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Garrett Oliver Pairing Dinner
A bit ago, I received a copy of The Brewmaster's Table as a gift. It's written by Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver and is a really interesting book. Written in 2003, well before the craft beer boom in the US, it acts as both an incredibly informative book and a bit of a time machine. Every single type of beer is touched on. Histories are described and of course, food pairings are recommended.

Toward the end of April, Tap and Mallet announced that their next pairing dinner was only a few weeks away and it would feature pairings by Garrett Oliver himself. Having written the book on beer pairing and recently been nominated for a James Beard Award, attending the event would surely be a treat. Heather and I rushed out to get tickets at the bar the day they went on sale and we were able to secure some.

There was definitely an anxious and exciting feeling in the air when we walked into Tap on the day of. Basically every employee was on hand for this event. We were the first group to take our seats in the dining area and we were quickly given a pour of Summer Ale served in a really nice Brooklyn Brewery snifter (that we were able to keep!). Everyone at the table was surprised by this drink. Brooklyn's labels are quite reserved and sadly, it makes them easy to pass over. I always pictured a beer like this to taste like a very mild wheat beer without much character. This isn't the case with Summer Ale. It actually has a nice little kick to it and a British pub character. We plan to get some in a cooler this summer.

The crudites reception involved a simple plate of carrots, sweet peppers, and celery. It looked pretty plain but the dip was really nice. It had a lot of garlic and herbs and was far away from the standard ranch dips you get with most veggie plates. As we munched on the veggies there was still no sign of Mr. Oliver, but the dining area wasn't even full yet.

The veggie plate didn't even count as one of the five courses and before the official part of the dinner, Mr. Oliver arrived and gave a really nice introduction. He reiterated a lot of what is said in his book, discussing the differences between American mass market beer and what is being done in the craft beer scene. He talked about how American craft beers are part of this really intriguing cycle. They are based on some of the best European beers, but after being amped up and tweaked by American brewers, they become sought after back in Europe. My favorite quote from his talk was, "We do love our customers, but at the end of the day... It's not about you. It's about us." There are two types of business people in this world and that quote shows that Mr. Oliver is the type that will always be successful.

The first course was a nice salad with smoked salmon, green beans, kalamata olives, and a hard boiled egg. Butter lettuce was dressed well and featured a great spicy goat cheese that brought it all together. It seems that every pairing we go to at Tap and Mallet features at least one dish with goat cheese and they always seem to be some of our favorites. The same goes for this salad. It was served with Sorachi Ace, a saison we've had and enjoyed before. This was the first of a bunch of amazing pairings.

The second course was a pork and kimchi pierogi. Of everything on the menu, this was the most surprising. We love pierogies and it seemed like a really unique take on them. They were extremely good. The sweet sauce was a great touch. It paired great with the IPA that came alongside it. It was an exciting pairing because Brooklyn Blast was a beer we had never had or heard of before. We all loved it too. I've been lucky enough to have a variety of amazing IPAs over the last few months and this one was up there with the best of them. When Mr. Oliver discussed this beer, his passion was obvious. It was funny when he gave the printed menu a bit of a hard time, pointing out that he didn't really like calling it a "double" IPA. He expressed that terms like "double" and "imperial" have been so overused that they don't really mean much anymore.

The third course was a single lamb chop with a mint pesto yogurt sauce. This was probably our least favorite course of the night but it was still quite good. The biggest problem with it was the serving size. I know this was a five course meal, but this one was still a bit on the small side. The beer that was paired with it was another one that we had never even heard of before called Mary's Maple Porter. We love our porters so this one was a treat. It has an incredibly interesting backstory too. The Mary it refers to is a relatively new employee at Brooklyn that came from a macro-beer manufacturer. Her family owns a maple syrup farm in the Syracuse area and all of the maple syrup used in the brewing came from that farm. The beer truly had a piece of upstate in it.

The fourth course was an arancini. An arancini is a fried rice ball. Holy moly was this a yummy course. It featured smoked mozzarella in the middle and was just a joy to eat. This entire meal featured some great food but this is the one I hope gets a home on Tap's menu. To top off the great food, it also came paired with Wild One. It's a wild ale based off of Brooklyn's Local 1 recipe. It was amazing! We are loving our sours lately and to see one show up at the dinner was a thrill. The beer isn't actually brewed to sell. It's used for special occasions and mostly saved for employees of the brewery and their families. I got the chance to ask Mr. Oliver why he doesn't distribute this and he said it was a cost thing. He wasn't interested in selling $30 or $40 bottles of beer but he hoped to figure out a way to make the brewing a bit more cost effective.

The dessert course featured cheesecake rangoons with a raspberry sauce. It was paired with Black Ops, one of our favorite aged stouts. I have to be honest. At this point I had had quite a bit to drink and was riding on a bit of a high after chatting with Mr. Oliver, so I don't really remember much. I know I liked it though because I scarfed it down.

Just prior to the dessert course, Mr. Oliver sat down at our table and talked us up a bit. We had him sign our copy of the book. He also talked a bit about how the book has aged and how so much of the information is still valid. It definitely is. Heather and I still go to the store in search of some of the beers mentioned, especially the European ones. It's one of the primary reasons we've been so into beers from Liefmans as of late.

The entire night was a treat and it was great to share it with Heather, my sister, and my brother-in-law. Every pairing was genuinely amazing. It's possible that we had some stars in our eyes (or on our tastebuds?) but they surely seemed like the best pairings we had ever had. We even tracked down Mr. Oliver a second time. I asked him what his favorite non-Brooklyn beer was and he said Saison DuPont. That's officially on our shopping list. We even cornered him for a nice dorky posed picture. He happily obliged and my sister and I got a great keepsake.

By Mike on May 20, 2012 at 4:39pm EDT Topic(s): beer events brooklyn brewery garrett oliver tap and mallet pairing blast wild one mary's maple porter pierogies black ops

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