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Blue Moon Brewmasters Dinner

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There are a lot of people in the beer industry who call themselves “Doctor” even though their lack of credentials is staggering. This is not the case with Blue Moon Brewing Company founder and head brewmaster Keith Villa.

Keith founded Blue Moon Brewing Company in 1995 after he completed his Ph.D. in brewing science from the University of Brussels in Belgium. The first beer that was cranked out of his new brewery was a twist on a classic Belgian Witbier using Valencia orange peel rather than the traditional curaçao. Since then Blue Moon Belgian White has been introducing mass market beer drinkers to the craft beer world.  b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2742.JPG

I will start out by saying that before talking with Keith and enjoying some of the other offerings that he had I always viewed Blue Moon as a mass market beer and while the beer is produced on a massive scale.  Shockingly, Keith’s brewery is actually a 10 barrel system, smaller than all other major breweries and even smaller than some of the newer breweries that have come out in the last 5 years.  They are putting out beers that were surprising and paired very well with the plates that were offered.  BierBuzz® was fortunate enough to be invited to a secret Brewmasters Dinner at Barney’s Beanery in Pasadena to taste some of Keith’s selected beer pairings and their new beer, the White IPA.  The dinner was held for people who participated in the #HuntForWhiteIPA throughout the city over the previous few weeks as a thank you for being beer enthusiasts specifically searching for Blue Moon’s new offering.All of the beers discussed below are offered from Blue Moon on a year round or limited release basis. 

Pairing 1 – Sweet Spicy Wing and Citrus Cucumber Grilled Shrimp Taco with Belgian White Ale

The orange garnish that automatically comes with the Blue Moon Belgian White accentuated the citrus notes in the glass on the wing and the dressing over the small salad.The moderate carbonation of the beer assisted in cleansing the palate between each bite, reducing the spice from the wing before the next taste.The contrast between the thickness of the Belgian White and the lightness of the shrimp in the salad was very nice.  b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2750.JPG

I’m not one to add beer to my fruit. I actually get very angry when bars add fruit to my beer without actually asking if I’d like it. I find it a throwback to a time when beer had all manner of contaminants and off flavors in it and the only way to cover up these mistakes was to add fruit. I automatically assume that if you are adding fruit to the beer that you produce you must clearly be trying to hide the flavor of something terrible. We had a long discussion with Keith about the addition of an orange to his beers and his preference is to add the orange. While there is not a flaw that is being covered, Keith’s introduction of the orange to the beer in 1997 was to help in accentuating the Valencia orange peel used in his beer.  While I clearly saw and tasted his point I’m still going to pass on fruit in my beer moving forward, but when the head brewmaster is standing next to you and offering you a beer he brewed, you don’t decline it regardless of the fruit controversy, but I digress. 

Pairing 2 – Fiesta Salad, Peach Whipped Cream topped Vanilla Milk with First Peach Ale

Ah a peach ale, I feel like I’m doing everything that Budweiser said I would be doing with a Peach Ale in front of me and you know what that’s a good thing in my opinion! The aroma from the First Peach is like a peach cobbler with a strong fruit noise and some light caramel and bready notes.  The flavors from First Peach are very pronounced and match the aroma.  There is a slight residual sweetness left in the beer that reinforces the dessert-like quality of the beer without being cloying. b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2757.JPG

The fiesta salad included a touch of lightly seasoned chicken which seemed to be brightened by the First Peach.  The flavors melded surprisingly well, it’s a combination that I would never think of doing.  Typically if I am looking for a pairing for something with Mexican spicing I’m not going near a fruit ale but it enhanced the flavor without contrasting too much.  Still the idea of a Mexican dish with what I consider a southern fruit was mentally confusing, although it worked for my taste buds. 

The vanilla milk shake and peach whipped cream had a solid resonance with the First Peach.  One of our guys when so far as to create a beer float with the combination and it was fantastic.  The milkshake and beer could be a solid dessert but having two drinks was bizarre.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream with the same whipped cream and First Peach may have been less distracting while maintaining the same excellent flavor combinations. 

