Yesterday marked the first Good Beer Week event on my calendar – Brew vs Cru featuring Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery and Martin Spedding from Ten Minutes by Tractor and held at Vue de Monde.
On Arrival …
Vue de Monde is located on level 55 of Melbourne’s Rialto tower. Guests were checked in at lobby reception before heading up via the elevator where the buttons only go up to 54. Yep, this place is a little fancy.
Walking into the venue and seeing the view of Melbourne is breathtaking though after a lot of drinks perhaps somewhat overwhelming! But that was a problem for later in the afternoon.
Staff greeted each guest with two glasses, one of Brooklyn Brewery 2009 Wild One and the other of 2010 Blanc De Blanc Sparkling.
Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery, was well known by most of the guests given the level of beer-geek attendance. Highly respected and a wealth of experience, we were all ears when Garrett spoke. He introduced himself and talked to the twenty years he has spent with Brooklyn Brewery, one of the most loved American craft breweries, remarking how Brooklyn have “grown more interesting over time” with new releases, dedicated barrel programmes and a dedication to making beers they want to drink.
Martin is the owner and wine maker at Ten Minutes by Tractor, the winery is located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula where he says the conditions lend themselves perfectly to Pinot and Chardonnay. The name of the winery comes from the distance between their three vineyard sites taking ten minutes by tractor to get to. I love this little story.
Food: Crab, Kohlrabi
Beer: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace | Wine: 2011 Tmbt Estate Chardonnay
Chef Michael used WA crab for this gorgeously delicate dish along with fresh dill, lemon and sesame toast. The Sorachi Ace was stunning as always with it’s lemon peel, hints of dill and fairy floss-like mouth feel. The Chardonnay used grapes from all three Tmbt sites and I loved it’s fruity, slightly buttery and rich flavours.
For me I felt the beer was the winning match, the dill and lemon flavours in both the dish and beer were wonderfully complementary. The wine was beautiful but felt a little too big for the delicate dish.
How the Room Voted: A draw!
Food: Smoked Bone Marrow, Onion, Thyme
Beer: Brooklyn Cuvee La Boite | Wine: 2013 Tmbt 10x Pinot Noir
The dish was served with onion done three ways – roasted, pickled and fried. The beer came from Brooklyn’s Ghost Bottle range, experimental beers and very limited release, so limited in fact that these beers came from Garrett’s personal beer stash. The Cuvee La Boite is made with a variety of spices including fresh kaffir lime leaves and saffron and so named after the spice shop La Boite who inspired and assisted in developing this beer.
I stretched a canvas for him to paint on
Garrett described La Boite as the world’s leading spice blender and walking into the store is an evocative experience “like paintings, they [the spices] took you places.” The beer was beautiful with subtle spices and a delicate mouth feel and pretty appearance thanks to the saffron.
For me the beer and the smoked bone marrow dish were perfect for each other, the sort of pairing that reminds you why you seek out these experiences. It’s the sort of pairing that should never be pulled apart, when having this dish you should have this beer and visa versa. I particularly loved the way the sweetness of the onion bought out sweetness from the beer.
How the Room Voted: Beer – this was the only round to have a clear winner
The barbeque sauce in this dish took two days in the making and the beef was wagu tenderloin. For those like me who are thinking, ‘what on earth are munthari?!’ they are a native Australian berry that added a hint of sweetness to the dish. The beer boasted roast, chocolate and coconut qualities that only got better as the beer warmed up. Made with a Belgian yeast and it went into Woodford Reserve barrels in June last year for up to eight months. Garrett pointed out that the beer wasn’t in a champagne bottle, “champagne is in a beer bottle, the French just have better marketing.”
The 2008 Tmbt Pinot Noir sold out in a couple of weeks after it appeared in James Halliday with a rating of 97/100 and pictured side-by-side with a Grange of the same rating but priced hundreds of dollars more than Tmbt. This wine is made with grapes from all three Tmbt estates and is the result of what Martin describes as a generally cool year in terms of weather.
For me the Pinot Noir was a beautiful match to the beef, adding some spice and richness to the meat that complemented it very well.
How the Room Voted: Another draw!
This pairing was the one that generated the most conversation and debate on our table. A few of us wanted to spilt their vote in half because there were elements of the dish that were perfect for the beer and others perfect for the wine. The dish was a wonderful combination of soft layered apple, candied walnuts, truffle, grape and celery leaf. The apple and celery leaf was great with the wine’s acid, citrus and very subtle sweetness from the dosage. Incidentally only a dozen bottles of the Blanc De Blanc received the 30 grams dosage and ten of them were at this event.
It’s a shame you had to resort to doping!
Garrett Oliver joking with Martin Sledding on his dosage
The rest of the dish, the truffle, crumb, grape and walnuts were just fantastic with Brooklyn’s imperial stout. The Black Chocolate Stout was the first beer Garrett made at Brooklyn back in 1994 and they often do tastings of their older vintages to see how they aged. For matching with desserts Garrett likes to use younger, fresher vintages, as they have “more elbows”, perhaps referring to the fresh chocolate and coffee notes that dominate this luscious beer.
For me, given that I couldn’t chop myself in half and vote for both the wine and the beer I had to go with beer only because I’d never think to pair such a bold beer with an apple desert and this pairing really made me think and dissect what was happening. I freakin’ love that!
How the Room Voted: Another draw!
Even my wife voted against me!
Martin commenting on the Apple, Truffle pairing
Food: Cheese, Bread and Jams
Beer: 2012 Brooklyn “K” is for Kriek | Wine: 2004 Mccutcheon Vineyard Chardonnay
Oh cheese, how I love you! Mounds of sliced Comte cheese, a French cow’s milk cheese, started landing on tables and I had to stop myself from grabbing fistfuls of the buttery fruity cheese just for myself. Served with assorted breads from a local Melbourne baker it was a great way to finish a delightful long lunch.
The Kriek clocked in at over 10% ABV and is the result of a beer from their Ghost Series. Aged on Wisconsin cherries for five months there are a couple of hundred barrels back at Brooklyn that will be released in 2015. Moreish as hell, a little funk and cherries that make you want to jump in a bathtub of them, I can only imagine what it will taste like next year.
Martin’s Chardonnay was equally special, coming from his own “museum stock” it’s another single vineyard number and its slightly buttery and crisp acidity were great with the cheese … As did the beer. This pairing was a seriously hard call.
For me I had to go with beer, I’ve been told Kriek and Comte cheese are great together and I well and truly understood the hype when having it here.
This man’s seriously got game!
Garrett remarked this was one of the closest matches he has participated in for a beer versus wine event. The room was buzzing throughout the afternoon with excitement at the calibre of guests and the pairings. Both Garrett and Martin clicked as presenters and clearly loved being in an environment of people who want to learn and experience what these two professionals had put together.
It’s not just passion – we fell in love
Garrett’s comment was hard not to write down, simple and genuine and what makes the brewing industry so wonderful to be involved in.