Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A Walk on the Wild Side

By William Brand
Tuesday, June 21st, 2005 at 4:12 pm in Uncategorized.

SAN FRANCISCO — “Wild Beer!” I’m not positive who said it first. but my notes show that when Russian River Brewing’s Vinnie Cilurzo suggested that American brewers are inventing a whole new category – Wild Beer – the more than 100 happy participants at a Belgian-style beer dinner last night at the Cathedral Hill Hotel raised their glasses and cheered.

The hotel’s executive chef Bruce Paton has been holding regular beer dinners, featuring the best in American craft beer,carefully matched with exquisite food, for several years. But, honestly, it will be a long time before this one’s topped.

All of the beers, except one, were brewed using combinations of wild yeast and bacterial infections in American versions of Belgian Lambic beer.

“You’re going to be tasting some of the most unique beers in America tonight,” Rob Tod, of Allagash Brewing, Portland, ME., told the crowd.

Indeed, it was a night to remember: Four of America’s most creative brewers brought their exotic brews:

– Vinnie, of Santa Rosa, CA, brought Russian River Sanctification, Damnation and Supplication.

– Tomme Arthur of Pizza Port, Solano Beach, CA., brought Pizza Port Mo Betta Bretta and Cuvee de Tomme.

– Peter Bouckaert, of New Belgium, Fort Collins, CO brought New Belgium Saison and La Folie.

– Tod, of Allagash, brought Allagash Four and Curieux.

Beers were served in flights; Sanctification, came with a variety or Hors D’Oeuvre; Allagash Four and Damnation came with “seared foie gras with vanilla scented yam puree, sea salt and a reduction of golden balsamic vinegar; Saison and Mo Betta Bretta came with the hit of the evening: Jumbo Day Boat scallops with Dungeness Crab Salad, truffle corn emulsion and Osetra Caviar.

Supplication and La Folie were matched to Beer Braised Angus Short Ribs, Celerlac Potato Mash, baby spinach and Port Wine glace. Curieux and Cuvee de Tommee came with the cheese plate: an assortment of whipped artisan cheeses with roasted beets and spiced croutons.
Wild beer is an idea that’s been a long time coming, Vinnie said.

It makes sense.m First, there was American industrial lager; then came the craft brewing revolution, first shot fired by Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Steam, then came the brewpubs, making excellent, full-flavored ales and lagers the drink of choice for a generation.

Then, brewers branched out, hoppy India Pale Ales, double IPAs, extreme IPAs,
barleywines and more barleywines; subtle session beers, real ale from handpumps.
And in the last two decades, more and more brewers and beer lovers have visited Belgium and sampled the delights of that quirky, creative country, the idea of making beers using unusual yeasts and other methods of fermentation and non-standard ingredients like raisins and sugars, has grown more compelling.

In fact, the U.S. and Canada may be the saviors of many ancient, Beglian styles. Rob Tod said that Tim Webb, author of the Campaign for Real Ale’s The Good Beer Guide to Belgium, suggests it may be up to American beer enthusiasts to save Belgian brewers.

“What he meant was Belgian beer drinkers aren’t drinking as much of their original styles as they once did.” But beer drinkers in America are getting into some of these wild, crazy beers and may save the day, he said.

Peter Bouckaert brought the only non-wild beer of the night: New Belgium Saison and it was fairly wild: Peter said the yeast came from a bottle of Saison Dupont, from Brasserie Dupont in the Wallonia section of Belgium.

“We drank the beer, and took the yeast and used it to make our saison,” Bouckaert said. It turned out quite Different, he said. The flavors are all related to the yeast; It’s earthy, somewhat musty. It’s hard to fit it in a category, he said.

But why try, Bouckaert added. “We’re in the business of creating 10 minutes of pleasure. Just enjoy the beer.”

Did we ever.
I’m going to post comments about each beer from the brewers in the morning. But right now, I’ve got to run. Another beer dinner. Would you believe it? The mind reels, the tongue stumbles.

If this dinner sounded good to you,check out Bruce Paton’s website here and watch for the next dinner.

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