Though it has been almost two weeks since I attended this event, I couldn’t go without a blog post on it even if it is a bit belated. I have mentioned that I like good drinks, good food and good films, often at the same time. The Once Upon A Time In the West Dogfish Head Beer Feast is a prime example of some of my favorite things all wrapped in a delectably decadent night. An epic Sergio Leone western with a six course, Italian themed feast? Yes! With eight beer pairings? Yes, Yes, a thousand times Yes! The film-crazed, foodie, beer aficionado in me was like a giddy child on Christmas Eve in the days preceding the event. I studied the menu imagining the deliciousness to come.
Finally, the night of the event was upon us. Seated in the theater, we waited as a western-themed pre-show played on the screen. Soon, the first beer appeared, Ta Henket, a brew from Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series. Light and refreshing, Ta Henket was a perfect introduction for the evening.
The first course, Roasted striped bass in fennel broth with leek & tomato, along with the second beer of the night, 2010 Burton Baton, arrived just as the opening credits of the movie unspooled. This pairing was interesting, though I felt like the Burton overwhelmed the delicate fish in a light broth. On its own though, the beer was sweet and boozy (10% ABV) with a nice woodiness that came from being barrel aged. Taken separately, these were both very good, but I felt as a pairing, it missed the mark.
As with the first course, by just looking at the second course, you would think it was an odd pair: Raison D’Etre with a grilled oyster topped with goat cheese, crushed red pepper, and moscato. Raison D’Etre is a robust, sweet, Belgian-style brown ale which I thought would overpower the oyster. Of course, I did not consider the element of goat cheese. The oyster itself had a nice briny flavor, but the addition of the goat cheese elevated the dish to go head to head with the paired brew. Overall, a successful pairing.
Next, the rather rare 2010 Olde School Barley Wine appeared in front of me. Fermented with dates and figs, this heady 15% ABV brew lingered on my palate. The pour was only a couple of ounces, so I wanted to savor every sip. And it was a good thing I did as I found it paired extremely well with the third course, cured duck breast, cherry white balsamic vinaigrette, grilled rhubarb confit, Gorgonzola on a pine nut crisp. Yes, a whole lot going on there, but oh how it paired with the complex, fruity barley wine. The cured duck breast was smokey and salty which played against the sweetness of the brew. The tart, creaminess of the Gorgonzola tied all of it together. A second beer was paired with this course, Indian Brown Ale. This is one of the most common Dogfish Head beers, and since I am not much of a fan of brown ales and it paled in comparison with the Olde School, it served as a palate cleanser.
The fourth course was my favorite overall: 2011 Immort Ale with lamb meatballs and semolina-artichoke gnocchi in truffle cream. Ooh la la! Even a week and a half later, my mouth waters just reading the description. The Immort Ale, like so many beers served at the feast is an unusual, strong, slightly sweet brew. Paired with the gamey-ness of the lamb meatballs and the creaminess of the truffle sauce, it was near perfect.
Bitches Brew, the very unusual brew inspired by the Miles Davis masterpiece was paired with Spaghetti Carbonara for the fifth course. Bitches Brew is a combination of an Imperial Stout with an African style honey beer. The result is something very unique. While many of the earlier courses were small plates with a couple of bites each, this was a full on bowl of very tasty pasta. However beautiful this dish was, I was nearing maximum density in terms of food (there’s always room for beer!) The pairing was OK, but I felt the beer was truly the star this course.
The final course included one of my all time favorites from Dogfish Head, 2011 120 Minute IPA, paired with a ricotta-rosemary cake with almond meringue and candied strawberries. Again, I felt despite the very tasty sounding description, this dish played second fiddle to the hoppy nectar that is the 120 Minute IPA.
But what about the film? I am ashamed to admit I hadn’t seen Leone’s 1968 masterpiece before this screening, but the opening sequence won me over immediately. It was the kind of film, that despite being nearly three hours long, felt just right in length. Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, and Jason Robards were particularly incredible. As I mentioned to my husband afterwards, the sixties really were the golden age of beautiful Italian women in film. Claudia Cardinale is simply gorgeous as Jill McBain. And to think, she was 30 when this was released! If you haven’t seen it and you have any interest in Westerns, see it now. DVD and BluRay versions are available and relatively cheap.
NOTE – For those of you expecting pictures of courses and beers, I’m sorry to disappoint. No food porn here. The Alamo Drafthouse has a strict no talking, no cellphones out during screenings policy. This is something I really appreciate and it is a prime reason for choosing the Alamo Drafthouse to see movies. Of course, some folks in the audience couldn’t control their urge to take a snapshot and repeatedly took photos during the service. This wouldn’t have tweaked me so much if there hadn’t been a completely badass movie playing and the repeated flash behind me was quite distracting. I complained at the time and was given a couple of rainchecks (that did not cover the full ticket cost) but I will think twice about attending a movie themed feast if some idiot has to take a picture of his food and drink throughout the night. I get it. Lots of people blog/facebook, etc but if everyone who has a camera on their phone took a picture of their food, the flashing would never end.
/steps off of my soapbox.