Saturday, August 22, 2015

Beer Dinners: Love Them or Hate Them?

When I first started enjoying craft beer in the early 1990s, beer dinners did not exist, at least not in my area. As craft beer skyrocketed in the first beer revolution, beer dinners became more popular. They are a way to showcase a brewery and a bar/restaurant that stocks that particular brand. As the number of beer dinners increased, the creativity of chefs did too. Now, you can almost find a beer dinner on any given day if you look hard enough. So, do you love them or hate them?

Personally, I love them. I have been to great beer dinners, good beer dinners, and mediocre beer dinners. I loved them all. What's not to love? You are drinking, usually, good beer, and even if the pairings or the food are not up to your standards or tastes, you are drinking good beer. Yes, I said that twice.

Very recently I attended a beer dinner at one of my local favorite watering holes, Chops and Hops, in Watkinsville, GA. The restaurant chose a theme, Georgia grown, to show off breweries and food products made, grown, and raised in our state. The picture above shows the excellent cheese plate paired with two beers, Second Self's Xmas in July and Orpheus' Peace.War.Truth. Lie. The flavors of both of the beers could not have been more different, yet they both paired well with the cheese. All of the above were made in Georgia.

This was a great idea because we have so many new breweries popping up, and many at the beer dinner had not had any of the beers. Other breweries showcased were Southbound and Eventide with food products coming from places like Morgan County Cheeseworks, Greendale Farm, Piedmont Provisions, and many others.

Detractors of beer dinners cite cost, saturation of the market, and crazy pairings as to why they do not like them. Which, I agree, can be a bit intimidating, but one of our local chef/Owners, Richard Miley, who runs Catch 22 on Epps Bridge Road in Oconee County has taken to making smaller more affordable dinners which have great beer and food. I am attending a Stone brewing dinner there next week, and you don't have to attend every dinner. I believe that if you look hard enough, you will find a dinner that fits your budget and tastes. As a non-mammal eater, chefs have been great about doing substitutions as long as you let them know far enough in advance. Do not expect them to make substitutions if you buy your ticket that night or even the night before. These things take preparation and planning. The picture below was my amazing chicken substitution for the lamb dish served with Second Self's Red Hop Rye and Eventide's Nitro Stout which, by the way rocked the flavors!

With all things, my opinion is if you don't like something, don't do it, but don't give up on beer dinners if you have had one bad experience. I love meeting the beer reps and brewers and seeing what the chefs are going to do. Go in with an open mind and palate. I would be interested in hearing about your experiences and your opinions on the subject. You can follow BeerWenchGA on Twitter and like Facebook. Let me know how feel! In the meantime, remember to eat well and drink good beer.

Beer Wench GA, John from Second Self, and Ashton Smith
at the Chops and Hops Georgia Grown beer dinner.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

There is a conference for everything: celebrating women in beer!

For one of the last hurrahs of the summer before returning to my day job, I attended my first Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference. Yes, there is a conference for everything. The 2015 conference took place in beer mecca Asheville, North Carolina.

The Beer Wench breathing in
the aroma of hops at Sierra Nevada.

I took part in the pre-conference excursion in Raleigh, NC because it had been years since I had visited the city. The beer scene has exploded! Since visiting, I have learned that Clouds Brewing, which is a very good craft beer bar, plans on brewing their own beer. Can't wait to go back and try it!

Another great benefit of the trip were excursions to Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada where we were treated like royalty. Along with other bloggers, I visited some old friends and was introduced to some new beer places. You can't do the entire Asheville beer scene in one weekend any more, folks!

But, I have to say that one of my favorite treats of the conference did not involve beer, at least not drinking it. It does relate to the subtitle of this blog.  Kim Jordan, co-owner of New Belgium Brewing, came to talk to us. If you did not know, New Belgium is opening a location in Asheville, following in the footsteps of Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada. I loved hearing Kim talk about her brewery, the beginnings, and her passion for the industry.

I have been enjoying craft beer since about 1992. I started writing about beer and food in beer newspapers around 1994 or 1995. When I first started writing and judging there were not many women out there - at least not compared to the number of men in the industry. Now women are showing their passion for good beer, making good beer, running breweries, and generally saying craft beer is not a gender issue. Kim Jordan's presentation, the number of female bloggers I met at the conference, Julia Herz from the Brewer's Association in Colorado giving the opening address, and meeting the new head brewer at Highland Brewing company, Holly, shows that women are a vital, growing part of the industry.

Selfie with the new head brewer
at Highland Brewing, Holly.

I am looking forward to next year's conference in Tampa and am already registered. I can't wait to see what is in store! The next big beer trip for this Beer Wench will be judging at GABF again this year! Life is good. No matter the shape of the world today, remember to eat well and drink good beer.