Special Occasion Food and Beer Pairing

This week sees a special occasion at Old Town Pour House Oak Brook in their second anniversary. To celebrate, they decided to tap some very rare beers that have been aging in their keg room, and pair elevated food items that are worthy of such special beers…

Beer Program Manager Jake Duffy took the opportunity to showcase the depth of the beer selection for this special occasion. “At 5pm on Black Wednesday, we’ll be tapping Goose Island’s 2014 release of Bourbon County Stout, Revolution’s 2014 release of their Straight Jacket barley wine, a 2013 release of Deschutes Abyss, and the 2015 release of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.”

“Our staff have been really excited for the beer, I think partly because they see how excited I get about the beer! They are excited to try things of that elite level that have sat and aged for a while. A long time ago, Daniel Gutierrez brought in a couple of these barrels, with the idea of aging them, before he moved out to our Gaithersburg location. So the initial idea goes back to our opening winter in 2013. I actually texted him and asked permission to tap these beers! He’s excited too. I’m glad we found the right idea and a great reason to tap them.”

Bourbon County Stout Tapping

Executive Chef Brian Korey then stepped up to join in the special occasion. November marks not only the two-year mark for the Pour House, but also a one year anniversary for Brian. “It’s nice to use this opportunity to do something extra special. It was entirely Jake’s idea to do a rare tapping for the anniversary – when he brought it up, I instantly wanted to contribute by pairing some special food with it.”

“One of the beers we’ve been sitting on for two years, which I think is awesome. And then to have a Bourbon County from last year, tapped just a couple of days before this year’s is released, that’s pretty special too.”

Acknowledging the level and rarity of these beers started to inform Brian’s work with the food pairings. As Chef puts it, “It was a chance to up the ante and make things intricate, and work with some flavor profiles that we’ve not used before to match really nicely with the beers that Jake has selected.”

“We’re using some nice seasonal products; one dish uses blood orange which is just coming back into its own strange winter season, and in another element I incorporated pine needles. In another dish I use a medley of root vegetables. Seasonality is always good.”

A lot of times you might get a beer or a glass of wine to complement your food, but this celebration was focused on the beer as the star, and the food was developed to complement those beers. Therefore, an extra effort went in to doing the research on the beer profiles, doing tastings, and creating the food pairings for each beer.

Rare Beer Tappings - Kegs

Chef Brian begins with the execution of his Pan Seared Sole dish: “For our first dish, which pairs with the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, I used a very delicate fish so that we would get all those notes from the flavors. I took pine needles and steeped them in cream with rosemary – rosemary has that kind of resin-y pine family flavor to it. We steep that in cream, let those flavors come out. Then we thicken it with a modified starch so that we can use it as an element on the plate.”

The pine and rosemary cream kind of mimic the flavor from the extreme amount of hops that this particular beer gets. “Not a lot of beers get that much treatment with hops,” Chef adds, “so this was a chance to really push the food there to match that.”

“The other thing I got when tasting the beer was tart citrus, so we’re doing an apricot and raisin agridolce which is kind of a sweet/sour preparation. Kinda like a fruit salsa would be the best way to describe it, but it’s got sugar, port wine, basil, dried apricots, golden raisins, almonds… we reduce port wine with fennel and shallot to create a syrup and mix that with the nuts and fruit and herbs, and all that will go beautifully with that beer.”

Food and Beer Pairing - OB Anniversary - Sole

All the beers are unique in their own way, but the other three that are featured (Abyss, Straight Jacket, Bourbon County Stout) all share a barrel-aging technique. With the similarities in overlying flavors, Chef Brian decided to create two dishes that would complement any of the three darker beers.

“Another dish we are doing is a Chocolate-glazed Pork Belly with a brown butter celery root puree and a cayenne brittle, and pickled plums.”

“Again, I used some stone fruits but in a different manner this time, and wanted to have the chocolate element, which is particularly prominent in the Bourbon County Stout. The brown butter will give it some earth and deep nutty tones, and make it a richer puree. The cayenne brittle gives a new texture but also brings some spice and kind of plays on your tongue a little bit, and then the pickled plums will add an important acidity to help cut through the richness of the pork belly and the chocolate while also having the stone fruit element to complement the beers.

Special Occasion Food - OB Anniversary - Pork Belly

There is also a Duck and Fig Sausage with vanilla glazed root vegetables, that would likely best match with the Straight Jacket barley wine by mimicking the oak notes from a barrel while also adding a smoky profile. Brian shares, “I really wanted to use something in the game-y area, and duck is a happy medium for that. Then, a lot of my tasting notes were fig, vanilla, coffee, stone fruits and things like that. Stone fruits – cherries, plums and so on – go really well with most game, so I wanted to take the duck and the sweetness from the dried figs and make that into a sausage, so what we’re actually doing is grinding some of the fig into the duck, and then rough chop some too, so that you will see an internal garnish and well as feel the texture throughout.”

“Then we have a spiced plum jam with cinnamon and juniper, some clove, some black peppercorn. That will complement the sausage very well, as well as those particular notes of the beers, as well as the vanilla-glazed root vegetables. We’re using parsnip, butternut squash, sweet potato celery root, really nice fall, in-season things that lend themselves flavor-wise to these barrel-aged beers.”

“I’m happy to be able to do something special for this occasion,” Jake shares, “to put in the effort and time to make something interesting and fun for the guests who come in here, and do something that they won’t see at their neighborhood joint. It’s worth the trip here, it’s going to be good stuff.”

Brian adds, “Jake and I are very focused on working together to highlight great beers, and highlight great food to go with those great beers. After all, when you have 90 beers on tap, and a great all-around menu and the ability to run limited time food specials, it all ties together really nicely to showcase what we are capable of. Why choose really special beer and then pair it with run-of-the-mill food? We both put a lot of thought into it, it was a great idea!”

And in the future? “Hopefully we’ll be able to repeat this, either for another celebration or seasonally, to do cool events like this,” says Jake. “We’ve talked BBQ, we’ve talked music, and all sorts of collaborations. There are lots of ideas for the future, and it all starts with the beer.”

Special Occasion Food at Old Town Pour House


by Lee Jarvis.