"Modern Comfort" at the James Beard House
Chef Josh Brown and Beverage Director Tommy Burns hosted an evening of "Modern Comfort," featuring their elevated American gastropub fare, innovative cocktails, and (let me clear my throat) beer from yours truly.
Because the beer choices were deliberate and delicious, we asked Tommy to walk us through his choices. First up was a beer cocktail made with Tropical Bitch, rhubarb, vanilla, lemon and Bluecoat Gin.
Q: Why did you choose to serve a beer cocktail over a traditional cocktail?
A: Our inspiration for the recipe was to showcase the versatility of the beer not only as a base but also as a modifier through different uses in syrups and hopped juices. We wanted to serve a beer cocktail because we believe it's a underutilized ingredient in cocktails that allows for so much flexibility in uses through flavor, carbonation, and aroma.
Next up was Single Hop Imperial IPA with HBC-291 paired with a White Asparagus Bisque with California Paddlefish Caviar and Fried Parsley.
Q: Wine people say that no wine can pair with asparagus. And fancy wine people call that "The Asparagus Conundrum." What about our HBC-291 appealed to you as an answer to that?
A: First off, the asparagus conundrum doesn't transfer over to beer the way it does for wine. In my experience with wine, it's been a fine fit for most citrusy, floral, and herbaceous white wines yet the pairing never seemed to bring out the best from both sides. When pairing asparagus and beer, there are nuances of flavor from both the asparagus and the beer that are more than just vegetal.
The HBC-291 was appealing for a few different reasons, and not just for the hop presence. The rye in the malt bill lends grassy and herbal notes that brought out a lot of flavor from the bisque. The use of a Single Hop varietal beer is going to give the taster a very distinct focus as to where interpretations of aroma and flavor are coming from. The HBC-291 hop itself and asparagus share similarities of earthiness and floral aromas that make it an ideal pairing.
Our goal was to have a beer that could standup to a rich white asparagus bisque without overwhelming the palate with purely dry bitterness. We wanted the hops to shine through and have a balanced IPA that would to clean and refresh the palate to start off a multi-course meal.
And that it did. You can check out the full menu, and upcoming events at the James Beard House, here. Just grab a napkin to dab that drool.