Elizabeth Kagan from Firestone Walker and Chris “The Gubna” Katechis from Oskar Blues compiled an in-your-face tasting menu of big beers for our Summer BBQ Beer Dinner. We started out light with the Solace and Mama’s Little Yella Pills weighing in at 4.8% and 5.3% respectively. Both beers are nice and easy session beers, perfect for the 30 minute time frame between arrival and the first course. The Solace is a “summer fusion wheat” beer and Mama’s Little Yella Pills is the 2011 GABF Silver Medal winner. Bittered with Czech Saaz hops, Mama’s is a great pilsner that went down smoothly on the hot summer night. Both beers are currently on tap at Highland Tap and Burger, though the Solace is headed out to make room for one of Firestone’s fall brews.
After everyone settled into their seats, The Gubna served up G’Knight Imperial Red, formerly known as the Gordon after legendary brewer Gordon Knight who won three different GABF golds with three different breweries; a feat that has yet to be replicated. G’Knight is a Czech Saaz dry hopped brew with great floral and grassy notes, making it no mystery why it won the World Beer Cup gold this May. At 8.7% and 60 IBUs it’s big, but well balanced by the heat of the first course. The culinary journey started with grilled Colorado sweet corn soup with corn pico, fried smoked cheddar, and herb oil. Chef Eli explained that the heat from the chipotle chiles came out a little more than he would have liked. Though others agreed, I loved the heat and thought the hops in the G’Knight helped to cool the burn perfectly.
Not to be outdone by Oskar Blues, Elizabeth served the mighty Wookey Jack Unfiltered Black Rye IPA to pair with grilled Atlantic salmon, mashed sweet potato, fresh orange, chipotle sauce, and micro greens. Wookey Jack has quickly grown into one of my favorite beers, it’s everything I want from a rye IPA. The citrus hops come through in all aspects of the beer along with subtle dark malt notes. Wookey Jack is another heavy beer at 8.5% ABV and 60 IBUs, but the finesse that Firestone Walker has with its beer makes the Wookey delightful. Curious about the inspiration for the name of this beer? Me too. A Wookey refers to the specific, grungy, dreadlocked fans notorious for following Phish, and Jack goes along with the Firestone Walker themes, i.e. Union Jack and Double Jack.
Rounding out the savory courses for the evening, the Old Chub Scottish Ale from Oskar Blues inspired ancho-rubbed BBQ pork ribs, mole white beans, and pickled red cabbage salad. Old Chub’s smokey and full-flavored ale style made for BBQ perfection when paired with the sweet and spicy pork ribs. The Gubna explained that Old Chub was the second of the many Oskar Blues beers to go into cans, because it was, and continues to be, a style that turned people that didn’t like hops onto craft beer. Loaded with chocolate malts, smoke, and caramel, Old Chub still carries a lovely, though mild, hop profile. The Gubna describes Old Chub as a “big, bodacious, three-dimensional beer.” I totally agree.
The Double DBA (DDBA) from Firestone Walker with Palisade peaches ‘n cream and DDBA whipped cream, cocoa caramel, Little Man Vanilla Ice Cream, and candied almonds made dessert time arrive with an exclamation mark. The DDBA is a beast of a beer at 12% ABV. If you didn’t pace yourself with the big beers earlier, this one would not just nudge you over the edge, but kick your ass along the way. It’s a British style ale fermented in 75% stainless steel (first barrel) and 25% Firestone Walker Union barrels (second barrel), hense the name Double Barrel Ale (DBA). The 25% of the wurt that goes in the oak barrels stays their for primary fermentation for 6 days then gets blended back into the stainless steel barrels. The Firestone Walker Union barrels are specially made 60 gallon oak barrels that give a toasted oak flavor to the beer. The barrels are only used for 30 brews or 30 weeks, after which they are given over to the Firestone barrel aging facility, or to other breweries and wineries.
I don’t think it’s possible to have a bad food and beer pairing dinner at Highland Tap and Burger with the Crafty Ladies. Add the tasty might of Oskar Blues and Firestone Walker beers with the personalities of Elizabeth and The Gubna sharing about the beer, and you’ve got an unforgettable evening.