The good folks at Pikes Peak Brewing Company have been keeping us hopping all week with their ongoing Monument Beer Week events!
Wednesday night was no exception as we were summoned to serve as ‘jurors’ in a Grain vs Grape interactive beer, wine, and food pairing event. 5 plates paired with individual beers and wines with people’s choice deciding the winner of each round. It was immediately apparent that Pikes Peak’s head brewer Chris Wright, the ‘attorney’ representing grain had his work cut out for him, facing down an Italian themed menu cooked up by Chef Tiff Smith from the Lil’ Tin Can food truck. His opposing ‘attorney’ was Bob Elliott from VinMarket Selections who selected the wine pairings for each course. Arguments were made, witnesses called, and fun was had by everyone in attendance.
Let’s go to the course by course replay!
- Food: Pear spear with bleu cheese and prosciutto.
- Grain: Pikes Peak Brewing’s 1501 Barleywine aged in red wine barrels
- Grape: Gewürztraminer white wine
The wine was fruity and light, matching up perfectly with the pear slice. The barleywine pairing here was a bold choice that would have worked marvelously if the bleu cheese in use would have been more assertive. Since it was a milder bleu cheese, this round went to wine.
Score: Beer 0 – Wine 1
- Food: Herbed polenta sticks with a marinara dip and rosemary
- Grain: New Belgium Brewing’s Le Terroir
- Grape: Chianti red wine
This was a more difficult pairing than it would initially seem, since one would think the marinara and Chianti pairing is a bit of a no brainer. The sentiment at our table was that the Le Terroir’s sour notes paired well with the polenta’s creaminess and the red wine paired well with the marinara sauce, but when taken together the combo went to the beer. This ended up being a close round, with beer losing out to wine by only a small margin.
Score: Beer 0 – Wine 2
- Food: Homemade spinach fettuccine in a creamy cheese sauce
- Grain: Pikes Peak Brewing’s Summit House Stout
- Grape: Viura – a white Rioja
Seeing the stout poured and then the creamy entree coming out, we were skeptical about the pairing, but Chris proved us wrong! This round went handily to beer! The rich cheese sauce coated the mouth, but the carbonation of the beer was an effective palate cleanser and the creamy nature of the sauce complimented the body of the beer nicely; even bringing out some chocolate notes. The wine was a nice compliment as well, but seemed a bit too light and sour for the rich entree (we were thinking a nice buttery chardonnay would have worked well) and the beer won out.
Chris called an ‘expert’ witness to the stand to talk about mouthfeel and carbonation. Under cross examination from Bob and an audience member, the witness admitted to enjoying the wine as well.
Score: Beer 1 – Wine 2
- Food: Chicken in a lemon caper sauce with sauteed zucchini
- Grain: Saison Dupont
- Grape: Pinot Grigio white
Another round where wine seemed to have an edge in the pairing. The bright acidity of the lemon and light brininess of the olives and capers play right into the camp of Pinot Grigio. This was certainly the case, but the Saison Dupont has similar characteristics plus earthy notes that really went well with the carrot ‘nest’ plated on top of the chicken. Taken as an entire bite, the saison made the dish sing. Bob called an ‘expert’ witness of his own in Laura Graham, Pikes Peak’s wine buyer, asking her why she enjoyed wine paired with food. Despite the expert testimony, beer took another round, tying the score.
Score: Beer 2 – Wine 2
- Food: Vanilla panna cotta with fresh berries
- Grain: Pikes Peak Brewing’s Little London English Mild
- Grape: Late Harvest Grenache Blanc white
The very sweet wine paired up very well with the very sweet dessert here. The English mild ale was complimentary in the way that coffee with a dessert works well. We thought this was a very difficult pairing to match with a beer outside of perhaps an intensely fruity lambic style. This round went easily to wine, sealing the victory for grapes.
Final Score: Beer 2 – Wine 3
All in all this was an informative and entertaining event, with a challenging set of pairings for team Grain, as nothing goes quite so well with wine as Italian food offerings. Chris made a valiant effort and came very close to eking out a win for grain. We have no doubt that next time he’ll emerge the victor! The real winners, however, were everyone in attendance who were treated to great food, fun, and beverages. We hope they will do this again soon.