Pairing 3 – Bleu Burger, Barney’s Classic Chili with White IPA

The White IPA is a solid IPA, plain and simple.  Keith Villa went through the recipe with us a little bit so that we could gain a better understanding of the beer.  Surprisingly this beer uses 10% oats in the grist to get a thick, luscious mouthfeel that lingers from the IBUs throughout the tasting.  For homebrewers out there, 10% oats sounds like a nightmare of 10 hour brew days from a stuck mash or painfully slow sparge.  I couldn’t imagine using that much of a high protein grain, it seems like a something from a masochists who wants to start hating brewing!  I don’t know how he did it, but the brew day that had this idea originally worked out.  For hops Blue Moon adds Simcoe, Citra, Cascade and Huell Melon.  The various hop aromas and flavors come through the beer very well without any one particular hop dominating.   The body of the beer was thick for an IPA but that’s 100% caused by the oat percentage in the grist and while it’s not as refreshing as a lighter bodied IPA it works for different things.  b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2765.JPG

The pairing was fine although with an IPA this thick I would have liked some more spice to the chili and some additional flavorings on the burger.  I found that the burger seemed to be lacking in the quantity of bleu cheese and that there was a severe lack of spicing to the patty.  I would have hoped for brighter flavors from pepper on the burger that would have melded better with the nuances in the White IPA.  The chili was good but again, it seems like the chef was afraid of overpowering the beer.  I later found out that Barney’s offers several different levels of heat in their chili.  If you go to Barney’s for this pairing, get something a little hotter than the standard chili and the White IPA will really show its potential for cleansing the palate and cooling the heat!

Pairing 4 – Baked Cinnamon Apples, Arroz Con Leche and Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Arroz con leche is a Mexican version of sweet rice pudding with cinnamon added.  I’m not Mexican and I’ve never had this before but it was really good and the baked cinnamon apples added a lighter fruit note and brightness with solid resonance from the cinnamon in both plates.  The Cinnamon Horchata Ale paired very well with the desserts but seemed too thin to stand up to the long lasting arroz con leche.  Come to find out this beer is brewed with a fairly significant quantity of rise to provide the same general flavorings of a traditional horchata, leading to the thinned out body.  Most of the other horchata beers that I’ve had have had a bigger bolder body so this was one was different but it was much closer to a real horchata than others (for example Belching Beaver Horchata Stout).  The beer pours a light gold color and is fairly clear.  My thought is that this was a safe play.  The pairing was guaranteed to work because of the consistent flavors of cinnamon and rice throughout all the offerings.   b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2780.JPG

Overall Impressions

The pairings were solid, nothing was off or missed the mark but at the same time I feel that this is because there were some safe plays in this line up.  There was nothing that was a stretch, similar flavors were paired more often than contrasting flavors that would still pair up well.  I recommend that people who haven’t been to Barney’s in Pasadena head over and enjoy their food as it has a solid menu and a good beer list.  If you haven’t had the new Blue Moon Brewing Company offerings like their White IPA head out to the grocery store and pick up a six pack. 

The nicest thing about Blue Moon is that it is available everywhere, even when there isn’t a craft beer section in the store, you’ll probably still find blue moon.  It’s a good beer and if you like the flavor and aroma of peach cobbler pick up the First Peach.  The event was a complete success and getting to talk with a true doctor in the beer industry was insightful and inspiring.  Keith Villa has a fantastic story to tell through the beers that he issues from the brewery and I suggest that everyone ask for a Blue Moon the next time you are at a bar and re-acquaint yourself with his unique flavors on classic beer styles for a reminder of how we all got started into craft beer. 

About Blue Moon Brewing Company

Created in 1995 by head brewmaster Keith Villa, Blue Moon Brewing Company based in Denver, Colorado believes that brewing is an art form.  It’s been that way since Keith first brewed his Blue Moon Belgian White Belgian-Style Wheat Ale.  Keith brought a passion for classic, flavorful Belgian Wits back with him in addition to his Ph.D. from Brussels.  The Blue Moon approach is that their beers, and everything that they do, are Artfully Crafted.  Find Blue Moon products most anywhere that beer is sold.  Additional info on Blue Moon Brewing Company can be found on their website www.bluemoonbrewingcompany.com. 

About Barney’s Beanery

Barney’s Beanery has been a Los Angeles favorite for over 90 years.  Established in 1920 Barney’s has been bringing classic American comfort food to the stars of Hollywood ever since.  Barney’s has numerous locations throughout the area including West Hollywood, Los Angeles, and Pasadena.  Their staples include their Classic Chili and a litany of different burgers.  The beer offering has been expanding for the last several years and includes taps from all over the country!  Additional information on Barney’s Beanery can be found on their website www.barneysbeanery.com. 

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