Beer goes well with dinner — not just pizza, pretzels and ballpark hot dogs, but a real high-end meal. And you can, if you want, try to select a specific beer to enhance that food.

That is part of the theory behind a Shipyard beer dinner Friday at the Regatta Banquet and Conference Center in Eliot, benefiting the Maine Cancer Foundation.

“The first thing I like to do,” said Bruce Elam, Shipyard’s trade brewer, who will be conducting the dinner, “is to get people to think of beer as something other than the light, golden, fizzy stuff you drink after mowing the lawn.

“The next thing is to relieve the pressure. Beer doesn’t have any pretence, unlike wine, which has hard and fast rules.”

Elam says beer can complement the food being served, it can contrast with the food, or it provide a cleansing effect.

The first two courses in the meal Friday will be complementary pairings. Fried pumpkin ravioli with a stout maple glaze will be paired with Shipyard Pumpkinhead. Both are sweet and have pumpkin flavors. Then, roasted harvest vegetable stew served in an acorn squash bowl will be paired with Shipyard Brown Ale. The Brown Ale has a lot of roasted malt, which makes it go well with the stew.

The next course is contrasting as well as cleansing. Mixed greens tossed in cranberry vinaigrette with candied red onions and blue cheese crostinis will be paired with Shipyard Export Ale. The greens will have strong flavors, while the Export is smooth, clean-finishing and drinkable, which will prepare the mouth for more of those bold flavors, Elam said.

“Beer is carbonated, unlike wine, and that adds to the cleansing effect,” he said. “It makes beer more forgiving.”

The main course pairs Old Thumper with a smoked New York sirloin served with a cheddar ale sauce, twice-baked sweet potatoes and sauteed brussel sprouts in garlic and olive oil. The crystal malt in Old Thumper will complement the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the smokiness of the sirloin.

Dessert pairs Smashed Pumpkin with a pumpkin apple spice cake with nutmeg creme Anglaise, an example of similar ingredients in the food and drink.

Elam said the beer dinner is unlike a beer tasting. In a beer tasting, people want the beer to be balanced itself — with the sweetness of the malt first, followed by a surprise at the end, whether it is bitterness, sourness or dryness. The first taste is designed to make you want another taste. With the beer dinner, the drink is supposed to make you want to eat more food.

Elam’s title of trade brewer is new at Shipyard, but has a history in England. Elam has worked as a brewer at Shipyard and knows that process, but now he is doing sales and marketing things like the beer dinners and other events. He says people who drink craft beers want to know a lot more about how the beer was made and what went into it.

“Tasting beer should involve all the senses,” he said. “Technically, it starts by hearing the pop of the cap come off the bottle. Then you get the visual experience of holding it up to the light to see the color.

“It is a pet peeve that a lot of bars have mug clubs and use ceramic containers. You can’t see the beer, and I like to look at the beer. Then you smell the beer, for spice, malt, residual esters and fruit. And have the touch going into the mouth. The finish of the beer at the back of the tongue is very important. There is no spitting at a beer tasting. We aren’t spitting out good product.”

The event begins with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the dinner at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, and can be purchased at 351-4623.


Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

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