Thursday, February 7, 2008

Free State Beer Banquet

On February 6th, 2008 my wife and I attended the Free State Brewing Company 19th Anniversary Beer Banquet. This is the fifth banquet that we have had the pleasure of attending. The dinner includes a five course meal (appetizer, salad, intermezzo, entree, and dessert) and eight different beers selected to match the food.

The evening started with an aperitif, Stille Nacht (silent night) from Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers in Diksmuide, Belgium. This Beligian Strong Dark Ale clocks in at a hefty 12% ABV. Stille Nacht is a tawny colored beer with an off-white head. Initial aromas are of sweet raison bread and spice. Drinking adds additional flavors of caramel and that classic belgian yeast flavor. This rich, full bodied brew finishes with a spicy burn from all the alcohol.

Next on the menu is 1809, a berliner-style weissbier from Brauerei Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany. This pale, straw colored ale has a lemony tart flavor to it that makes it a perfect match for the appetizer. Egg on toast with hollandaise vinaigrette, sheep's cheese and micro-greens. The tartness in the vinaigrette was a perfect compliment to the 1809.

Our next beer is the classic Hoegaarden Original White Ale, the beer that revived the now popular witbier style. This beer and brewmaster Pierre Celis are the main reason you see posers everywhere sucking on bottles of Blue Moon. While I was enjoying the yeasty, citric, and spice notes of the well made Hoegaarden, our server brings out a butter lettuce wedge topped with gorgonzola, carrot-corriander salad and a raisin vinaigrette.

This is the point in the night where we start getting two beers for each course, also the point where my notes start to go downhill, not sure why.

To finish off the salad, we had a glass of Boulevard Brewing Company's Long Strange Tripple. This strawberry blonde brew had a melon-like sweetness that provided an interesting contrast to the gorgonzola and acidity of the vinaigrette, while the corriander provided a match to the subtle spiciness in the tripple.

Next stop on our tour of belgian beer styles is Leffe Blonde, a belgian pale ale that used to be brewed by monks in Belgium but is now, like Hoegaarden Brewery, just another piece of the InBev empire.

While the Leffe had a subtle mix of light honey sweetness and clove spiciness, the intermezzo, a huckleberry cumin sorbet, was much more bold in its mix of sweet and savory. The interplay between the fruit and the cumin was very unusual and quite interesting, like making taco meat with fruit instead of meat.

Leading into our main entree, we finally get one of Free State's own, S.P. Dinsmore's Scotch Ale. The peat smoked malt (the same malt used to make scotch whiskey) used in this ruby brown colored ale adds another level of complexity to the malty sweetness.

Finally, the main course. A big bowl full of seared beef sirloin with brussels sprout kraut, parsnip mash and a spiced malt reduction. This was one delicious dish, the meat was perfect, and the reduction had a slightly orange twang to it that made the whole dish really pop.

The second beer served with the entree was, La Seigneuriale, a strong belgian ale from the crazy Canadians at Unibroue. This copper hued brew greeted us with some citric aromas folowed by some rich raison and yeast flavors that played well with the food.

Finally, I've made it all the way to dessert! We start off with another Free State brew, and one of my wife's favorites, the Cœur de Saison is a saison or farmhouse style belgian ale. The hazy amber colored ale has a floral and lightly citric aroma with a yeasty, fruity flavor and a long, dry, slightly spicy finish.

Dessert is a delicious banana custard on white chocolate brownie with vanilla cream, local honey and strawberry syrup. The dryness of the saison provides a yin to the sweet yang of the dish, a perfect finish to the evening.

Chef Rick Martin and Head Brewer Steve Bradt have put on another awesome evening of beer and food glutony. I'm already anticipating next years event. If you ever get a chance to attend a beer dinner of any kind, I recommend seizing the chance. Cheers!

Special thanks to my wife for taking all the awesome photographs!


  1. The name's "Wifey". Wife is so... matronly.

  2. Wow! This is something my husband and I just may have to try next year. Thanks for the write up!

  3. Great pictures. The Banquets are always fun: good food, good beer and good people. Nice blog BTW.