Does craft beer deserve a place at the dinner table next to -- or instead of -- wine?
That's a question that guests at TAG sought to answer last night during a fantastic Beer Vs. Wine dinner hosted by Troy Guard's restaurant at 1441 Larimer Street, as well as master sommelier Doug Krenik and Great Divide beer geek Bryan Baltzell, who did battle over beverages.
The conclusion? Well, the conclusion was complex -- just like the wines and beers that were served alongside four dishes prepared by chef Jensen Cummings.
I've often said (well, I've said it once) that I will pay $14 for a 22-ounce bomber of beer on the same day that I'm allowed to drink wine straight from the bottle. Beer, after all, is supposed to be less expensive and less pretentious than wine.
But that is changing, and Great Divide was out to prove it.
For the first course, Baltzell poured the brewery's Belgian Tripel to go with TAG's seared diver scallops, ice-smoked heirloom tomatoes and chocolate balsamico; Krenik poured a Riesling made by Germany's Loosen Bros. winery. I thought the sweet wine clearly went better with the fishy dish than the beer, cutting back on the briny flavors rather than making them taste even fishier. Other diners -- who voted by placing either a cork or a bottle cap in a glass jar -- agreed, 20-13.
Course number two consisted of chicken and chive dumplings with truffled shiitake mushrooms and fennel soy nage. With this, the wine -- a J. Christopher pinot noir -- was too big, blotting out the food's flavors. Great Divide's Hoss rye lager, on the other hand, complemented them. Hoss won a clear victory, 28-6.
The main course was a powerful-tasting peppadew mac 'n cheese served with white asparagus and sous vide pork cheek. Krenik's Helfrinch pinot gris never had a chance against the rich plate, while the brewery's powerful 16th Anniversary wood-aged double IPA was able to hold its own. Beer won round three, 22-14.
And finally, dessert: a berry tart macerated in Yuzu sauce and served with frangipane, black pepper-whipped cream and malted milk crisps. While Baltzell's Double Wit pleased the crowd, the Dr. Loosen Eiswein melded perfectly with the sweets and crushed the beer by a score of 28-7.
So, what can we take from a tie? Maybe the knowledge that instead of choosing between beer and wine, we should drink both with every meal. I know it worked for me.