Nate Melvin is a sales manager at Discover Kalamazoo. He resides in Kalamazoo with his wife, two dogs, and a goldfish. When not enjoying a pint, he enjoys competitive eating and music.
My first pairing dinner of the week! First off, let me just say how excited I am that Kalamazoo Beer Week is on its second successful year. I love living in a town that values the craft beer industry. And with several local breweries to choose from plus all the out-of-towners in for the week, how can you lose?
Last night I attended the “Beer Pairing Dinner” at Old Burdick’s Bar & Grill in the Radisson. It was a Brewery Ommegang pairing event, however the lineup also included two other Belgian-style breweries as well: Duvel and Liefmans. Our fearless leader was Shawn Williams, who represented all three brewing entities. Shawn spoke at the head of our family-style table of around 20 eager tasters.
The first course was a golden ale from Duvel called La Chouffe paired with a meat and cheese board featuring smoked Virginia ham, salami, aged cheddar, Danish bleu cheese and a walnut-encrusted chevre. Also on the board were some Mediterranean additions such as roasted garlic, sweet gherkins and an olive display, which actually were the best overall pairing with the beer, in my opinion. La Chouffe was nice and light with a hint of spice to it, which Shawn said was due to the cultivated Belgian yeast strain used during fermentation.
The second course featured our first Ommegang brew: Hennepin Farmhouse Saison. This was the only beer on the lineup that I was formerly familiar with, and, although I’m not generally a huge fan of saisons, is one of my true favorites. Named for Father Louis Hennepin, a 17th century missionary and explorer who discovered much of New York state—including Niagara Falls—it was paired with a mixed green salad with candied orange peel and a citrus vanilla vinaigrette that was quite pleasant and refreshing. Be warned: this beer tastes light but hides it’s 7.7% ABV very well, so its effects may sneak up on you.
Our main course featured thin-cut roasted sirloin with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed green beans paired with Ommegang’s Belgian Pale Ale. The beer was noticeably hoppy for a Belgian-style beer, and due to the mushroom demi-glaze on the meat the pairing may have benefited more from something a bit maltier, however I enjoyed the contents of the plate and the glass thoroughly.
Dessert paired a double shot of blueberry and raspberry cheesecake with Liefmans Fruitesse—another brew to note, as it tasted like juice (very, very good juice). Shawn explained that the open air fermentation used to brew this red concoction gave some sourness to this Lambic-style beer, which translated to a tartness to compliment the sweet flavors. In one word, “Delightful.”
At $30—which included tip & gratuity!—this pairing was an outstanding event. My three companions and I left very satisfied and checking the calendar for events to attend later in the week. Burdick’s, along with many of the downtown restaurants, will be hosting a good half-dozen pairing events this week, so additional activities will not be hard to find.