Deschutes Brewery’s Third Annual Chocolate Beer Dinner was an event I won’t soon be forgetting. The five course meal, created by Chefs Katrina Spatrisano, Matt Neltner and Jeff Latino, was thoughtfully prepared and presented to the diner like an edible masterpiece. Equal thanks must go to Brewers Paul Arney and Jimmy Seifrit, as the beer pairing with each course was innovative, balanced, and unlike anything I had ever tasted.
Being my first visit to Deschutes Brewery’s Mountain Room for a beer dinner, I had no idea what to expect. Familiar faces lit with satisfied smiles greeted me from all corners of the room and the servers were well versed in the beers, suggesting I imbibe in the White Chocolate Cream Ale to pair with the passed appetizer.
As we slowly settled into out table and met our dining partners (love the assigned seating!), the seated appetizer of Coconut Lemongrass Aromatherapy Soup appeared at our places along with its beer pairing, a light and refreshing Lemon Lager.
“We designed this meal to be a total sensory experience, unlike any beer dinner we’ve done before,” Seifrit explained, as we devoured our soup. “We want you to see, taste, feel, and smell as never before.”
I began to understand what he meant as the salad course arrived at the table. Laying over brilliant greens, the perfectly cooked Chocolate-Spice Rubbed Steak begged to be devoured. Bitter cocoa nibs scattered over the edge of the plate provided a subtle chocolate flavor that brought balance to the tart dressing and rich beef. Raspberry Green Lakes Organic Amber topped with Chocolate Mousse was the pairing, and it is by far the most creative beer I have ever tasted. The foam lingered on the surface of the beer, adding a light chocolate flavor to each tart and refreshing sip.
As our salad plates were cleared, the third beer pairing arrived. This was the one I’d been waiting for, the description had taunted me for weeks; Double Black with a Smoked Salt Rim. The colorful Murray River salt was a gorgeous contrast against the mysterious, inky black beer, and the salt opened the citrus and pepper flavors within the complex brew.
Paired with this incredible ale was an even more amazing plate, the entrée of Seared Duck Breast with Orange Honey Wort Glaze, Malted Peruvian Potatoes, and Ale Braised Winter Greens. The moist, tender duck was nestled into a beautiful purple puree, while the greens provided a vivid contrast around the rim of the plate. The bitterness of the greens bit through the rich meat, while the sweet citrus glaze lingered on the palate, intermingling with chocolate and citrus from the Double Black.
My belly screamed no dessert, but before I could object, a glass of Double Chocolate Nitro Stout was in my hand, and the most incredible dessert I have ever seen was placed before me. A Flourless Chocolate Torte layered with Black Butte Porter Pastry Cream and topped with Spun Sugar, shimmering like a spider web in morning dew. I cracked through the hard shell and Porter cream oozed onto my plate. Its pudding-like consistency was so satisfying, and the unusual crunch of the spun sugar just added to the experience. The torte itself was rich and flavorful, but not overly sweet. The addition of nitrogen in the beer swept smoothly over the palate, and was the perfect wrap-up to an incredible meal.
Visit www.deschutesbrewery.com for more information on upcoming beer dinners and special events at the Brewery.
Written by: Laurel Bennett (Deschutes Brewery Bend Pub Server)
Photo by: James Ludwicki (Deschutes Brewery Bend Pub Chef)