you get the complexity more when it is served that way," Arthur said. So there will be 12 3-liter bottles, each will be opened on the hour and served until it is gone. Then drinkers will have to wait for the next top of the hour if they want Duvel.

Among the beers available all day (or until 15 gallons are gone) will be Arthur's much-awarded Cuvee de Tomme (Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 33 and Vol. 2, No. 16). That alone might be worth the price of a ticket to San Diego.

A quick disclaimer: These aren't the only fine festivals coming up soon. The next weeks serve as proof you don't have to wait until summer for wonderful beer events. March 9, for instance, there are also interesting festivals in exotic Hawaii and not-so-exotic Peoria, Ill. And we can't resist mentioning the Toronado Barley Wine Festival Feb. 16-23 in San Francisco. You'll find lots more on the Events Calendar.

One more 'Beer of the Year'

The Spirit Journal, which covers "whisky, single malt Scotch, brandy, cognac, wine, tequila, vodka, beer, cocktails, and all beverage alcohol," has checked in with its 2001 awards. It chose Samuel Smith's Organically Produced Ale from England as its Beer of the Year. Merchant du Vin imports the Samuel Smith products. The Spirit Journal wrote:

"A deeper gold/amber/honey hue than the Organic Lager - plush, white head - impeccably pure; the initial nosing pass detects subtle notes of roasted malt, cedar/pine, and steely hops - the second and third sniffings turn away from the resiny cedar and go firmly in the direction of walnut meat, hops, and deep-roasted malt and in the process become stunningly complex and multilayered - the final whiff offers intertwined, bittersweet scents of sweet malt, crisp hops, walnuts, and granola/trail-mix cereals with dried fruit - this bouquet as it evolves is nothing short of sensational; the plate entry is semidry, concentrated, and keenly nut-like - at the midpalate state, the nuttiness accelerates, leaving the malt and the dried fruit in the dust - the texture is a clinic on how an ale should feel in the mouth; the finish is long, bitterly dry, but like satin in the throat; a superb ale that ranks with my favorites from this hallowed brewery."

Pairing of the week

Redhook Double Black Stout and cashews. Sweet cashews bring out the sweetness in the stout, making it taste like an imperial stout. Generally, cashews work well with sweet beers, such as English-style barley wine and bock, and provide a nice contrast to hoppy beers, such as American pale ales. They don't work well with beers that pick up a sweetness from their yeast, such as Belgians and some wheat beers, or with drier beers, such as porter.

Tasting notes

Brewed by Avery Brewing in Colorado

Michael Jackson writes:
Mountainous dark head. Solid ebony color. Luxurious black-chocolate aroma. Smoothly massages the tongue. Complex coffee flavors. If it were coffee, I would say Blue Mountain. It's coffee all the way, but with extraordinary length, starting slowly, building up, then very gently subsiding. Very dry and appetizing, but no astringency. By highlighting one flavor, I do not suggest that it is one-dimensional. On the contrary, it has real depth.

Brewed by Smuttynose Brewing in Portsmouth, N.H.

Roger Protz writes:
Brilliant label, showing a circus strong man holding a beer cask and a woman, is matched by an equally forceful porter; deep black-brown color, topped by a barley-white head; massive aroma of bitter chocolate, Spanish licorice and fresh tobacco, followed by sweet, creamy malt and bitter hops in the mouth. The finish, in sharp contrast to the palate, becomes tart and bitter, with hops and hedgerow fruits vying for dominance. Brilliant! Will put hair on a strong man's chest.

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