Tuesday, June 14, 2011

London Grill & Deschutes: East Meets West

Finally we come to one of my favorite (possibly the favorite) nights of Philly Beer Week, the Deschutes dinner at London Grill. However, lets back up about 45 minutes before the dinner started. Kite & Key was doing a Founders Brewing event (named F*CK Monday for Founders Unites Canada and Kentucky, clever) and advertised that they were going to be tapping Canadian Breakfast Stout. Since it is one of the beers that I really wanted to try at some point and is super rare, I knew I had to stop there before heading to London Grill. I arrived around 4:30 only to find out most people arrived at 4 and all of the placeholder cards for a glass were already handed out. Sucks to be me. Luckily, I had met a couple guys the day before at Eulogy and they offered up an extra seat at their table to me. This meant, when the waitress came around for who wanted what, she did her best to include me in the order. Fingers crossed, I just had to wait and see what happened. Waiting paid off as I got my first glass ever of Canadian Breakfast Stout!
Canadian Breakfast Stout is the regular Founders Breakfast Stout aged in oak barrels that previously held bourbon and then maple syrup as far as I know. Pretty rare barrels so Founders doesn't make much of this beer which is why it's so rare. Sort of a sweet syrup nose with an interesting peaty aroma. I thought it smelled a little like whiskey but who knows. Tasted pretty great. Started with the same peaty, smoky note, continued with some maple sweetness, some roast and finished with a little sweet. No alcohol and no heat in any way which was pretty awesome. Really easy drinking and really good. I'll admit I thought I would find a bit more maple though it was still really quite good. It didn't quite blow me away like I expected, but I certainly wouldn't ever refuse another glass. This also turned out to be the only sixtel tapped in Philadelphia for Beer Week so congrats to Kite & Key.

Okay, back to the awesome Deschutes dinner. The dinner was being held at London Grill as I said earlier. Deschutes is a brewery out in Oregon with brewpubs in Bend and Portland and a main brewery in Bend. Their distribution only makes it about halfway across the country so getting a chance to try their stuff on draft was very exciting. There were a couple marketing people from the brewery and Larry Sidor, their head brewer, in attendance as well. Turns out Larry is actually stepping down to start his own brewery at the end of the year so I guess this will be his last Philly Beer Week with Deschutes.
This is a picture of Larry Sidor talking about Deschutes, explaining their philosophy, and answering why Deschutes hasn't come to Philly yet.

The meal started off with some appetizers and a glass of Twilight Summer Ale followed by Inversion IPA. The Twilight smelled citrusy and was only slightly bitter. Jo did get a bigger glass later in the week and the bitterness does build a little so take that into consideration if ordering more than a sample. Still quite enjoyable. The Inversion was a very muted version of an IPA, but not in a bad way. Not too hoppy, not too bitter, not malty, just balanced, refreshing and tasty.

After the appetizers Jo and I sat down to dinner with the first course being a Locavore salad (what the heck is locavore anyway?) served with the Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
Pleasant citrus nose. Not bitter, some slight citrus, and some sweetness to round it all out. Really balanced and mild pale ale, super drinkable. It matched well with the salad as the dressing didn't clash with the beer flavors and everything stayed nice and balanced. Plus the flavors weren't too intense and just got us ready for the rest of the meal.

Up next was something I've never eaten before, Soft Shell Crab, matched with two beers, Hop in the Dark, an American Black Ale (sorry Larry, not calling it a Cascadian Dark Ale!), and the Obsidian Stout.
This was the Hop in the Dark and its style used to be called a Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale depending on which part of the country it came from but is now American Black Ale. Big, very clean grapefruit nose. Started with grapefruit citrus and roast and finished with some chocolate notes and some slight bitterness. The chocolate and roast really round out the strong grapefruit flavors and it blends really well. Really impressive American Black Ale in my opinion. Less caustic than the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous (slight review found near the bottom of this post) yet still with a big hop character. So far, I'd say it's my favorite of the style. As far as the food, the crab was really interesting. Eating the shell was a weird experience but it was tasty and that's really what matters with food.

The next course was definitely my favorite of the night. It was a Black Butte Braised Goal Mole on a corn arepa with lime pickled onion paired with the delicious Black Butte Porter.
I've had this once before on my trip to Las Vegas and really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to having it again. Smelled great. It had a nice mix of chocolate and smooth roasted notes. Tasted of chocolate, roast with small hints of some dark fruit flavors usually found in stouts. The roast flavors were just so smooth and right in line with what I enjoy in a porter. Reminded me a bit of the Pawn Shop Porter from Brewworks which was also chocolate forward. I had it on draft later in the week and it was still excellent even in a larger serving so look for it on the west coast if you're out there. The meal this round was also really great. The mole was really freaking tasty and blended really well with the subtle flavors in the corn arepa. Finished off the main part of the meal incredibly well.

Finally we come to the major reason I wanted to come to this dinner, dessert! No wait. I mean The Abyss! Sure it makes me a beer geek stereotype but I don't care. I came to the dinner to get another glass of the monster 13%, partially barrel aged, imperial stout and I'm proud of that.
I was lucky enough to buy two bottles, opening one, when I was in San Francisco this past February and so this is the second time I've been able to try The Abyss. However, I was already a bit drunk that time so it was harder to appreciate the beer properly. This time, though, I was nearly sober and holy crap it was amazing. Seriously. Smelled a little fruity (sour cherry, sour plum notes), molasses, and some roast. Even though I may have looked ridiculous, I smelled it like ten times before even taking my first sip. Nice thick mouthfeel. Flavors were as complex as the aroma. Molasses, roast, some vanilla, some hints of licorice. The best part is none of those flavors ever became overwhelming or made me want to stop drinking. Even at 13% it was never boozy either. Just a great, really impressive beer. Dessert itself was a sweet ginger gelato that I thought was pretty tasty. Finished off the meal really well.

What an amazing day. In the end probably my best day of Philly Beer Week. Starting off with one of the rarest beers out there, Canadian Breakfast Stout, and then moving on to a pretty superb dinner with a brewery whose beers I can't even get here in Philadelphia. Finishing off the meal with The Abyss put a final, memorable stamp on the evening and finished it off perfectly. After the meal, I also got to speak with one of the marketing guys, Jason, and his experiences at Deschutes were pretty neat to hear about especially the unique Deschutes stuff he gets to taste since he works at the brewery. I also got to nudge Larry Sidor about the whole Cascadian Dark Ale / Black IPA / American Black Ale controversy which was fun for me. Just a great evening and exactly what I was looking for from a Philly Beer Week event.


  1. Locavore, n. a person who enjoys and promotes using local ingredients in cooking/menus whenever possible

  2. Thanks for the great recap on the London Grill beer dinner. It was great chatting with you and hopefully you have been able to track down our beers in Philly since then. Cheers - Jason

  3. Thanks Jason. Enjoyed meeting you too. And yeah, my wife and I stopped at the Station Taproom on Saturday and they had some Deschutes on draft. I got the Black Butte again because it's awesome and Jo got the Twilight Summer. We were surprised how much hoppier the Twilight got in a larger serving size.