The Radisson University Hotel in Minneapolis was packed Saturday night with attendees of the Indulge craft beer and food event. Mingling throughout the large ballroom were beer and food lovers, tasting glasses and appetizer plates in hand, sampling craft beers and their accompanying small bite pairings.
In booths set up around the outskirts of the room and two rows down the middle, the thirty-one brewers poured samples and spoke with attendees about their beer — the brewing process, flavors, and, of course, what food to pair them with.
Speaking with several attendees, it was apparent that beer is as personal of a choice as it comes. Summing up his couple’s dynamic, one man stated: “She’s a porter and I’m a pale ale.”
Another couple had similar opinions and named their favorites as the Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Porter and the Redhook Double Black Coffee Stout. But no matter what your personal taste, with 61 beer varieties, Indulge seemed to have a beer to quench anyone’s thirst.
While there were many satisfying IPAs, pale ales, brown ales, and ambers, brewers were also excited to share some of their beers creatively utilizing citrus, berries, and spices. Some beers of note were: Lift Bridge Crosscut ale (with grapefruit undertones) and Minnesota Tan (infused with locally sourced lingonberries), Left Hand Juju Ginger (a light beer infused with ginger), and Flat Earth Xanadu (a full flavored porter infused with orange zest). Dan Schwarz of Lift Bridge spoke in depth about the Crosscut ale, which he said “needed a little citrus” after it was originally brewed.
The brewery infused several batches with different citrus flavors (lemon, grapefruit, orange) and kept a control batch. The staff then conducted a blind taste test to determine the overwhelming winner of grapefruit. It is an amazingly subtle flavor, but definitely present once you know there is grapefruit lingering in the background.
But not to be forgotten was the food. Two tables snaked down either side of the ballroom, piled high with appetizers with accompanying signs to guide attendees in pairing each with the different beers. While there were many delicious savory food and beer pairings, this writer’s favorites definitely fell with the desserts. In particular, Furthermore Oscura paired with the chocolate truffle, a beautiful combination of deep espresso flavors and smooth semi-dark chocolate, Sprecher Bourbon-Barrel Doppelbock paired with the cherry tart, a bourbon-barrel aged medley of nutty, fruity flavors that complemented the sweet fruit tart, and Left Hand’s Milk Stout paired with the banana chocolate bite… milk, banana, and chocolate — need I say more?
And if there are style points to be given to a brewer, they would go to Crispin Cider. Not only for introducing the soon-to-be-released Honey Crisp hard cider, a more intensely flavored cider than their existing light-bodied offerings, but also for the glove, shades, and motorcycle-pulled cooler trailer.
I treated my husband to the Indulge event as a father’s day gift. We went to the MN Brewers “Autumn Brew Review” and I though that this would be much like that, plus food. With a pricey $55 ticket, I was disappointed. While the brew review was only $25, it had many (and more) of the same beers as Indulge. And while the beer was good at Indulge, the food did not warrant a full $30 more. In my opinion, the food was glorified wedding reception food. Some members of my group said they were still hungry and needed to stop somewhere on the way home.
When learning about the Indulge event, I imagined booths with beer and food pairings together. Instead the food was centralized on tables with listing of the beers that paired with it. So you had to either find a food you liked, then go get the beer — or vice versa. It would have been much better to have the beer and foods together, specially created for each other. Perhaps with a food or chef backing up the pairing. I wanted something more “high-end” with the food and flavor profiles that I had never had before. Unfortunately there were no surprises in the food area of Indulge. Unless something changes, I will keep my $110 and go out for a nice dinner next time.
I meant to say “Perhaps with a restaurant or chef” backing up the pairing. :)
I agree with most of your criticisms, Erica. I thought the paired foods would be next to their respective beers and that the more complex the food, the less pleased I was with it. I will however, give them a bit of a pass since this is the first year of the event. There were enough parts that worked for me that I’ll go again next year, hoping they will make some adjustments.
Kris, I agree as well. There’s definitely some wiggle room for a first time event. But $110 is a big deal for us, and I’m not sure if I’m willing to risk it and get burned again next time.
I still had a good time at the event, please don’t get me wrong! I’m sure setting up something like this is a huge endeavor. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes next year — maybe I’ll sign on for year three!
My favorite two (new) tastings were Flying Dog Barrel-Aged Gonzo Porter and Sprecher Bourbon-Barrel Doppelbock (had to buy a couple of bottles). Can someone tell me where to buy the Barrel-Aged Gonzo?? The people with the Crispin gloves on looked mega dorky but after a few drinks who gives a —. Compared to the Saint Paul Summer fest this event was well worth the extra $30 for the short lines, quality of breweries and addition of the food. http://www.twitter.com/precogpunk
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