Saturday, February 24, 2007

East Coast Beer Dinner

Summits Wayside Tavern hosted a East Coast Beer Dinner at their Cumming, GA location (about 15 miles north of Atlanta), Monday evening, 19 February 2007. Over 110 beer lovers filled the restaurant.

The participating breweries were:

In his introductory remarks, owner Andy Klubock brought the house down when he remarked that he was thinking about the past West Coast Beer Dinners while - "on the treadmill this morning." He noted that while he has hosted only West Coast Beer Dinners in the past, the beer scene on the East Coast has grown dramatically from even a few years ago. East Coast breweries now offer a profusion of extreme beers able to match those from the West Coast, but often with the balance of flavors sometimes not found in those from the West Coast.

In fact so new was this trend for Atlanta - only 2 years ago were the laws changed to allow higher alcohol beers to be served or sold in Georgia - that the advertising posters had the word "West" taped over with the word "East".

Andy was quite gracious in his introduction of me as representative for the Clipper City Brewing Company. Andy mentioned our commitment to cask ale, and that I had driven down for the event with a firkin of Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale in my car. The photo at the top of the post is of the cask being tapped. Throughout the evening, I received many compliments on the beer. On tap from us were Below Decks Barleywine, Peg Leg Imperial Stout, and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale.

The format of this dinner was different than that of others I've attended. Participants could order any beer from the taps from the participating breweries; there was no formal pairing of beer and food. But what an extraordinary menu! In past years Andy had hired 'outside' chefs but this year he himself had devised the menu and supervised its preparation.

Before the diners were seated, waiters moved about offering starters:
  • Chimay Trappist Ostrich Sliders (like mini-hamburgers, but made with Chimay-marinated ostrich)
  • Kobe Beef "Pigs in a Blanket" (Japanese beef sausages)
  • Mussels Delaware (Mussels steamed with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA)
  • Roast duck and Laura Chenel goat cheese Quesadillas.
  • Plate of artisinal cheeses.
Once seated, diners were offered their choice between:
  • Mixed Grill of Shrimp & Crawfish cakes, served with a wasabi remoulade
  • New Zealand Venison Chop served with Bordeaux truffle sauce and peach-infused caramelized onions
  • Each was served with wild game stock fried rice, fresh vegetables, and braised bok choy.

During it all, each brewery representative gave a short presentation. A crackling, feedback-whining microphone only added to the fun. I went first and then the other breweries followed in alphabetical order.

Boston Beer (Samuel Adams)
  • Boston Ale
  • Boston Lager
  • White Ale
  • Cherry Wheat
  • Imperial Pilsner
  • Hardore Cider
Not only was the local representative present, but a brewer - Seth Wolfman - had flown down from Boston for the evening. He gave the most impassioned talk of all of us. He exhorted the brewers present to "forget the numbers, and just brew good beer". He sat down to hearty applause ... as all were enjoying his Imperial Pilsner.

Dogfish Head
  • 60 Minute IPA
  • 90 Minute IPA
  • Indian Brown Ale
  • Midas Touch Golden Elixir
  • Raison d'Etre
  • Burton Baton
That evening - at Summits - was the first official serving of draft Dogfish Head beer in Georgia. The beer had only recently been approved for sale in the state, and because of ice storms in Delaware, the beer was delivered to the distributor - Savannah Distributing Company - late the night before. (Savannah Distributing also wholesales Clipper City's beers in Georgia.) National Sales Manager Claus Hagelman thanked Andy and remarked on the amazing response to his beers in just one day in the market. Even with the change in alcohol laws, importation of beers of over 15% remains proscribed. Thus Dogfish cannot bring in all of its beers into Georgia. (Dogfish Head will be a strong competitor against the gains that Clipper City has made in the Georgia market. But if at least for the evening, we were all friends in fermentation.)

Highland Brewing
  • Gaelic Ale
  • Tasgall Ale
  • Cold Mountain Winter Ale
  • Black Mocha Stout
  • Kashmir India Pale Ale
  • Oatmeal Porter
  • Imperial Gaelic Ale
Sandi Hammontree, Highland rep (l); Oscar Wong (r)
Oscar Wong, president of the Highland Brewing Company of Asheville, North Carolina talked about the his 10 year-old brewery. In December, the brewery was moved from cramped facilities in the basement of a building into a large warehouse on the grou nds of a movie production facility. Among his beers being served, there were samples from bottles of Imperial Gaelic Ale - a well-balanced, and dangerously smooth Wee Heavy of 8.5% abv, and not regularly available. Had several - wee - pours myself!

Sweetwater Brewing Company
  • 420 Extra Pale Ale
  • India Pale Ale
  • Hummer
  • Blue
  • Georgia Brown
  • Happy Ending Imperial Stout
  • Aged Dubbel
Brewmaster Kevin McNerney thanked the crowd - and Andy - for the support through the 12 years of the brewery's existence. He discussed the growth of the brewery but its commitment to being Atlanta's home-grown brewery.

Terrapin Brewing Company
  • Rye Pale Ale
  • Golden Ale
  • Wake -n- Bake Oatmeal Imperial Stout
  • 2005 Vintage Big Hoppy Monster
Charismatic owner and brewmaster Spike Bukowski announced that his brewery was "finally" closing on a deal to build its brewery in Athens. At present, he brews the draft in Atlanta and contracts with Flying Dog/Wild Goose of Frederick Maryland to brew the bottled beers. He was serenaded by the crowd with a beery "Happy Birthday".

Among those seated at my table were:
Bob Townshend, Atlanta Journal-Constitution beer/music columnist, and editor of Southern Brewing News (r)
Claus Hagelman, national sales manager for Dogfish Brewing Company (l)
Lisa Hanson, publisher of Southern Brewing News
Owen Ogletree, long-time Atlanta advocate of cask ale, columnist for Southern Brewing News, and promoter of the Classic City Brewfest in Athens, GA

and some very enthusiastic beer lovers!

To bid us adieu, Andy served a "decadent vatted beer ice cream sundae". In glasses from each brewery, he layered vanilla bean and chocolate ice creams, topped them with graham crust, and finished them with chocolate mouse, which he made with Valrhona chocolate and infusions of beer from each brewery there that evening.

Summits Wayside has two Atlanta-area locations, each serving over 100 beers apiece on tap, along with a large assortment of bottled beers.

More photos.

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