Last Saturday with the backdrop of twilight skies, cold temperatures and an unforgiving cold wind, we visited South Downtown (commonly known as So’Do) for this year’s Explore your Craft.
What is Explore your Craft? The answer is simple. It’s an opportunity to further expound on the versatility of beer, by pairing it with food. The concept is not unheard of. In fact this website has been promoting the virtues of beer & food together for some time now.
But it’s not just a brewer-less hosted event. Instead the brewery pushed the envelop by including co-founder Rob Widmer as well as two of their brewery assistants in Ben Dobler and Doug Rehberg. And although we didn’t personally pull aside Rob, Ben, or Doug we found the conversations occurring to be interesting.
However the event isn’t just a meet and greet as guests were asked to step up to one of four stations featuring meats, cheeses, seafood, and desserts; all paired with Widmer Brothers beers.
Starting with the cheese station, we paired blue cheese with Nelson O'Ryely IPA. A short while later we returned to see how the feta, goat cheese and gouda paired with the Nelson Imperial IPA. Overall we found that the Nelson O’Ryely Rye India Pale Ale demonstrated the best pairing between the two options.
Moving on we proceeded to try the Chilled Shrimp Cocktail, with house-made citrus cocktail sauce. As the suggested pairing was the Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen, we took a chance and admittedly found the pairing to work. Going back however proved time consuming but worth it as enjoyed a small plate of Sweet Potato & Dungeness Crab Cakes, with chipotle remoulade & minced chives. Paired against the Widmer Drifter Pale Ale, had a hard time deciding if the Widmer Brrr might have paired well. Fortunately that is the beauty of food pairing, choosing among what the chef / brewer intended and your own personal thoughts.
It wasn’t until our third course that we had a moment of urgency as the lines began to form around us. Taking the initiative we grabbed the Bacon wrapped Figs, stuffed with smoked turkey and apricot marmalade. Paired with the Widmer Brothers Pitch Black India Pale Ale, proved a bit difficult, mostly in part because of the many flavors occurring in our food choice. After a few moments of weighing all the flavors in the Bacon Wrapped Fig against the Black IPA, we determined it did indeed work.
Sadly we made the conscious decision to avoid going back for the other options, which included Pigs In A Blanket (with stone ground mustard BBQ & spicy honey mustard sauces), and Spicy Pulled Pork & Tillamook & Beef Sliders (served with a spicy cabbage & cilantro slaw).
Instead we sought the amnesty of the Dessert station by first enjoying the Chocolate Truffles paired with Nelson O'Ryely India Pale Ale and closed out the experience with Caramel Flavored Mini Cheesecakes served up with Widmer Brothers Drop Top Amber Ale. Admittedly it was the Caramel Flavored Mini that won us over.
With the last bits of food and drink consumed we made our way to the coat room to recover our jackets, before braving the cold. In retrospect the event provided us with something different from your usual dinner with small bites at your pace. Unfortunately the event failed to address food options for vegetarians. Now we know what you're going to say, a food pairing is at the discretion of the chef. But we argue that including a vegetarian dish, shows greater versatility in part because the lack of fat and other elements not found in a vegetarian dish.
In the end we can say that Explore your Craft, hosted by Widmer Brothers & promoted by DRAFT, is well worth the $75, and time spent out in the evening.
In accordance with new FTC regulations regarding bloggers and endorsements, the aforementioned company has provided me a free sample that was used for research prior to writing this review.