It’s once again time for the Brewer’s Plate, a major fundraising event for Fair Food, an organization dedicated to bringing healthy local food to the marketplace while promoting a humane and sustainable agriculture system for the region. Brewer’s Plate was the brainchild of Bill Covaleski, Brewmaster & President of Victory Brewing Company, and Ann Karlen, Fair Food’s Executive Director. They saw this event as a way to pair local craft brews with fine, local food while raising funds to support Fair Food. I always try to include this event on my calendar because it’s a really good time and an excellent opportunity for the Boozedancing crew to make it a night on the town. Regrettably, G-LO was unable to attend this year’s event, so this blog post is both a recap for him as well as a review of the event.
Before I hit this year’s highlights, let me get a few negatives out of the way…
- The event is on a Sunday. Hitting 88 tables of food and beverages would be a daunting task on a Saturday night. Attempting to hit that many tables on a Sunday is just madness. Unless, of course, I didn’t have to go to work on Monday, and maybe even Tuesday.
- Next, I would have to critique the venue. I had gone to the event at the Constitution Center and I have to say that while the Kimmel Center is a very nice location, the three-floor lobby is not really conducive to the event. It was very loud and there was too much of a disjointed feel. Plus, walking multiple flights of steps while throwing back some local beer isn’t a good idea. I suppose it would be okay for most of the crowd, but on a good day, I’m a bit rickety (there a reason they call me Limpd). After hitting the ample supplies on the first floor, the stairs become my nemesis.
- Lastly, I have to gripe about the lack of napkins. Serve up a bunch of saucy foods and don’t provide enough napkins? The Messy Marvins in the room want to know why!
Okay, with my day of the week, venue, and napkin rant over, I have to say that the event was really well done. From my attendance at prior events, I recall some bar/restaurant/pubs providing both the food and the drink. This time, the organizers did a great job of pairing the food with a local beer (or whisky). I think this way you get more eclectic tastes as some food was crafted to match the beer, while some beers were crafted to match the food. It was a nice mix of both.
With regards to the food, Brewer’s Plate 2015 was all about the pork! We had pork belly raviolis (The Abbaye) and pork sandwiches (Rosa Blanca) and pork Peruvian stew (Guerilla Ultima) and pork & beef meatballs (Russet). We had a great brisket taco (Distrito) and a duck Cuban (Garces Catering Group) and a shrimp taco (Iron Hill). We had braised black mission figs wrapped in serrano ham with fig mustardo (okay, I took a picture of the place card from Amada and might have hit that table a few times) and parsnip soup (the Good Spoon Soupery). And, all kinds of cheese from Cherry Grove Farm and Birchrun Hills Farm and Victory Artisans (a group of artisans that works with Victory Brewing to make beef jerky, pickles and cheese). Really good cheese (The Alemonger would have had a fit!). They even had Stout Fudgesicles and Double Simcoe pops (The Bent Spoon) and gourmet chocolate (Eclat). In case you couldn’t tell, we did some serious eating!
With regards to the beer, there was a lot of it on hand, but I really didn’t see anything that I would have considered to be a “get”. Although there was an ample variety, and while the beer selections were meant to complement the food offerings, most of the beers were outside my wheelhouse (some sours and a lot of wheat beer). And unlike at past year’s events, there was no VIP section (that’s where they used to keep all the “gets”). For the 2015 event, the specialty beers were made available during the VIP hour, while those with general admission were left to hope for the best.
Our first beer of the night was the Sam Adams Cold Snap and after that it was a bit of a beer blitz. We picked up a Monkey Wrench, a boozy saison from Fegley’s, stopped over at the Yards table (they were located at the bottom of the steps ) for a Rye IPA (and the poached figs at the adjacent table from Amada), and then made our way to the third floor. It was there that we ran into the guys from the Manatawny Still Works (they were sharing a table with Rosa Blanca). They brought two whiskies, a gin, and a rum. All were very tasty, especially the rum. Then it was over to Forest & Main who had a good IPA (Kinch) and some artisanal cheese (Cherry Grove Farm). Then, down to Sly Fox who had a stout on nitro (O’Reilly’s) that was really good, but so creamy that I had to rinse my glass in the men’s room. Rounding out our visit to the third floor, we hit more food (the meatballs and a NJ 350 from Flying Fish, shrimp tacos, more cheese from Birchrun Hills, and chocolate were in the back).
I grabbed a Russian Imperial Stout from Iron Hill (and maybe some more chocolate; the dark chocolate salted caramels were fantastic) and then we made our way back down to the second floor. This is where I found the biggest surprise of the night: Prism Brewing Company. I was minding my own business and reading the tap list when I was recognized by a guy I used to work with in the real world. He was pouring at Prism as his brother-in-law owns the brewery (my brother-in-laws couldn’t afford to buy me a prism (the toy that refracts light) and this lucky guy gets all the beer he wants AND gets to work all the best events). I had Love is Evol (a strawberry Jalapeno brown), the Shady Blonde (an American Ale made with blood oranges) and the Misdemeanor IPA. I liked all three beers (though the Shady Blonde was a little on the sweet side). Then, it was back to the first floor for some more food (I may have hit the Amada table again and the Bent Spoon). We then did some damage at the Garces tables (brisket tacos and duck Cubans … in a word, yum!). Another surprise was the Shandy that I tried from Susquehanna Brewing Company. Unlike many of the shandies that I’ve had (most are really just bad beer and lemonade), this was an English style beer made with lemon juice which I found to be refreshing refreshing and a good intermezzo after all that food. We also spent some time at the Lancaster Brewing table. They were a great bunch of guys (and a girl), and we had a good time discussing the vagaries of NJ liquor laws. They had a double IPA (the Southern Cross) that was tasty and their double chocolate milk stout was really good. The Wookie scored the last ice cream sample from Weckerley’s and made a float (Son of a …!), then one last popsicle from the Bent Spoon, a bottle of water for the road, and then we were on our way back home.