Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

Ever attended a wine dinner? Those special events that restaurants create in conjunction with winemakers where specific wines are matched to specific dishes? Good ones can be as informative as they are fun.

Wine aficionados get the chance to sample a variety of wines from a single vintner and often get to taste special bottlings not always readily available to the general public. They get to meet someone from the winery and come away with a “Cliff Notes” understanding of the winemaking philosophy of the host winery. And they get a tailor-made meal for a much better price than they would if they had ordered the same food and wines a la carte.

For their part, winery representatives get a captive audience and quality time with consumers. Those who attend, assuming they like the wines at the dinner, frequently become life-long customers of the brand because they make a one-on-one connection with the winery. It makes sense that makers of other beverages would want to tap into the same personal dynamic by partnering with restaurants to show off their wares.

So it was hardly surprising that Boulder-based Avery Brewing would collaborate with Carbondale’s Six89 restaurant on a meal matching the food of chef de cuisine Bryce Orblom with Avery’s Belgian-style beers earlier this month.

At just $36.89 per person, the event was a bargain and from the packed house it appeared that the theme of quality beer and gourmet cuisine resonated with the young and obviously food-savvy crowd.

The evening began with a citrus-y pairing of the White Rascal, Avery’s Belgian-style wheat beer, and an enormous, perfectly seared, diver scallop on a bed of citrus-infused risotto. The beer, cloudy yellow in the glass owing to the unfiltered process used to make it, had more than hints of coriander and orange. It had a handful of the stuff. If you like a bit of fruit and spice in your wheat beer, then the White Rascal is made for your palate. Think New Belgium’s Mothership Wit, kicked up about four notches.

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As was clear from the first sip, Avery makes beer for those who like strong and hearty, full-bodied, in-your-face flavors. Subtlety, it seems, is left to others. Everything Avery does is bold and dynamic, from the taste of their beers to the outrage in the art that adorns their labels. No apologies.

Next up we got a taste of Six89’s version of bar food. Veal Sweetbreads (for the uninitiated, the thymus glands of young cattle) served in a “Buffalo Wing” sauce with blue cheese. Frank and Teressa, the proprietors of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., who blessed this earth by allegedly giving birth to the concept of Buffalo wings, would have been proud of the spicy red, hot sauce. I’m not so sure, however, that Teressa would have approved of the underlying meat.

The brew chosen to pair with the offal (the culinary term used to refer to the entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal) was the Salvation Belgian Style Golden Ale, my favorite pour of the evening.

Fruit and spice, especially peach and cinnamon, scented the beer and the quenchable finish made me long for a full pint glass and a basket of, well, wings, rather than just a sip and a single sweetbread.

The main course was a winner too, as chef Orblom presented a braised-until-it-fell-from-the-bone venison osso bucco atop a sage and cranberry gremolata. Another Belgian style ale, The Reverend, accompanied the dish and, again, the fruit-forward nature of these beers was apparent. At 10 percent alcohol this was a big beer and it worked well with the gamey-ness of the deer. Still, it was the first time all evening that I would have preferred a glass of wine.

Maybe a Cabernet Sauvignon or, as Six89’s fine wine guy Bill Bentley suggested when asked what he would pair with the Venison, a Chateauneuf du Pape.

The final two courses of the evening were sweets and cheese and both, in my estimation, would have done better with a sticky wine and glass of port, but that may not have been the point. Rather, the revelation of the evening perhaps, was that wine is not necessarily a mortal lock as the “go to” beverage with gourmet cuisine.

In fact, great beer made with attention to quality, fresh ingredients and tested techniques, clearly has a place at any table.

Bottoms up.