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March 13, 2015 at 10:56am

Words & Photos: Deschutes Brewery Beer & Food Pairing Dinner at The Swiss

The March 11 Deschutes Brewery beer-pairing dinner was a lively, delicious night to remember. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Beer may not match wine when it comes to finding a place at the dinner table, but in the South Sound it's encouraging to see so many restaurants with great beer selections - including The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in downtown Tacoma. With its range of malty sweetness, hoppy bitterness, spiciness and yeasty-earthiness, beer offers endless pairing opportunities for meals. That range was front and center Wednesday night at the Deschutes Brewery Beer & Food Pairing Dinner at The Swiss.

Egged on by Erik Dahlin of Marine View Beverage, Washington state market manager for Deschutes Brewery Norm Cartwright put on a show. I speak not of the giant vertical banners, wall banners, ceiling spotlight, swag bags and pint glasses filled with goodies. Rather, Cartwright knows beer inside and out - from the hop fields to the correct glassware - and certainly knows his beloved Deschutes Brewery. He delivered a plethora of information in boisterous soliloquies. He worked the room, and his audience of 45 beer drinkers halted their reality food show and metal band discussions to zero in on Cartwright as if he controlled the beer, which, of course, he did. Cartwright chose the beer - from his brewery's popular Black Butte Potter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Deschutes' current number one selling beer, Fresh Squeezed AIP - two special treats, such as Red Chair North West Pale Ale on Nitro, Not the Stoic Belgian Quad and The Abyss Stout, which Swiss owner Jack McQuade bought in November specifically for Wednesday night's beer-pairing dinner. In fact, McQuade bought the first ever keg of The Abyss before it reached legendary status, therefore McQuade is on the A List. Jacob Thacker controlled the kitchen. And with help from Joe Straight, the two kept smiles on their audience of 45 ... while 30 elementary school kids danced and laughed past the kitchen during a fundraiser.

As diners rolled into The Swiss, they were handed a Weizen glass full of Black Butte Porter, Deschutes' second ever beer brewed (Jubelale was the first) and flagship product out of the Bend, Oregon, brewery. Made with Pale, Carapils, Chocolate, Crystal and wheat malts, along with Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang hops, Black Butte Porter is the number one porter in the U.S. by volume.

Situated between the table of Cartwright, Dahlin and their better halves and the cool kids table of Robbie Peterson (Eleven Eleven, The Valley, The Galley at 7 Seas Brewing), Carolyn Warner, Jason Kennedy (Severus, South 11th bands) and his wife, Julie Goodale Kennedy, I concentrated on the task, giving occasional nods and smiles to conceal my nerdiness.

Up next was a roasted cauliflower salad, with chickpeas, carrots and sunflower seeds in a tangy citrus dressing to carry us through from the Black Butte Porter. The ample, savory chickpeas were cooked perfectly. Mirror Pond Pale Ale's floral scents and underlying citrus profile synchronized very well with the citrus dressing that packed a little heat, thanks to Oregon-grown Cascade hops.

A cheese and chareuterie plate followed the garden course. A wonderful port cheese was the highlight, dominating over the havarti and cheddar. Shaved salami accompanied the cheeses, as did delicious housemade beer bread baked with the course's beer - the Red Chair North West Pale Ale Nitro, a fine beer for cutting lightly through flavors without intrusion. Cartwright explained the Red Chair, named after the oldest chair at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, launches Deschutes' seasonals for the year, making room for the summer seasonal ales at the end of May. Like its namesake ski lift, it's an insider's ride to fresh thrills - several select European and domestic malts, which take a surprisingly plush, satin run on the way to a citrusy, refreshing hop kick. The beer takes an even larger malt stand and creamier, big head due to the higher-pressure nitro push.

"Drop your nose into the glass and take a sniff - three short sniffs and one long one - to really draw out that wonder aroma before taking a sip," Cartwright suggested.  The whole room drops their heads toward the heads. "We use only two hops in this beer. First, Cascade - Deschutes is the number one user of Cascade hops, and Centennial."

For our main course, we met up with a mouthwateringly delicious Fresh Squeezed IPA with a heavy helping of Citra and Mosaic hops, paired with poached sole roulade over a lemon chive risotto, and finished with a velute. As a stage for Fresh Squeezed to do its thing, the main course did just fine. There was enough bitterness to cleanse the grilled tones of the sole, and the fragrant, fresh-tasting risotto was tops.

Dessert could have stopped at The Abyss Stout. The 2014 vintage of this annually anticipated obsidian number is smooth as silk, with lovely notes of cocoa and a nose that's akin to the first inhale of a tobacco shop. Appropriately, we were served chocolate stout mousse layered with double chocolate fudge brownie crumble topped with a berry Melba sauce. A number of my fellow diners noted that they liked this course the most, and I can't say I disagree.

As the group broke into group hugs, Deschutes' Not the Stoic Belgian Quad signaled it was time to turn to the stage for jazz saxophonist Kareem Kandi's band. This beer is as good as it is rare. It's aged 11 months in premium oak casks that are 15 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent rye whiskey. Licorice, blackstrap molasses, vanilla bean and cherry paired well with the music.

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,
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Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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