Autumn Harvest Dinner at Breckenridge Brewery's Farm House
Words: Kristian DePue Photos: Karen Volkhardt
The autumn season is upon us – and with the cooling, crisp air comes chatter of warm apple cider, pumpkin pie, butternut squash, and rich beers. To inaugurate the shades of yellow upon the aspens, the Farm House at Breckenridge Brewery offered a coursed Harvest dinner on the evening of Thursday, September 20th – pairing each plate with one of the brewery’s craft beers. “We [wanted] to highlight our fall beer selection,” said Breckenridge’s social media coordinator, Mary Kate Gough. “Our portfolio holds some truly delicious, dark, malty beers…this is the season when we really shine.”
The Breckenridge Brewery was founded in its eponymous Colorado mountain town in 1990, but kept moving its mainline manufacturing to larger locations due to increasing demand. Their chief facility can now be found on 12 acres in Littleton – with the original Brewpub still operating in its hometown on Main St.
With fading sunlight, and four nights until the Harvest Moon, the Farm House warmly welcomed 50 guests to their backyard with their White Ale – a beer available year round, and a rendition of a Belgian-style witbier. The light-bodied beverage was a toast to the closing of summer and was served with grilled cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto. “If you’re at the Farm House [during] summer, you can see the produce we grow,” said Executive Chef, Nate Gravina. “By mid-September, we have a harvest large enough to feed 50 people. We threw this dinner to celebrate the end of summer while utilizing our garden at peak harvest.”
By dusk, everyone had arrived. Commencing words were spoken, and the first course was presented: an arugula salad with heirloom tomato, basil, and grilled eggplant. The introductory plate was topped with corn shoot vinaigrette and creamy, roasted red pepper ricotta – and paired with the seasonal Autumn Ale. The ale was introduced by Certified Cicerone Josh Dauenhauer as a “bold American brown ale.” Full-bodied, with a 7% ABV, it contained notes of Hazelnut and finished dry with hints of coffee.
Cicerone, in the context of food and beverage, is a relatively new title. It’s historically a term for a guide of museums and galleries – a learned antiquarian. As an earned hospitality designation, however, it is the equivalent of a sommelier for beer.
Next came the third beer of the evening, the Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte. Another seasonal offering, it’s a stout with a velvety mouth-feel with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
As opposed to the traditional carbon dioxide pours, nitro beers use nitrogen gas to provide a creamy consistency. Nitrogen is largely insoluble, which contributes to a thick texture and a fluffy white head. This result is assisted by a piece of tap equipment called a restrictor plate that forces the beer through tiny holes before landing in the glass. Typically, nitrogenized beers are maltier types – more grain, less hops.
The Pumpkin stout was paired with the second course of the meal: pork ravioli, mushroom duxelle, butternut bacon chutney, mustard greens, and a blanc sauce created with the Breckenridge’s Hop Peak India Pale Ale. “The Pumpkin Spiced Latte is a unique beer to pair,” Gravina confessed. “I wanted to expand on how [the chai] spice [couples] with rich and sweet foods. We beer braised the pork to get that hop characteristic to work with the beer, and then finished the dish with a creamy IPA beer blanc and sweet potatoes roasted with bacon for sweetness.”
As the air chilled under the night sky, we were given a palate preparer: a pretzel bite served with a vanilla porter reduction – reminiscent of a mild maple syrup. This sweet segue was to anticipate our taste buds for the next beer, the very same from which the pretzel’s glaze was made. Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter is available year round, made with vanilla beans from Madagascar. It was served with a mole braised short rib, corn bread pudding, cilantro, Pueblo Chile relish, and golden beets. “I wanted to show the versatility of [our] vanilla porter,” said Gravina. “Everyone goes with dessert, but there’s more to the beer than vanilla. I love pairing it with a red meat and a little spice, complimenting the roasted flavors while also depending on its effervescence to elevate the undertones of the dish. This dish relied heavily on produce from our garden…[and] local purveyors.”
Dessert was accompanied with Breck’s Nitro Irish Stout. Chocolate and Irish malts with toasted barley are used to create this smooth, roasted espresso stout. The closing course was simple and cultivated: a brown sugar charred pear with a beet reduction and pistachio froth. Both dessert and drink were subtle, but balanced each other - with the beer leaning towards bitter and the dish slightly sweet.
The incredibly generous pours of five different beers and the eclectic kitchen creations made for both an evening and money well spent. “The guests all seemed to enjoy the food, the beer, and the ambiance,” said Gough. “The outdoor table against the sunset made for some beautiful moments. We’re always hoping to offer a memorable experience. Our next dinner is [the] New Year’s Eve Beer Dinner, which we hold every year. It’s an extraordinary evening…the perfect way to ring in the New Year for beer & food lovers.”