It was intended to be special. We pulled out all the stops to begin with. Starting two years ago when Alan Sprints, owner of Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, came to Bend to brew his two most iconic beers (Adam and Fred), ferment them and put them into barrels for an as yet unknown purpose. Our team brewed two of our own beers (The Dissident and The Stoic) and treated them the same way. Meanwhile, we had recently acquired some very special barrels from Europe, a port pipe and a sherry pipe and some cognac barrels. These were introduced into the mix with bourbon, wine, rye and new oak and the beer waited. Alan suggested we do a blend to see what we could create. And we waited. We periodically tasted the beers but mostly, we waited.
A year passed, then another six months and we waited. It seemed during a lull in business action, that it was time to start talking about what we wanted to do with all of this lovely beer. Alan came to Bend in August to discuss the blend. What we liked was a blend that was nearly equal parts of each beer. However, The Dissident was intended to be added in its non-soured version. We found that the beer needed some acidity to add structure to the final beer. So, a soured The Dissident was added as a minor ingredient along with the non-soured version. The Stoic, additionally, was created without pomegranate molasses to reduce the acidity as well. The final blend, or “Collage”, was wonderful in all its complexity. When you find the Adam and Fred with their component parts of smoked and rye malts, they add just the amount of earthy complexity to round out the finished product.
Why am I telling you all this when the article is about the beer dinner? Well, I think to understand the dinner, you must first understand the remarkable beer and its component parts who gave life to the dinner in the first place. Then you can understand the vision of two men, Paul Kasten, chef at Wildwood, and Jeff Usinowicz, chef at Deschutes Brewery’s Portland Public House.
Their interpretation of the beers and the accompanying food was remarkable. They led us on a journey the likes of which has been seldom seen around beer. The beers were themselves remarkable and the understanding of them in the context of their individuality and character, what they contribute to the final blend, and then the remarkable food preparations were, in a word, extraordinary. I have been privileged to travel quite a bit and have attended hundreds of beer dinners, both ours and others. This, in my opinion, was the best ever, in its uniqueness, creativity, story and overall quality.
In addition, there was something extra. I have known Alan Sprints for a very long time. In fact, I was there when they introduced Fred to an adoring audience 14 years ago. (I know I said it was Adam at the dinner, but it was a long time ago and there were no markings on the then un-opened case.) My case of Fred #1 has been dying to be opened for an occasion such as this. And we did. What a treat to see this 14 year-old beer in its wizened condition. And we were able to raise a little extra money for our charity of the evening, the Oregon Food Bank as a result. Thank you everyone who donated!!
And, we get to do it again. Yes, this Friday at our Bend Pub, our culinary team will recreate this great event for a select group with the foresight to purchase tickets. I will see you all there. Remember, work, work, work.
– Gary Fish
Food photo by Adam Sawyer.