The restaurant where this took place was Maximiliano in Highland Park. The organizers were Andre Guerrero, Maximiliano's owner/chef, and Alan Sprints, founder of the Hair of the Dog Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon.
Guerrero's job was to match food to distinctive beers that are difficult to obtain. Some are brewed every other year, others every few years. Some are vintage-dated.
The hardest to get is "Michael," a Flanders red style ale that is aged in American oak and sherry casks for two and a half years. "It's like trying to get Romanée-Conti, the most rare red burgundy in France," Guerrero said.
Nevertheless, Michael was poured at the dinner with braised pork belly, sweet corn polenta and a dry fig and cherry gastrique (above). The sweet, fruity flavors of the dish echoed the fruity, cherry tones of the beer. Sipping it was like drinking beer candy.
The most striking pairing was butternut squash soup (above) with "Greg," a golden beer brewed with Queensland Blue winter squash. The flavors were so similar, it was like pairing squash with squash. Like other Hair of the Dog beers, Greg develops flavor as it ages in the bottle, becoming sweeter, Sprints said.
The dinner started full force with "Adam," a dark beer that weighs in at 10 % alcohol. "I was trying to recreate a beer made hundreds of years ago," Sprints said. Because he recommends Adam with oysters, Guerrero came up with a variation on oysters Rockefeller--baked Fanny Bay oysters with bacon confit, fennel and spinach (above).
Dark, with some sweetness, Adam is also "a very nice dessert beer," Sprints said.
Hair of the Dog's best seller is Blue Dot, a dusky double India pale ale with strong citrus notes. Guerrero matched this with cold smoked organic Scottish salmon (at top), which he presented with aromatic "forbidden" black rice, grapefruit pico de gallo, yuzu lime and lemongrass.
"Fred" was another powerhouse, at 10% alcohol. This sharp and tangy ale came with a soft and soothing dish, beef short ribs cooked sous vide, with sage, wild mushrooms, potatoes and glazed carrots and finished with a splash of crème fraîche (above).
Fred gave way to an even more potent beer, the 2011 Doggie Claws, which, at 11.5%, was the highest in alcohol at the dinner. A barley beer, it went with pastry chef Jan Purdy's mocha cake filled with roasted almond and malt semifreddo and, on the side, butterscotch sauce. "It's a really big, intense beer. It's like finishing off with a dessert wine," Guerrero said.
Only dinner wasn't finished. Sprints threw in an extra, wine glasses of Matt, which is as close as you can get to Port in a beer. This Matt was brewed in 2008, aged in wood barrels and released in 2010.
Matching beer with food gave Guerrero more leeway than a wine dinner. "There are actually more flavor components in beer than you find in wine," he said. This is especially true of Hair of the Dog beers. Founder Sprints, who was born in Culver City, started the brewery in 1993 and released his first beer, Adam, in 1994. Production is now 800 barrels a year.