Thursday, June 16, 2011

PBW Recap: East Meets West: Deschutes Dinner at London Grill

Getting to have my birthday in the middle of Beer Week sure does have some perks. My ever so generous girlfriend told me I could pick a beer dinner to go to for my present, really a win-win for both of us. The Deschutes Brewing Co. dinner hosted by London Grill stood out to me as I was browsing the PBW website and so my decision had been made. This sought after brewery is only available in the area during beer week so I figured I couldn't pass it up.

After making the foolish mistake of attempting to find street parking off of Fairmount Ave., we eventually ended up in the parking lot. We had arrived an hour before the dinner for what was billed as the 'reception' which featured some small appetizers and the like but the place was packed with regular happy hour folk and we didn't get to indulge in everything. Getting a beer became quite a chore as well but working in a six-pack shop I've made some friends with some people in the industry so luckily a Muller guy was able to get us a couple beers but even he had some trouble.

Now Ex-Deschutes Brewing Co. Brewmaster, Larry Sidor
My first taste of Deschutes was their Inversion IPA, a wonderfully subtle take on the style. Boldly hoppy without being overpowering or overly bitter, just a really well balanced beer. We did manage to snag some of the smoked salmon schmear going around at this point, after a long day at work we were both pretty content with just this. Before dinner got under way I had a smaller glass of their Twilight Summer Ale, a light and refreshing beer with a strong malt backbone. I remember it being pretty crisp with just a bit of citrus hoppiness to round things off. Pleasant enough but just not something I would usually go for. At this point I got to meet Jason who runs the brewery's Twitter account, an amusing encounter since he had falsely informed me earlier in the day that tickets for The Forum of the Gods were still available when in reality they had sold out a few days before. But enough schmoozing, onto the dinner!

Everyone settled into their seats and the big-wigs of the event were introduced, mainly Deschutes' brewmaster, Larry Sidor. Oddly enough he announced he was leaving the brewery to start his own just a few days after this event. I'm thinking he didn't want to miss out on all the Beer Week fun so he held off on the announcement but that's just my theory. First up on the menu was a locavore salad with a passionfruit vinaigrette made with their Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Now I have no idea what 'locavore' actually means but I don't really care either, I'm a salad kinda guy and this was one of the better ones I've had. This was of course served with a Mirror Pond Pale Ale, a full-bodied and piney pale ale that works that delicate balance between hops and malts just right. At the start of a big meal like this it was just mild enough.

Next on the menu was a soft shell crab, something I've never had before and still don't fully realize why some people "freak out" about. I didn't find it that odd to be eating the whole thing, in fact it was delicious and could have had another. Served on top of some coconut jasmine rice, I was a big fan of this dish. This was paired with two beers, the first being their Obsidion Stout. While I'm no sommelier by any stretch of the imagination, this pairing seemed a bit odd to me. No matter though, the beer was so fantastic it could have been paired with Easy Mac and I wouldn't have said a word. Dark roasted coffee is the prominent player here with an emphasis on the roasted part. A very deep stout with just enough hops to give it a bitter finish but nothing too aggressive, the chocolatey espresso flavors were the focus here and I loved it. They also brought out Hop In The Dark, Deschutes' "Cascadian Dark Ale" or a black IPA or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods. I don't care how popular this style might be right now, I always look forward to trying a new one. This one had a fantastic nose to it, lots of tropical fruits and grapefruity hops. The flavors pretty much followed suit but with a well rounded chocolate malt presence as well. These two beers were my definite favorites of the whole evening.

The next course however was the standout amongst the food, Black Butte braised Goat Mole served on top of a corn arepa and a dollop of goat cheese to top it off, paired with a Black Butte Porter. I have to say, my ladyfriend really has to walk me through food like this, I had no idea what I was getting into in that department. Basically this was the most savory version of pulled pork I've ever had, although it was goat...not pork. If you know me well then you are well aware of my affection for such dishes so I was clearly in a good place throughout this course...I don't think I said too much during it. Not to be completely outdone, the porter was richly sweet and creamy. I got some cocoa and brown sugar out of it which worked wonders with the mole, another food word I don't understand. I could go on about the wonders of goat but I'll spare you.

Last on the menu was of course, dessert...and a little beer called The Abyss. I wasn't a huge fan of the dessert, ginger gelato with Abyss caramel and a lychee berry on top. It was so rich I had a hard time enjoying it, I'm sure I'm offending some foodies out there but I honestly didn't eat very much of it at all. The beer, however, more than made up for it. The Abyss lives up to its name, pitch black with oak and chocolate dominating the aroma, with a hint of booze coming through as well. Dark fruits and molasses, smoke and wood, coffee and bourbon...this imperial stout has it all! Luckily for me Meridith isn't the biggest fan of this style so I basically got two helpings of it which I gladly took advantage of. This was the only way the dinner could have ended, a top notch beer that lived up to the hype.

This was most definitely one of the best beer events I have been to. Despite the confusion in the beginning, everything else fell into place and I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time. Even the fact that there were people whom I had interviewed with in the past (obviously not very successfully) could not deter from the night. Getting to talk to Larry Sidor for a few moments was also a real treat, a very friendly and down to earth guy who clearly loves what he does...who wouldn't? Of course the question of coming to Philadelphia was raised and was shot down with the skill of someone who had surely been asked the same question hundreds of time but when that time comes I'll be ready for it.


PS: I have to mention that even when London Grill isn't hosting a beer dinner or other event, it's an awesome corner bar with a very nice selection of rotating taps. They've also got some rather handy happy hour deals as well so if you are ever in the Art Museum/Fairmount area be sure to stop in!

Also, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I did not come home with a Deschutes glass of any kind. I suppose I just was not on my game. I did however get a pretty cool leather Deschutes coaster which I had never seen before. It'll do.


  1. Heh, I asked the same thing about what Locavore meant when I wrote this up. Apparently it's: a person who enjoys and promotes using local ingredients in cooking/menus whenever possible.

    Also, was the marketing guy's name John or Jason? We met a Jason at the end of the meal and I'm pretty sure he is the one who runs their twitter. Not 100% sure though. I did see that tweet from them about Forum of the Gods though.

    The Larry Sidor thing was interesting timing too.

    Oh and technically the style for Black IPA / Cascadian Dark Ale is now American Black Ale. I asked Larry about the whole style issue but he just kind of laughed and said he didn't want to confuse everyone so didn't mention it.

  2. Thanks for clearing up 'locavore'...good to know I suppose.

    Now I'm not sure about John/Jason's name which is slightly embarrassing. I'm not the best with names, especially in the middle of Beer Week so you might be onto something there.

    And while I'm glad there is a now a catch-all name for the style it seems like it's too late. Some people are so attached to their regional name I don't see them changing it up. No matter really though, what's in a name? Thanks for the clarification though!

  3. Thanks for attending our beer dinner at the London Grill during PBW and for reviewing it on you blog. The locavore salad was my favorite since I was not feeling adventurous enough to try the goat mole. It was great meeting you and hopefully we'll be back sooner than later to launch our beers in Philly for good, not just the week.

    I agree with you that the whole style naming of Black IPA, American Black Ale, India Black Ale or as we like to call it, Cascadian Dark Ale is a bit confusing but damn the beer is good. Check out our blog ( for a little Cascadian humor and interview with Larry about his departure.

    Cheers, Jason

  4. Well that clears up the name question. =)

  5. Thanks for checking out the post Jason! I can't wait til we see your beers around here a little more often. My local bar has actually secured a few of your kegs and will be tapping them all tomorrow.

    The joys of Beer Week leftovers!