Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A Gold Medal Dinner in Marin

By William Brand
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007 at 9:49 pm in Uncategorized.

noonans-brendan-moylan-jose-flores.jpgmarin-brewing-arne-johnson.jpgmarin-brewing-blonde-pt.jpgFood to Pair With Uber Hops

I love White Knuckle, the high octane Double India Pale Ale from Marin Brewing in Larkspur. But I have no idea what kind of food I would would pair with this splendid beer, created by head brewer Arne Johnson.

I found out last Thursday night at beer diner at Noonan’s, the fine wine restaurant in Larkspur Landing, Larkspur, CA., launched a few years ago by Marin Brewing proprietor Brendan Moylan. The answer is simple: An 80 IBU beer like White Knuckle is a perfect match for spicy food. It can take the heat.

Noonan’s chef Jesse Flores paired White Knuckle with Petaluma

Duck Breast, Pale Ale braised beet greens, sage and queso fesco polenta served in an ancho chile orange sauce. The key was the anchos. These are the dried version of those triangular shaped poblano chiles used stuffed in chile rellenos, omnipresent in Tex-Mex restaurants.

Compared to some chiles, anchos are mild, but they do bring a deep, but subtly burning heat to a dish and they certainly did in this one.

What a wonderful match. Like the much more famous Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, White Knuckle has a substantial malt component. It’s 8.2 percent ABV, not as big as some double IPAs these days, but plenty big enough for me.

I was fairly shocked how well the combination worked. The sweetness of the duck, the orange in the sauce and the malt in the beer blended perfectly and the hops melted the heat of the anchos like a warm knife in butter. Made the sauce quite tolerable, made the aromatics hop pop out.

Wish I could run out tonight and order the same thing again, same duck breast in ancho orange sauce and of course, a flagon of Eldridge Grade White Knuckle IPA. (It’s named for a very tough Marin County bicycle trail.)

I know this, everytime I duck into Marin Brewing, I have my fingers crossed, and if I’m lucky, White Knuckle’s on. Arne says the next batch of White Knuckle’s about 11 weeks away. He’ll bottle it for sale at the pub; Morris Distributing, which handles accounts in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma County will have some for select customers and a bit will creep over here to the East Bay.

Best bet, pay a visit to Marin Brewing.

The dinner was planned long before Arne and his assistant brewer, Shane Aldrich won four gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver earlier this month.

So the dinner became a fete for the brewers and the menu displayed their gold medal winners, Tiburon Blonde in the Belgian and French-Style Ale category, Star Brew Triple Wheat in the American Style Wheat Wine Ale category, Point Reyes Porter annd Triple Dipsea Belgian-Style Ale in Belgian-Style Abbey Ales.

Tiburon Blonde, made with a Belgian yeast and a melange of European hops and malts, was served with an Avocado-Cabbage Salad with margarita marinated prawns and a citrus vinaigrette.

This is a big, maltybeer with a towering, creamy head. Taste is very soft and malty , but not sweet, with a dry hoppy follow. The meaty prawns and the fruity vinaigrette accented the malt as well as the fruit in the yeast. Very nice.

Pt. Reyes Porter’s the kind of dark, roast malt porter that homebrewers eternally try to make: roast malt nose and a delicious, dry follow. It was served with Pork Mole Empanadas with fresh cotija cheese, that dry, crumbly kind much used in Mexico. The unsweetened chocolate in the mole accented the dark roast notes in the porter and the cheese acted like a punctuation mark, intensifying the effect.

Desert was Oaxaca Molten Chocolate Cake with coconut ice cream, paried with Marin Brewing’s Barrel Aged Quad. Arne explained that the beer was brewed two years ago, then placed in a Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey barrel and fermented for five months with wild yeast, a cultured version of the little yeast beasties that float in the air around us. The finished beer is 12 percent ABV and poured like still wine with a bourbon nose.

“This is what craft brewing’s all about,” Arne said. Always pushing the envelope

The cake, really a thick rind of baked hard chocolate cake, filled with a rich chocolate pudding, brought out the winey, wild yeast taste of the beer; the sweet coconut ice cream intensified the bourbon . Another fairly stunning combo.

After desert, Arne brought out a number of his barrel-aged beers and spice beers including the gold medal winning Star Brew Triple Wheat a pale, 9 percent beer, fermented since last January with wild yeast, brettanomyces. Sweet wheat nose, complex taste and a cidery finish. Very, interesting beer.

Interested in these beers. Call Marin Brewing, or better, stop by. If you live in the East Bay or San Francisco, it’s a great ferry ride away. Catch the Larkspur Ferry in San Francisco; the ferry landing in Larkspur is a short trip across an elevated walkway to Larkspur Landing and Marin Brewing.

And, if you like wine, Noonan’s is just across the plaza from the pub.

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