Saturday, February 09, 2008

Burgundy, and a beer dinner

Clipper City Brewing beer dinner at Chadwicks"Why do you like beer," asked the woman at my table.

She was sipping a Kir Royale at a beer dinner I co-hosted recently at Chadwicks Restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Her husband was drinking beer.

"Because I can't afford Burgundy," I replied, half in jest.

... Burgundy, a small, hallowed region whose tiny, segmented vineyards yield minuscule amounts of some of the world’s greatest and most expensive wines made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. The names of those vineyards, particularly the prestigious Grand Crus, are spoken with respect and reverence, and the wines that issue from them are not for the likes of ordinary pocketbooks like mine and (I guess) yours.

There are good values in Burgundy — flavorsome married with reasonable cost — but low-cost Burgundies can often be low-rent, so to speak.

I rely on my local wine store gurus for guidance or on sites such as Bigger Than Your Head, from which the passage above was quoted. Writer Fredric Koeppel lists 20 Burgundy Best Buys — red and white — that run from $16 through $35.

The Burgundies of Belgium was a sobriquet the late great Michael Jackson applied to Flemish Sour Red beers. Maybe that's the connection for me.

Next to lambics — and probably more so of a daily go-to choice — Flemish Sour Reds are my preferred choice for Belgian beers. Indeed, they share the same hue of red with Burgundies — and identical brick tones with age — but with a tartness of flavor mixed with a hint of sour cherries.

For the above Clipper City Brewing beer dinner, Chadwicks' Executive Chef Peter Durkin worked with a theme of Local Beer & Local Food. (Jump here for the entire menu.)

His dessert — a Banana Cream Puff Pastry — may have varied from that theme, but in its pairing with the beer, it was an inspired, delicious creation.

The beer was Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock, a 10% alcohol by volume (abv) wheat beer that Clipper City had brewed for the summer months. Munich and crystal malt in the grist— à la Schneider's Aventinus from Kelheim, Germany — had produced a darker, maltier, stronger weizen than the usual.

Banana Cream Puff with snifter of Hang Ten Weizen DopplebockBut these bottles that had been cellared for 7 months. And the hiatus had added to them a delightful undertone of sour cherries and earthiness: the Belgian-esque character of Flemish Sour reds folded into the banana esters of weizens.

It was with this dessert that my inquisitor finally put aside some of her skepticism.

She took a forkful of the Banana Cream Puff, sipped from her snifter of Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock ... and smiled.

The entire menu here.

And, oh yes: I tapped a fresh pin of Winter Storm Imperial ESB for the dinner. A pin contains 5.4 US gallons: that's half the size of a traditional firkin cask. This serving was the last of the season for the Winter Storm — unless you've stashed away a few bottles!

It was the first cask ale ever served at Chadwicks.

Jump here for more photos from this dinner.

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