TYNGSBORO -- On January 30, I attended the second Smokey Bones beer dinner, featuring both Samuel Adams Brewery (Boston Beer Company) and food made by the chefs in-house at the restaurant. The format was a four-course meal, with each course paired with a beer, prefaced by some tasting notes and background provided by brewery representative Jonathan Frizzell.
As I found my seat and was waiting for a friend to arrive, I was poured a small serving of Sam Adams' new Spring witbier, White Lantern. Off to a nice start, this beer was a hazy orange/yellow with an attractive yet thin head and cloudy body supported by fairly active carbonation. My impression was that it was juicy, flavorful and light with crisp, nutty notes and some fruity tangerine aspects in the front of the palate.
My friend arrived soon after the first course was served; an abundant spread of pretzel "bones" (breadsticks) and garlic buffalo wings paired with Alpine Spring, a Spring seasonal beer introduced around this time in 2012.
The next course was served in quick succession; a nutty, dark-green salad finished with dried sweet cranberries, candied pecans, goat cheese and onions and served with a thick house sweet-and-sour dressing that reminded somewhat of a tangier raspberry vinaigrette with more savory flavor. Sam Adams' Cherry Wheat was paired with this and was intended to bring out the sweet, nutty flavors of the salad.
As a fruity complement it paired well, but I found the beer itself to pale in flavor complexity to the various notes of savory, sweet, spicy and nutty found among the salad's complex repertoire. A slightly-hazy yellowish beer with moderate retention and decent lace, Cherry Wheat was mainly telling of its sweet and tart flavor, which was supportive of some parts of the salad. Overall, I felt like the salad itself was a bit too assertive and demanding for such a simple-bodied beer.
The main course was next and what better beer to pair it with than Boston Beer's claim to fame, Boston Lager! Paired with the robust, meaty pulled pork, Boston Lager was a no-brainer.
The noble hop/caramel malt balance that it's known for pulled the meal in a sweeter direction, while the dry and clever finish allowed some of the more latent, spicy tones to work themselves out. The maple sugar from the beans combined with the spicy sauce from the pork in addition to the medium-bodied, full-flavor beer was excellent! Such a well-balanced beer for a very full-bodied, hearty meal.
The last course was the most interesting to me, as a beer lover coming to a comparative tasting: A rich chocolate cake with a bitter, hoppy IPA? Needless to say, I was intrigued by this pairing and had asked Mr. Frizzell about it before the event truly got underway. His response was, in essence, that he loves doing an "out-of-left-field" pairing at each of the events he hosts; since no one is expecting the marriage of an IPA and a dessert, no one can possibly expect what it will be like! So here I was, digging into a hunk of frosted chocolate cake coupled with vanilla bean ice cream, about to take a swig of Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA and ... it's surprisingly awesome! Though a bit phenolic and strange when coupled with the cake at first, the rounded bitterness of the IPA's recipe seemed to be cut by the sweetness and richness of the cake so much so that the pairing was cancelled out in some ways, yet overall retained the best aspects of all of the flavors involved. I was definitely impressed by how tasty and complex the end result was.
After this, they poured a surprise serving of their new Double Agent IPL, a new style (recently covered by Original Gravity in my review of Jack's Abby's Kiwi Rising) for the Spring pack that married the crisp body of a lager with the biting nature of a pale hoppy ale. The flavor was quite husky with excellent, raw bitterness and some pine notes in the finish. As a "night cap" beer, they poured a rather large serving of 13th Hour, a Barrel Room Collection original "Belgian stout" with some very complex notes of oak, vinegar, cherries and grape jelly combined with an earthy hop touch, phenolic dark fruits and some distant chocolate malt. Though complex and strong (at 10 percent), I couldn't stomach more beer at this point and decided to forego the remainder of this strong Belgian style dark ale in spite of its obvious quality.
Full and more-than-satiated, I returned home for some much needed slumber after eating and drinking like a king for several hours. If you have the opportunity to attend one of these dinners in the future, you have to go! Cheers!