Denver was the setting for the 2009 American Dietetic Association (ADA) annual convention held October 17-20. As 2009-2010 chairwoman of the Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group (FCP) of ADA, I had the privilege to lend a hand in planning several culinary programs at the conference, including a sell-out beer and food pairing event at the Wynkoop Brewing Company.
The Wynkoop is Colorado's oldest brew pub, founded in 1988. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is one of the co-founders of the establishment. You know the people of Denver must take their beer very seriously if they elected a brewpub owner mayor. The Wynkoop is part of the remarkable story of Denver's downtown revival that has occurred in the past 20 years, with the building of Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, Invesco Field, Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.These anchors, made possible through public-private partnership efforts, were the impetus for an energetic resurgence in restaurants and nightlife in a city that in was essentially a ghost town after sundown, when I first moved to Colorado in the mid-80s.
The food-beer pairing event featured four different suds as well as presentations from the brew master and the head chef. Accompanying the salad course was a seasonal organic whitbier infused with lemongrass. The brew's light citrus nodes were perfect with the greens. Next was deliciously creamy Olathe roasted corn chowder served with the pub's popular Two Guns Pilsner. B3K Schwarzbier was smartly paired with the main course of Colorado lamb and sweet potatoes. This brew black lager earned a Gold Medal at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in the German Schwarzbier category. Despite its rich color and aroma, B3K is surprisingly light and is a lovely beverage choice for lamb. We finished off the meal with a peach tart made with Colorado Palisades fruit. Matched with the dessert was pumpkin infused beer, which balanced very nicely the spices in the pie.
Having patronized the Wynkoop for about as long as it has been in operation, I was delighted to learn more about the establishment's award-winning brews and to glean ideas for pairing beers with foods, beyond the usual barbeque fare. Management of this, and other FCP events at the ADA meeting, was expertly handled by Apple A Day, Seattle, headed up by FCP founding member and Registered Dietitian Barb Pyper, who works very closely with her sister, Mary. Fabulous work, women!
Two little Pyper birds told the brewmaster my birthday was around the corner. That resulted in the Wynkoop bestowing upon me a bottle of Deschutes Black Butte XXI, a full-on porter brewed with chocolate beans and coffee and aged in bourbon barrels. Several days later, on my birthday, we enjoyed the special reserve as an accompaniment to a chocolate mousse torte made by Gateaux pastry shop in Denver. Gateaux has been named 5280 magazine's Best Bakery for eight of the past ten years. My FCP friends thoughtfully ordered the sumptuous cake, knowing I'd be headed home on my birthday after six whirlwind days at the ADA conference and rightly assuming hubby John was merely in survival mode between work, carting around teens and caring for "my" dog. (The joint ownership seems to transfer pathetically to solo, just when I'm on trips.) Now John, my chocolate fiend of a husband, is best friends forever with FCP.
Black Butte XXI is truly a marvelous choice to accompany a substantial chocolate dessert. Its coffee-induced bitter overtones round out the sweet richness of ganache and mousse. Let me tell you, though, this brew is serious stuff, with 11% alcohol content by weight. You'll want to savor it in small portions. When it comes to food and beverages, everything in moderation, including chocolate and beer. And if you have to moderate, it might as well be the best!