Last weekend found me in gorgeous and snowy Vail, Colorado USA for the annual Big Beers Belgians & Barleywines festival. It’s a truly remarkable event, encompassing various educational and flavor oriented activities for guests and attendees. While it was my first time, it was WEB’s second showing, with Diane (our able Colorado Rep) having been present last year.
I highly recommend this festival, travel and all. Here’s why.
1. It’s a truly beautiful setting. Whether you like to get out in the snow or not, it’s stunning, Cascade Resort (the host) is a wonderful place to stay with super friendly and accommodating staff, and it’s a break from the norm.
2. The Vail Valley loves the festival as it brings in some “rock stars” of the beer world and makes them real time accessible at these various events. Sam and Adam (Dogfish Head and Avery, respectively) visited the tables at the Thursday night Calibration beer dinner. They’re great people and one a smaller people-volume scale, which is this event, you can actually interact with those you may admire and want to meet.
3. The fest is short and sweet, literally. The public Commercial Tasting lasts 3.5 hours and the beers, while big, are usually deliciously sippable. The high alcohol content, hence “big beers”, lets the maltiness of the beers show through and also demands being super mindful of your consumption, so just be aware.
4. The fest is like many others: Fundraisers for the local community.
As hard work, connections, and good fortune had it, I lead one of the two offered Sensory Sessions. Mmmmm! Ahhhh! The Best Ingredient In Your Kitchen: Cooking With Beer, was full with all 35 seats occupied with happy guests and tastebuds. My thanks to everyone who attended and the generous brewers who supplied the beers: Allagash, Deschutes & Boulevard.
I’ll share a course today, and perhaps impart the other 2 in future articles.
Beer Soaked Ladyfinger Ice Cream
- Make or buy some ladyfinger cookies. Plain is good – a lemon or chocolate variety would work well too.
- Place the cookies in a single layer in a non-reactive 9 x 13 pan. You can go larger if you find you want more!
- Pour a beer such as Allagash’s Fluxus or other delicious Belgian inspired, perhaps fruit infused, white beer over the cookies, allowing them to soak up every drop of goodness. Use part of the bottle or can at a time, waiting to add more until you know they can absorb more beer. Repeat until cookies are entirely saturated. Refrigerate.
- Finely grate an entire 2 oz chocolate bar like Dagoba’s Lemon Ginger.
- Zest a really ripe lemon or two, Meyer lemons offer a lot of tangy slightly sweet flavor.
- Mix the zest with the chocolate and pour on top of the saturated cookies. Stir well yet don’t totally mush the cookies in the mixing.
- Scoop the cookie blend over high quality vanilla ice cream, spike with a sliver of candied Ginger. Using a subtle lemon sorbet would be delicious, as would a mild chocolate ice cream. Simply make sure the flavor of the ice cream lets the cookie mix really shine.
Serve it up, enjoy with a small glass of the same beer you used in the preparation.
Beer is proof positive that desserts are deserving of a great beer to accompany them. Cheers till the next glass –
Go here: Find a far flung beer festival and go. Treat yourself to a fun beer tourism type day trip, weekend or long vacation. With the proliferation of breweries in America, most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery.
Try this: Experiment replacing beer with other liquids in your cooking and preparing of foods. Try various amounts, starting small and then working up to where the flavor and workability fit. FYI – beer has some protein, though is much lower than milk for instance. A mix of the two in a recipe would yield best results.