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Friday, May 30, 2008

Beerbistro's Dogfish Head Dinner: May 28, 2008

Wow!

When I walked into Beerbistro Wednesday night, a little premature for the highly anticipated Dogfish Head dinner, I had no idea where I would be sitting. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when I was whisked over to a spot at the head table to sit with Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione, Philadelphia's Monk's Cafe owner Tom Peters, Esprit agency owner Peter Lopaty, Bar Towel's Cass Enright and fellow TAPS contributor Greg Clow. I had the chance to have a lengthy chat with Calagione before the rest of the crowd arrived and was impressed with his good natured personality and his interest in the Ontario beer market. We talked hockey (he's a big fan), discussed TAPS beer magazine and about Beerbistro. It seemed liked we had meet a dozen times before when actually this was my first encounter with the man. Beer people are like that though....right.

Guests for the $100 ticketed event started arriving shortly after 6pm and bellied up to the bar for bottles of a Dogfish Head brew. Everyone took to their seats just after 6:30pm to prepare for the smorgasbord of amazing food and beer we would receive throughout the night. Open remarks were made by the Beerbistro and an invitation was extended to Calagione to greet all his fans. He had everyone's attention right off the bat when he spoke about his experiences in the craft brewing industry and the trails and tribulations he has gone through. He thanked everyone for coming and was thrilled to learn that some of Ontario's craft brewery representatives were in attendance (boys from Cameron's (DeuS!) and Great Lakes).

After he told the story about getting lost in Philadelphia in 1995 and having to buy a bag of something off some derelicts in the streets just to get directions, the first samples started to arrive at our table. Chateau Jiahu and a lobster roll infused with lobster and caviar, beautiful. Great start. I won't discuss the beer and food pairings, I'll let the menu below speak for itself. Our table got into a discussion about the Ontario beer market after Calagione was presented with a can of Great Lakes Devil's Pale Ale 666. He was so interested in trying it that he had a server bring over a bucket with ice just so he could cool it enough to crack it open. He was excited to hear that some of the Ontario brewers are starting to experiment with their products and was very interested in trying Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale. **By the way Calagione really enjoyed the 666.

Next up was the Black and Blue with soup and a sandwich (again, see menu for description). Again, amazing. In between servings Calagione got up and went table to table introducing himself to everyone, which was great to watch. No pretentiousness, no big ego, just a great person. He didn't have to do that but it's who he is. Over the next two hours more and more food was brought out and it was magnificently paired with Calagione's amazing line-up of extreme beers. We were able to try his 60 min IPA, 90 min IPA, 120 min IPA, World Wide stout, Raison D'Extra & D'Etre, Fort, and the delicious Indian Brown. My favourite dish of the night was the tongue'n cheek craft dinner that consisted of cod tongues, beer braised veal cheeks, macaroni with four year old aged Quebec Cheddar. For the beer of the night....I don't know, to hard to choose just one. The 90 min IPA was/is beautiful and the Indian Brown Ale was great. They were/are all great.

Calagione took a few minutes to describe the beers and provided some insight into the ingredients he uses to brew with. For example, green raisins are used in the Raison beers, pureed blackberries and blueberries in the Black and Blue and a ton of hops in the 120 min IPA. His speeches were inspiring and sincere, terribly funny and even included a rap (Calagione leads a rap group called The Pain Relievaz). Back at our table we talked in length about beer festivals, the state of the global hop shortage (which won't affect Dogfish until 2010), more hockey (Penguins won, much to the dismay of our Philly friends), beer dinners and life in general. It was near the end of the dinner when Calagione stated that Beerbistro had just thrown one of the best beer dinners for Dogfish Head that he has ever been too, and he has literally been to thousands. He exclaimed that he usually attends 2-3 beer dinners a week and the man's in good shape? I would be 400 pounds. Peter's from Monks, who has worked with Chef Brian Morin and Stephen Beaumont before on beer events, announced that this was the best beer dinner he had ever been too!

After the dinner Calagione took the mic once again and opened the floor to questions. When asked if he has plans to bring more Dogfish Head beers into the province, he stated that if the 60 min does well (which I'm positive it will) then more beers will be discussed. From what I remember (the strong beer was getting to me) Sam mentioning to me after the dinner was that Indian Brown Ale would his choice should another beer be considered for our market. He then made a great comment about the LCBO and the state of Texas. Hilarious. He then made another set of rounds meeting everyone in attendance and taking more time to chat with people who had more questions. He also signed autographs in his new book 'He Said Beer, She Said Wine,' much to the pleasure of his admirers.

When things started to settle down and after the boys from Cameron's headed up to the bar to celebrate with Calagione over a bottle of DeuS, I took 10 mins to interview Calagione on a fair number of rapid fire questions. Look for it in the near future (quite possibly the summer issue of TAPS).

The food was excellent, the beer was/is magnificent, the Beerbistro staff were outstanding and Calagione put on a great show. For people who balked at the $100 price tag for the event - wow, were you ever wrong. If it were to happen again, and Calagione asked Morin if he could come back at least once a year, I would gladly pay more to take part again, even if I wasn't sitting where I was sitting. Class act all the way around!

***People in Pictures:
Pic#1 - Sam Calagione
Pic #2 - Sam Calagione and Tom Peters from Monk's Cafe fame
Pic #3 - Food
Pic #4 - Sam Calagione and Chef Brian Morin



2 comments:

Jer said...

I am very jealous. I would have loved to have gone to this dinner but I was away on vacation.

Sounds like a great night.

Anonymous said...

Could you post the names of the people in your pictures, plese.

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