In true Holiday party fashion, Blue Corn Brewery’s Thursday’s at the Brewer’s Table last week was filled with many moments to remember, outfits to forget, and plenty of embarrassing hookups. I’m kidding about that third one, unless I missed something. But the first two were certainly true. The big difference between this party and maybe your office’s Christmas party was that no one regretted what they allowed near their faces, as all of the food and beer was fun, festive, and on a new level of delicious.
Most holiday parties have a reasonable amount of food, but not food like this. As you can see below, for all of the dishes created by Chef D, beer was utilized as much in the inspiration as it was in the execution. Made from the beer taken at different stages in the brewing process, the food was made for and by the beer. In this case, the food and beer is not a mere pairing, but a domestic partnership, in which both roommates contribute video games, booze, and rent. And they just get each other, ya know? The dishes were diverse enough, from avant garde French inspirations and down-home traditional comfort food to game-day munchies (leveled up, of course). Each dish was a varied flavor burst of the sweet, the spicy, and the savory kind, tantalizing the taste buds at each turn. It’s been said in the food industry that the textures of creamy, crispy, and chewy are the most relished of the textures; well, Chef D seems to know that all too well. For me, the Brown Ale gravy on the Swedish Meatballs was the perfect mix of sweet meets savory, modern meets traditional, on a chewy medium that just makes your mouth water with each bite. And the crispy flakiness of the mini tacos combined with the Stout-mole dipping sauce certainly put that game-day favorite in the playoffs. Though I typically save my dessert calories for beer, these creamy, chewy, and crispy treats were like the first chocolate chip cookie or bowl of ice cream you ever had, an epiphany of infinite spoiled dinners. Amazing stuff.
These appetizer-style portions came from a man who is no stranger to catering big parties. The portions may appear small, but the platters came around several times, and no one left hungry, thus proving your uncle Bob right, that you really can build an entire meal out of appetizers.
As for the beer, I started with Snow Advisory, a Winter Warmer. For those unfamiliar with the style, a Winter Warmer is typically a sweeter, malt-forward strong ale, with low bitterness and often a bigger spice than hop presence in the American versions. My favorite ones have that good ‘ole alcohol warming quality to them, the nip that keeps the cold at bay. Though brewer James Warren may not love brewing beers with spices, he’s proven time and again that Team Blue Corn can make a beer outside of his preferences, and do it well — one which makes the most avid fan or rabid critic of the style ask for a second pint just to be sure.
For my second pint (included in the meal), I chose the Rakau IPA, because from my memories of the first taste of this single-hopped Super Power, I was blown away by what one little hop could do. It was no different on this tasting. This New Zealand hop, the Rakau, has a powerful punch, and is as big and ferocious as a Maori warrior. Fruity, piney, complex, the Rakau has a bitterness-bang on the level with any of our hop heroes out there. This particular hop makes a solid IPA recipe for a truly formidable brew. I think it says something that my favorite recent brew to come out of Blue Corn is their big bad Imperial Stout, but I haven’t ordered it once since the release of these two beers. I’ll take care of that soon, however. Not to worry. Up next for Team Blue Corn is a White IPA recently brewed with Cascade and Centennial hops. Can’t wait to see how that one turns out!
Ugly Sweater Contest
When Blue Corn publicly posted to their Facebook page to come in your ugliest sweater, it was as if they issued forth a challenge, and Santa Fe accepted. There were sweaters with nauseating notions of Noel, sweaters showing the shameless shenanigans of the garden variety (gnome pun intended), and sweaters that looked like Christmas had drank too much eggnog and tossed it’s cookies all over them. One sweater was even in the midst of the needlepoint process. It was a beautiful thing to behold. Only one lucky winner may have taken home a prize, but really, we all win with embarrassingly ugly sweaters and beer.
White Elephant Exchange
And what is a holiday party without a little gift stealing? Assistant brewer Nick Richardson hosted this event. With a background in bartending, he had no trouble managing and exciting a crowd. It was a beer themed gift-off, and the gifts ranged from rare bottled brews, brew swag like pint glasses and hats, to the more interesting gifts, like a 30-pack of Miller High Life and green-chile wine. Mmm-mmm! There were tons of laughs, a few scoffs, one huge special secret gift from Blue Corn, and an unfortunate assistant brewer whom I won’t name who could not get rid of a certain New Mexico style grape-based beverage to save his life.
At the end of the night, a merry time was had by all — families, brewers, Chef D, Blue Corn Brewery Staff, and one humble Brew Crew Bullpen writer. Even Jordy and Michelle from Santa Fe Cider Works came out to play. They may or may not have gone home with a 30-pack of the Champagne of Beers, which, I imagine they weren’t fighting anyone for it on their way out. Just saying. So thank you, Blue Corn, for letting us rock around your Christmas tree. See you next year, and I promise, my next ugly sweater will be bringing the heat.