Of the Oregon Beer Growler
The Oregon Garden has to be one of the prettiest venues in the state to host a beer festival. Eighty acres of flowers, fountains, conifers and oak groves are tucked away in the small town of Silverton, about an hour’s drive south of Portland. Attendees are free to walk the grounds with their beer, which makes exploring the 20 different themed botanical gardens easier to do now that the event has been moved from April to late June when the chances for warmer weather are greatly improved.
On the eve of the festival, there is a brewer’s dinner held in a large ballroom at The Oregon Garden Resort. The meal not only provides a great opportunity to learn why beer is the best beverage to pair with food and experience what flavors work well together; diners also get a chance to rub elbows with the brewers who provided the beer — literally! The hard-working crews behind the concoctions are seated right next to you at the table.
The six dishes served at the event were light, so they’d still be something you’d want to recreate at home despite the sizzling temperatures in August. And nearly all of the beers have some sort of fruit or herb element, which is a fitting nod to the garden setting in Silverton. The very first beer paired with the appetizer was Ex Novo Brewing’s Apricot Gose, which was made using local fruit. Of course, with a gose the salt hits your tongue right away. But this particular iteration has a tangy finish -- like sucking on a mouth-puckering Sweet Tart. The candy flavor cut through the richness of a chicken liver mousse crostini. Similarly, the Humboldt Fog cheese that came with the first course was savory and had a bit of bite, but it nearly overwhelmed the taste of the beer. A much better match was the aged Pecorino. Its saltiness complemented the briny gose, but the cheese also contrasted with and highlighted its tang.
Course two brought with it another fruit beer — Crux Fermentation Project’s Double Cross With Cherries. This is a heavy brew, coming in at anywhere from nine to 12 percent ABV, according to one of the brewers at the dinner. It’s one to be sipped and would even work well with heartier winter cuisine. Molasses cookies come to mind when drinking Double Cross and there’s a hint of spiciness provided by the Belgian yeast that’s like having Christmas in your mouth. But the food that came with this beer is definitely something you’d find at an outdoor summer soiree. A grilled peach had a slight syrupy sweetness that actually toned down a similar flavor in the beer and instead enhanced the molasses and cherry notes. The fruit was topped with bleu cheese and warm pancetta vinaigrette, and the saltiness of the pork underscored some caramel tones in the Double Cross.
Chef Sam Caldwell, who has more than 30 years of restaurant experience and recently relocated to Oregon for his position at the resort, said that he paired the peach with Crux’s brew because he “thought the beer fruitiness would be a good match for the sweet peach. Also, the strong flavors of the cheese and pancetta could stand up and complement the caramel and malt in the beer.”
The third course had core Pacific Northwest components, but the flavors could easily be found at a tropical beach party setting. Wild Ride Brewing’s Indy Session IPA exhibits floral and citrus notes — grapefruit in particular. There’s a light malt character as well. Drinking this beer is like looking at a postcard of Hawaii and if the hop flavor were kicked up a few notches, it might actually feel like you were on the island. A salmon salad brought out the brightness of the session. And some sweetness from the peas and smoked fish felt like you could’ve had this pairing at a barbecue on the sand with an ocean backdrop. The bitterness of the fennel intensified the hops in the IPA and its sweet, aromatic anise characteristics paired well with the beer’s citrus and biscuity malt.
A unique brew came out with the fourth round of food: Buoy Beer Company’s Oregon Garden Lavender Saison. As the name indicates, the unusual ingredient came from the Silverton attraction. When the brewer was given a list of potential garden components to put in a beer for the dinner, he first thought, “What the hell do I do with this?” But he settled on lavender, ultimately knowing he “didn’t want (the beer) to smell like a grandmother’s bathroom.” Rest assured, it does not. It’s quite effervescent and has a sweet, yet spicy, finish — almost clove-like. Basil in the ricotta gnocchi was a nice herbal addition to play off of the lavender. Chef Caldwell made this dish because he “wanted flavors that would complement without overpowering the lavender. Basil, lemon and the brown butter are all subtle enough to accomplish this.”
The main course offered the heartiest fare of the evening. Ecliptic Brewing’s brown-style Capella Porter is robust enough to be paired with a savory short rib that has hints of sweetness due to a beer braise. Roasty malts used in the brew mirror the roasted meat. And chocolaty notes in the porter help balance the spicy collard greens. “Beer itself lent a lot to the braising liquid and the color of the sauce,” according to Chef Caldwell. “Hops and roasty flavor of the porter worked well with the rosemary and garlic in the beef marinade.”
