By Frank Whelan
Of The Morning Call
BREW MASTER’S DINNER A MASTERPIECE
Scene has to admit that at first we were not among those who caught on to the current beer craze. Despite childhood memories of that heated contest for the title of Miss Rheingold 1959 (a late-lamented brew of my late-lamented youth), beer is largely remembered as a college-era beverage, suds of Bud consumed in mass quantities on Saturday and repented of at leisure on Sunday.
But all this was before Tuesday, when Scene attended the Brew Master’s Dinner at the Bethlehem Brew Works. The redoubtable Fegley family, the Brew Works owners, who have made their mark in Bethlehem and are planning to do so soon in Allentown, have brought a real class act to the region. When Scene arrived at 7 p.m. the Brew Works was packed with happy diners.
Brew Works has held about 15 of what they have come to call the Brew Master’s Dinner. It is a delightful combination of first-class gourmet meal, beers from around the world and around the corner, and informative, informal talks about beer origins and beer making.
The dinners are held in a separate dining room at the Brew Works. One of the walls features a large mural full of a happy crowd of beer drinkers and others at a bar.
Jeff Fegley and brewmaster Louis Thomas are the informal hosts for the event. They usually have a seasonal theme selected. The one for this evening was ”Summer Harvest.” Fegley and Thomas were among our table-mates. With them were Peg and Dick Fegley , the founders of this edition of the Fegley family. Brother David sat across from us.
Jeff Fegley noted that he and his family are really excited about their new, expanded operation that they hope to have underway in Allentown on Hamilton Street sometime next year. It will give the Brew Works a chance to do its own bottling, and space to serve more customers.
Also with us at the table were James and Cheryl Oman. Their daughter, Jill, is the Brew Works chef and the culinary master par excellence. Her talents were on full display, and after the sold-out dinner Jeff Fegley brought her out from the kitchen for a round of applause from the attendees.
Brewmaster Thomas started as a home brewer. He learned his brew mastership in California. A brewmaster, to hear Thomas tell it, is part scientist, part artist. Along with much insightful information about beer-making, Thomas shared some of his experiences, including one about a beer-making experiment that went awry.
The meal began with a little India pale ale. The appetizer of portabello mushroom was paired with a urthel samaranth. A cold fruit soup was accompanied by a Blastberry Wheat and Rogue Honey Cream Ale.
A saisis, or white wheat beer from Belgium, was particularly nice with the salad. Pecan-covered trout and a beer called Phrophecy went well. And the grilled pork tenderloin was wonderful with the Biere de Ours. Chris Wilson, the brewmaster from Easton’s Weyerbacher brewery, also was on hand to explain some of their beers, which were also a part of the dinner.
Dessert of a grilled summer peach and vanilla ice cream and Big Bad Barleywine were a hit at the end of the evening. By 10:30 there wasn’t an empty stomach in the room.
The next Brew Master’s dinner is set for September. Here’s suds in your eye!