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September 7th, 2007 |

Beef-beer dinner will serve five courses – with beverages, of course
By Diane Stoneback | Of The Morning Call – September 5, 2007
 
How many times have you had beer with your dessert, rather than hot coffee or tea? For that matter, how often have you had beef-filled puff pastry with Parmesan ice cream for dessert?
These are just two of the surprises on tap Saturday at the Allentown Brew Works’ first Beef and Beer Brewmaster’s Dinner, which will feature a five-course meal accompanied by 10 different, finely crafted beers.
“The dessert is designed to create some buzz about the event. But we also want to show off our beers and what our chef can do,” says Michael Fegley, director of operations for both the Allentown Brew Works and Bethlehem Brew Works. “Even if customers always stick to pub fare when they come in here (burgers and pulled pork sandwiches are top sellers), we want them to know our kitchen can do much more.
 
“We chose the beef and beer theme for its broad appeal,” he adds, “but Executive Chef Aaron Custer is the one who decided to make it an Iron-Chef-style challenge with beef in every course.”
Chef Custer, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis/St. Paul, is the man behind the beef and Parmesan ice cream for dessert, as well as the Consomme Paysanne, Veal Involtini, Thai Beef Salad and Beef Marseille that round out the menu for the meal that begins at 7 p.m. at the new brewery in the former Harold’s Furniture Building at 812 W. Hamilton St., Allentown.

Scheduled for the brewery’s Hamilton Room, the brewmaster’s dinner will be the Valley’s largest. Explains Fegley, “We can seat 150 guests here. At the Bethlehem Brew Works, our capacity is only 60 guests.”

“Certain foods beg for beer in their ingredients, like chili, meatloaf and sausage as well as all kinds of sauces, gravies and steamed seafoods,” the chef says. In fact, he estimates more than half the foods on the Allentown Brew Works’ menu incorporate brews.

But there are many more foods that also pair beautifully with beer.

“Pairing beers with foods and showing how they can enhance the overall eating experience is where the action is right now in the United States,” says Custer.

Once Custer designed the beef-centered menu, Brewmaster Beau Baden went to work selecting the beers to be served with Custer’s creations. Five of the 10 beers on the menu for the evening will be beers Baden has crafted right at the Allentown Brew Works. But he also has selected five others brews from the Brew Work’s selection of beers from around the world.

Baden explains, “We want to highlight what we do here, but we also want to make guests aware that we stock 105 beers from around the world.”

So how did Custer come up with the beef and Parmesan ice cream pairing? “I never know when an idea will come to me. I can be in the middle of watching a movie or having dinner with my girlfriend or be thinking just before I drift off to sleep,” he says.

But the Parmesan ice cream isn’t an original idea. “It’s often made as a treat in the restaurants of southern Italy,” says Custer. But he brainstormed about the rest of the elements he combined to make the dessert. “I decided to use a chocolate and pink peppercorn sauce with the beef to give it some peppery sweetness. But the chocolate sauce also makes the transition to the sweetness of the ice cream.”

Guests are expected to take the creation in stride. In fact, during my preview tasting of the dessert, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the ingredients worked together.

And the Parmesan ice cream? Although more subtle in taste than the “cheesecake” flavored ice creams in the dairy case, it was an enjoyable match for the beef. It was much better than the olive oil ice cream I once sampled in Provence. And although the dessert might not be your choice if offered as an option to hot apple pie or a ganache-laden triple-chocolate cake, it certainly is a dessert you’ll always remember!

“People who patronize microbreweries generally are adventurous. They’re interested in trying new beers and new foods, rather than being locked into the same foods and beers,” says Baden.

But that’s not to say Budweiser drinkers won’t enjoy the event, too. “We’d really like them to come and try what we have. It will be an adventure for their taste buds and just might open up a new world for them. The great thing about craft brewing is that there are so many flavors out there.

“Most people spend their lives drinking light pilsners — like Budweiser, Miller and Heineken. There are not a whole lot of things going on in those beers. We make some that are similar because they are a good starting point for people. They can go on from there. The Brewmaster’s dinner is a great way to start getting an idea of what’s out there and how beer can enhance food,” says Baden.

Ordinarily, Brew Works guests can order beer samplers of six glasses (5.5 ounces each) of its on-tap creations. Or, they can try their own food and beer pairings with the help of the brew pub’s servers who are trained to know what beers are best with foods on the menu.

But what about the person who never drinks beers and certainly has never thought of attending a beer dinner? “We’ve got a whole range of flavors and tastes. A person who enjoys coffees could try a stout that has some roasted-coffee flavor. Someone who is unfamiliar with beers in general might like starting with brews containing a hint of fruit, like raspberry or apricot, in the mix,” Baden says.
 
The Brewmaster’s Dinners aren’t intended to be intimidating fine-dining experiences, he adds. “It’s high-end dining in a casual atmosphere. Not a suit-and-tie experience. If you want to wear your flip-flops, that’s fine. Just come prepared to enjoy the food and the beers and have a good time,” the brewmaster adds.
“We generally begin with a short talk about the brewing process. Then, the first two beer pairings (five ounces of each type) will arrive for tasting with the food course.”

“I’ll also talk about why I’ve paired the food with the two beers I’ve selected, and give the beers’ history. When doing pairings, I have to take all of the ingredients in a dish into account. Is the food spicy or sweet? Is it delicate and light or robust and full-bodied? I also consider the beers’ alcohol contents.
“From there, I’ll see what the crowd wants. If they ask a lot of questions and want to know more, I’ll talk more. If they just want to know the basics and then settle in to enjoy the beer, food and music, that’s OK, too,” Baden says.
For the food and beer pairings, Baden selected from a range of beers that go from just three percent alcohol to as high as 16 percent alcohol. He adds, “Stronger beers tend to be slightly sweeter and go well with desserts.”

With the dessert of Durango Puff Pastry and Parmesan ice cream, he has selected the Allentown Brew Works Pawn Shop Porter, a dark brown beer with ruby highlights and a smooth chocolate flavor, as well as Fort Collins (Colorado) Stout with chocolate and roasted malt flavors.

For the bold flavors of the Thai Beef Salad, Baden chose ABW Hop Explosion IPA for its bitterness as well as its “sweet malt backbone.” His other selection for this dish is Uerige Alt (from Germany) which is cold-fermented and aged for extended time to make it a smooth and bitter amber ale.

His choices for the Beef Marseille (two petite filet mignons layered with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and zucchini. topped with a fig demi-glace, and accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes, are ABW Old Allentown Ale (with a creamy toffee/caramel flavor) and Xingu (from Brazil) which is a black lager with a sweet malt flavor and creamy texture.

For the consommé, he plans to feature the ABW Pig Pen Pilsener, a golden lager with a slight caramel finish, and Gaffel Kolsch, a cold fermented ale that’s “hoppy” but is balanced by a smooth malt flavor.

When the Veal Involtini is served, Baden will spotlight ABW Fegley’s Amber Lager, with caramel and toasted malt flavors, as well as Karmeliet Triple from Belgium, a golden ale with hints of apple and spice.

“The event is all about educating our customers about beer and the potential it has to add to dining experiences. After the experience of a brewmaster’s dinner, we hope they’ll never look at beer the same way again,” explains Fegley.

Reservations are required for the dinner. The cost is $60 per person plus tax and tip. For more information or to make a reservation, call 610-433-7777.

THE DETAILS: BREWMASTER’S BEER DINNER

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Where: Allentown Brew Works, 812 Hamilton St., Allentown

Cost: $60 per person for a five-course meal paired with two microbrews

For information or to make the required reservations, call 610-433-7777.

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