Cupcakes were the dessert du jour not too long ago and the final course reminded you just why these confections were all the rage. First, there is not another food out there that is as adorable and at the dinner, pastel-colored mini cakes were arranged on a slab of freshly cut log — upping the cuteness factor. Three flavors were served: strawberry, lemon and orange. Restraint and a full stomach led to a selection of just the strawberry cupcake, which was like biting into a buttercream birthday dream from one of those hard-to-find mom and pop bakeries. Vagabond Brewing’s Lemon Strawberry Wit has some tang and tartness that cut through the sweetness of the cupcake. Its flavor is not unlike a sour caramel apple lollipop, but muted. Overall, it was a refreshing beer to have at the end of a multicourse meal.
The brewfest and dinner are slated to be held in late June — Father’s Day weekend — once again next year. If you’ve not yet attended, there’s still plenty of time to RSVP to the largest garden party around.
Paired With Crux Fermentation Project Double Cross With Cherries
By Chef Sam Caldwell
1 ripe peach
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 ounces bleu cheese
6 ounces pancetta, diced
1 ounce chopped shallot
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
chopped parsley or chives
—Slice peach in half and remove pit.
—Mix 1/4 cup honey with 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar.
—Place peach cut-side down in the liquid and let marinate for 2 hours or up to a day.
—To cook, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and carefully place peach in oil, cut-side down.
—Sear for 30-45 seconds until peach is lightly caramelized.
—Remove from pan and place on a sizzle platter.
—Crumble bleu cheese over peach, then set both aside.
—For vinaigrette, place pancetta pieces in a saute pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until pancetta is crisp (about 6-8 minutes).
—Remove pancetta with slotted spoon and reserve fat.
—In a mixing bowl, combine shallot, dijon and sherry vinegar. Slowly whisk in olive oil and then reserved fat.
—Season with salt and pepper to taste; add honey, sugar or more vinegar if oil is too dominant. Then add chopped herbs.
—To plate, heat oven to 350 F and put peach and cheese on a sizzle platter for 6 minutes until cheese softens.
—Place in middle of a salad plate and ladle vinaigrette over the top. Serve immediately.
Paired With Buoy Beer Company Oregon Garden Lavender Saison
By Chef Sam Caldwell
For the gnocchi and brown butter:
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cups whole milk ricotta
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 pound unsalted butter
For the parsley pesto:
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup good oil
2 ounces grated Parmesan
1 ounce ground garlic
—Place basil leaves in food processor along with ricotta.
—Pulse 8-10 times, add eggs and process until mixture runs smooth.
—Put ricotta mixture in a large bowl. Add Parmesan. Microplane lemons and add zest. Cut lemons in half, squeeze and add juice.
—Add 1 cup flour, salt and pepper and mix to incorporate using a wooden spoon or plastic spatula. Mixture should just come together, still fairly sticky and wet.
—Turn mixture out onto a stainless steel table. Dust table with some extra flour and flour your hands.
—Cut off 1/4 of ricotta mixture, lightly dust with flour and slowly work dough into a ball until no longer sticky. Using both hands, slowly roll dough ball into a long strand. Use a bench knife to cut gnocchi into 1-inch pieces.
—Lightly dust a sheet pan with flour and place gnocchi on sheet pan. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before cooking.
—Place 1/2 pound butter in small sauce pot and turn heat to medium. When butter has completely melted, turn heat down slightly and continue to cook 4-5 minutes. Butter will foam up, then subside. The longer the butter cooks the more the solids will "brown." Look for a golden, caramel-type color. You can skim off the solids, or leave them in the butter.
—Combine parsley leaves, oil, grated parmesan and garlic and blend in food processor for 30 seconds.
—To serve, fill a sauce pot with generously salted water and bring it to near boiling. Drop gnocchi into water, 6 at a time. When gnocchi bob to the surface, they are cooked.
—Remove gnocchi with slotted spoon and put into serving dish. Ladle a little brown butter over the gnocchi and put a dollop of pesto in the center. Garnish with shredded Parmesan.
Oregon Garden Brewfest 2016
[a] 879 W. Main St., Silverton