It was my great pleasure to attend Toronado's first Beer Pairing dinner, one which featured a style near and dear to my heart, Trappist beers. You all know by now my loving obsession with Belgian beers, as evidenced by my 100 Belgians in 30 days challenge...And at the center, or rather the grand finale of this delicious pairing, was none other than the most sought after beer on the planet, Westvleteren 12. That's right, you read that correctly, my friends.
Consistently at the healm of Beer Advocate's Top Beers on Planet Earth and named the "Best Beer in the World" on RateBeer, Westy 12 (as it is lovingly referred to by admirers) is the stuff of legends. Like the best folklore, fans weave verbal tapestries of their adventure either retrieving or receiving this coveted beer, and the momentous moment when that unlabelled bottle of wonder was cracked, all the while with a wistful look in their eyes. Waxing poetic is an understatement in the presence of those numbered few who have tasted the Westy 12.
So hold on, dear friends, and try not to just cursor down to the end....there are some delicious offerings in here too....
Beef Carpaccio with Caper aioli on a bed of Arugula paired with Chimay Premiere: The beer while smooth and rounded, has a lovely spice element, which perfectly complemented the peppery "crust" of the carpaccio along with the natural pepperiness of my favorite salad green, arugula. The dried mushroom in the aioli provided an earthy undercurrent which resonated in the Chimay.
Dijon Mussel Linguini Paired with Westmalle Tripel: While not included in the description, one of the stars of this dish were the scallops perched in the middle. The natural sweetness of the delicious mollusk is a classic pairing to the Belgian Trippel. The mussels, while steamed in the Trippel maintained their characteristic brininess. What makes me a huge fan of the Westmalle is its perfect balance between the candi sugar element and a pleasant bitterness. (Perhaps my biggest complaint with American Trippels is the overabundance of sweetness, lending the beer a cloying quality, and thus throwing the style off balance.) Musing: I wonder if the Brouwerj Smisje t’Smisje Wostynje, produced with mustard seed, might not be a grand pairing as well....
Seared Sea Bass atop Red cabbage and Celery root salad paired with Achel Blonde: The fish has a beautiful lightness, which is a lovely match with the Achel, a classic example of its style. The natural sweet mildness of Sea Bass highlighted a certain delicate, similar element in the beer.
Pork Belly served with a Saffron Risotto paired with Rochefort 8: Ahhh, what a delicious beer. I reviewed the 6, 8, and 10 during my 100 Belgians in 30 days challenge. CLICK HERE to check out that glorious day...And what can I say about pork belly that you don't already know?
The mouthwatering caramelization on the pork belly was a dead match for the Rochefort, while its rich earthy flavors brought out the fig, date and dried fruit elements so beautifully present in the beer.
Chimay Grand Cru Cheese & Saint Andre with Underberg figs, pears, and puff pastry piared with Chimay Grand Reserve and La Trappe Quadruple Batch 7: As a cheese fanatic, this course was admittedly one of my favorites. There is something in the simplicity of artisan cheese with either beer or wine that strikes a delicious, harmonious chord. And one of the finest examples of this is without a doubt, the Chimay Grand Reserve. To see my review of this beer, CLICK HERE!
The highlight of the pairing was the wonderful peaty smokiness (think campfire and charred wood) of the La Trappe, which got me to thinking, "What is the beer aged in?" After some investigation, we happily discovered that the Quad matured in whisky barrels from Laphroaig, Bowmore, Tamdhu, and Strathspey. Aha!
To see my adoration for another peaty Scotch whisky-aged beer, the Brewdog Paradox Islay, CLICK HERE!
And finally, may I present..........
Blackberry Lemon Tart paired with Brouwerj Westvleteren 12: I'm gonna be honest here. As yummy as the dessert was, I don't think anyone could tell you a thing about it, because EVERYONE was riveted by the pouring and the Westy 12. Where do I start:
The Grand Dame (or rather the Grand Monk) of the Day, Westvleteren 12: This incredible beer sits on the tongue like blackstrap molasses. Not the fair grocery store brand, but the one you find in mason jars on the shelves of your grandma's cupboard and roadside shops in the mountains of North Carolina.
Dried fruit (think cherry and fig) and candied fruit layer upon notes of oak and barrel, then seamlessly mingle with a lovely brightness I didn't expect. This beer is incredibly complex, like the finest French wines. Dark honeyed flavors comfort the palate. I swear if a blanket was made of beer, this would be it.
I think I've made my point.
A SPECIAL THANKS to Chef Nate Soroko, Ian, and all the folks at Toronado for an incredible Sunday afternoon.