From the Beer Wench's Kitchen
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The Beer Wench on Location in St. Louis, MO

By K. Allen

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Opening Dinner for the 2nd annual St. Louis Heritage Festival

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The Beer Wench on Location
St Louis, MO and the 2nd Annual St. Louis Heritage Festival (May 8, 2008)

    If you have never been to St. Louis, you need to make the trip. It makes for a good long weekend with a charming downtown and plenty of brewpubs and beer bars to make for a rockin’ pub crawl.  Invited to attend the festival and its surrounding festivities, your Beer Wench was honored to be among some of my own favorite beer writers such as Greg Glaser of All About Beer, Bill Metzger the grand-master of Brewing News, Jason and Todd Alstrom of Beer Advocate, and many more beer aficionados. We started the weekend off with a beer dinner which, of course, runs right up my alley.  The Food Network’s very own Chef Dave Lieberman designed the menu and pairings for this meal as well as hosted the event along with the brewmasters of the beers involved. Welcoming speeches included the mayor of St. Louis, Francis G. Slay. Did I mention that this is a big event for St. Louis?  Spearheaded by Anheuser-Busch, this event brings the brewers of Missouri together to celebrate craft beer.

    The Beer.  The beers involved came from Anheuser-Busch, Morgan Street, O’Fallon Brewery, Square One, Griesedieck, Augusta Brewing Company, Schlafly Beer, and Alandale. Reception beers included a Vienna lager from Morgan Street, a peach fruit beer from O’Fallon, and a Belgian spiced beer (lemon grass & ginger) from Square One. All of these beers were well-crafted and tasty. Although very different in style, they were all light, crisp, and clean/perfect as an aperitif.  I enjoyed them all, but I must be honest and say that my favorite was the Belgian. I loved the combination of lemon grass and ginger. The two ingredients can be hard to manage as both have strong flavors. In this beer, the balance was very nice.  We enjoyed five more beers with a delicious five course meal.  Without further ado…

    The Dinner.  Chef Dave did a wonderful job designing the menu and considering they served over 200 people at this beer dinner, the service and quality were wonderful.
  • A smoked white almond “gazpacho” started us off. It had a vegetable base (cucumber, I believe) with cream and almonds. It was light and refreshing with a delightful flavor and paired well with the American Lager from Anheuser-Busch.
  • Seared tuna on a microgreen mix topped with a citrus vinaigrette followed; paired with a weissebier from Griesedieck Brewing Company, this course increased the flavor component a notch and paired wonderfully with the wheat and spice flavors of the wheat beer. 
  • In the third course, both the food and the beer were delicious, but this is the only course that I felt missed the mark on the pairing. Creamy baked gnocchi with morels and favas was served with an American IPA from Augusta Brewing Company. I felt that the beer overpowered the gnocchi. I think if the gnocchi had some spice/heat in the mix with maybe some added acidity the flavors would have worked better. I believe Chef Dave was going for a contrast in flavors, but every time I took a sip of beer, I lost the taste of the food.
  • I must admit that I did not partake of the “official” fourth course as I do not eat red meat; however, I did survey my tablemates on their reactions to the course. The general consensus favored the pairing. A biere de garde from Schlafly Beer paired well with a herbed stuffed leg of lamb with ale pan jus, new potatoes, and carrots. The spice and malt balance of the beer helped waylay the richness of the lamb without overpowering the flavors. Now, I myself had a vegetable pastry which was well spiced and rich. It also went quite well with the beer.
  • The fifth and final course (we were all feeling fat and sassy at this point) showcased a porter from Alandale Brewing Company. The chocolaty-roasty flavors of the porter paired well with a chocolate brownie layer cake served with hazelnut cream and fresh berries.  Need I say more?
The evening was well orchestrated, comfortable and fun.  Everyone maintained a festive mood which increased as the evening progressed. My tablemates were a mix of writers and brewery folk including Florian Kuplent and his lovely wife. Enjoying the whole evening, we also conducted beer experiments at the table by using the whole leaf hop centerpiece to “dry-hop” some beer at the table. My suggestion is to check out the festival if you get the chance. I am sure there will be a third annual next year.

    In the days following the dinner, I spoke with several of the brewers and beer folks involved, and all of them enjoyed sharing their products and are truly passionate about craft beer and the renewed love that America has for it. When asked what he thought about the rise of craft beer in the U.S. and the success of the Heritage Festival, George Reisch of Anheuser-Busch waxed poetic by saying, “Back to the future. It’s (beer) as old as mankind, and people are treating it as new.” So go out and raise a glass to going retro by enjoying a new craft beer. Always, eat well and drink good beer.

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