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Beer Pairing Dinner Asks If Sam Still Matters

31 January 2015

A much sought-after ounce of Utopias

Last night, in the wake of a recent Boston Magazine article about how the craft beer industry has abandoned Jim Koch and Sam Adams, the beer’s local rep teamed up with City Tap House in University City to try to prove otherwise.  The team used a three-course dinner, with Sam Adams beer pairings, to prove the hashtag #SamStillMatters.

The dinner began with a first course of pork belly atop pork rillettes, alongside a frisee and Treviso salad with a chocolate vinaigrette, and was paired with Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru. The sour “KMF,” as chef Chad Vetter explained, worked well to cut through the rich pork and the chocolate vinaigrette—which it did, and did well. And even though I don’t like frisee lettuce or chocolate, I thought the dish (and the beer) were very good.

For our second course, rather than contrast flavors in the beer and food, Vetter decided to pair like flavors with his black pepper oxtail and smoked hedgehog mushroom flan, which went with Sam’s Black Harbor Stout—an imperial stout aged in Buffalo Trace barrels with a hint of black pepper and dark fruits.  This was by far the best course of food, and Chef Vetter really shined in the smoked mushroom flan, which was a person favorite of the night.

For dessert, we were served cheesecake in wonton wrappers smothered in a fig compote, with a side of hazelnut whipped cream.  I’m not much of a dessert person, but this was delicious—and paired perfectly with the star of the night, a one-ounce pour of Utopias. For $50 for the meal, the experience was really a bargain—three great beers from Sam Adams (including a chance to try the ultra-rare Utopias) and three excellent courses from City Tap House—food of a caliber I wasn’t aware they could produce. That part of the night was excellent.


Highlight of the meal: black pepper oxtail and smoked hedgehog mushroom flan

However, the event was promoted as a “community meal and discussion” about whether Sam Adams was still relevant.  Aside from the Sam Adams rep giving us descriptions of each beer, there was no discussion (and there were other Sam Adams employees at the table with us).  After describing each beer, the rep went to his own table to ate by himself.  I was looking forward to a community roundtable on the pros and cons of Sam Adams, and a discussion from craft beer fans and writers as to whether it still was actually relevant.  And while the dinner proved that they still make good beer, it didn’t go any further toward deciding if Sam still mattered or not.

While the Utopias was a great addition to the evening, exposing people to a bottle they will most likely not see again (and most likely not be able to afford if they did), is not the best way to go about proving relevance. They proved Sam Adams still makes tasty beer, but that’s about it.  In the end, the beer and food were great, but I still don’t know why I should care about Sam Adams—and with the isolation and lack of discussion from Sam’s employees, it seemed like they didn’t know, either.

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