Hunterdon Brewing was founded in 1996 by Michael Short and Dave Masterson. It started out as a microbrewery in New Jersey. The two men ran the entire business on their own, delivering and selling it themselves. Finally, in 1999, they moved from their original small location from Califon, NJ to Whitehouse Station, NJ to a warehouse. At the end of that year, they decided to make their microbrewery into a full-time beer wholesaler. So instead of brewing, they turned their business into a distributor of several brands. Some brands that many know include Dogfish Head, Weyerbacher, Yards, Allagash, and imports from B.United International. The company presently serves “over seventy craft brands and specialty imports, spirits, sakes, meads, and ciders from around the world.”
My boyfriend Rick and I were lucky enough to get press access to Hunterdon Brewing’s third beer tasting event held at the Hyatt Morristown, NJ. It was held in the restaurant Eclectic Grill and featured four beers from Yards Brewing Company. During this event they educated their guests on how to pair beer with foods and explain each beer. The brewery, Yards, paired up with Executive Chef Jeff Powell and the Restaurant Sous Chef David Rhinesmith by creating a four course beer pairing menu. The event was $55 per person and it included a lot of delicious food and beer.
Events like this go on a lot at the Hyatt Morristown. We had the opportunity to sign up for the Hyatt Morristown Neighborhood Beer Club. It is a free club you can sign up for to get updates on any other tastings or events going on with Beer at the Hyatt. It is a great way to stay informed. On top of that, you receive discounts on food and beverage at the bar and restaurant too!
The Hyatt Morristown is a fabulous hotel, it is so classy and a must visit. They offer a few restaurants; the Morristown Movie Theater is in the same building, and a bar. During the summer, the restaurant also expands outside for outdoor eating and drinks. The staff was so friendly as well when Rick and I went inside. We found where it was held, at the Eclectic Grill, and was greeted by Javier Labrada, the Assistant Restaurant Manager, and Steve Savastano, the Assistant Director of Food and Beverage. They were so nice and wanted to be sure we were comfortable. We were the first ones to arrive. They showed us our seats and gave us water. The setting was set up with a placemat that explained the menu for the evening.
Once everyone got there, we were introduced to our servers for the evening, Bruce Simmons and Karina Mazur. These two servers were so nice throughout the entire evening and really helpful! Then Scott Crystal introduced himself as the on & off premise Sales Representative of Hunterdon Brewing Company and explained a brief history of Yards brewery. He is a representative from Hunterdon Distributors but was there representing Yards Brewing Company as well. He explained that during each meal we will be given a sample of beer listed on the sheet and then the food listed. When we receive each beer, he would come up to the front and explain the beer. How it was created, any flavors to look for, and how it will pair. Then the Chef would come out before each course was delivered to the table and explain what the dish is and what it is made with as well as how it will pair with the beer. The two places worked together to pair the beer and food beforehand. They sampled and worked on having the beer accent and pull out certain flavors of the food dish as well as the food complimenting the beer. It is a true art form on how well all four beers went with the four food dishes.
The restaurant was closed just for the event. There were about 20 something people in total. All attendees were split up into three tables. We were at a table of five, there was a table of four, and the rest were on a long table behind us. It was so nice and a great way to talk to other people as well. Everyone interacted and compared their opinion of the beer and food. I only heard positive things from everyone!
For the pairing, the beers and food start out lighter and get heavier as we go along. For the first course, we started with Yards Brawler Beer.
The first course was an Artisan Flat Bread and Yards Brawler Beer. They started out with giving us the beer first. The first beer was Yards Brawler Beer. This beer is a light beer, even though the appearance is pretty dark. It is smooth with a very slight coffee or caramel flavor to it. Brawler is an English style mild beer and is about 3.2% alcohol. Scott explained how it is considered a Session Ale. This because it is below 5% alcohol and that it has a balance between the hop and malt. This allows it to have a light hop taste with the sweeter malt flavor.
The Artisan Flat Bread was grilled flat bread with Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata Cheese, Ricotta Cheese, and Pesto Sauce. It was absolutely delicious. It was light and a great combination of flavors. It even had garlic and fresh micro basil pieces on top. I would eat this again in a second! Having the Brawler beer with this flat bread was delicious! The beer really highlighted the sweetness in the tomatoes and crust. It flowed together like it was meant to go. The beer pulled out the flavors and blended beautifully.
The second pairing was Smoked Salmon Salad and Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale. The Philadelphia Pale Ale is light in color and very bright yellow. It is 4.6% alcohol and is a drier hop. It is actually a hybrid hop, which means it is a manmade cross pollination process which creates a more grapefruit taste. I tasted almost a floral taste, as some Lavender or Jasmine teas may have. It was very enjoyable although I did find it to be slightly bitter. The bubbles were very much present, which allowed it to be very refreshing.
The meal was a Smoked Salmon Spring Micro Salad with Corn Bread Croutons and a Citrus Vinaigrette. The beer really helped cut any fishy taste to the dish. As salmon is a hearty fish, we were told the hop and carbonation will cut into the salmon. Again it blended beautifully and accented it. The dressing with the Citrus taste in the beer blended and accented each other. The salmon was smoked and tasted great and the carbonation really accented the Smokey taste. The corn bread crouton was delicious; the sweetness was toned down by the bitterness beer.
The third and main dish was the Braised Pork Belly with Yards Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale. The Ale, also known as TJ’s Ale, is part of a three beer series called the Revolution Series by Yards. This is based on Thomas Jefferson’s original Ale recipe. Although it is not identical, it is based off the original. Yards actually had to get permission from Monticello to create this. This beer has honey, rye, wheat, barley malt, and English ale yeast. The thing with this beer is the yeast eats sugar, so the honey is just a subtle taste because of this. This beer is darker, and is not bitter. It is a subtle mix of flavors and has 8% alcohol in it. The main dish was the Braised Pork Belly with White and Red Bean Cassoulet with Pickled Blue Berry Compote and Red Beet Chips. This dish is my favorite. The Pork Belly is a fatty piece of meat, so the Pickled Blue Berry really helps cut it by adding an acid. It is a full flavor meat and absolutely delicious. It was so tender. The beans were fresh and healthy. The beer really cut the fattiness in the Pork and really made the dish complete.
The final dish was our desert! It was last but certainly not least. We had Chocolate Bread Pudding and Yards Tavern Porter. The Tavern Porter is made after George Washington’s Tavern, but they could not use the name so they called it General Washington’s Tavern Porter. It is the second beer in the Revolutionary Series. It is based on the original recipe which was made with molasses. It is a darker beer but is very dry but a little sweet taste. It was really good, usually I stay away from darker beers, but this was perfect for an after dinner drink. The Chocolate Bread Pudding has a Vanilla Rum Crème Anglaise and Ice Cream. This bread pudding was outstanding. I picked some of the chocolate out since I am not the biggest fan of chocolate, but even with the chocolate in it was so good. It was creamy and sweet and just delicious. By adding the roasty ale beer, it really created the perfect desert combination. It brought out the chocolate flavor and by adding the ice cream to it, it really flowed. It was a perfect end to a perfect evening.
After the meals, we were offered to have a complimentary glass of our favorite beer. They all were so nice there and the evening was flawless. Everything flowed together, not just the food, but the serving and the Chef explaining his dishes and Scott explaining the beer. The conversation even was non-stop between tables and the staff. They even generously gave us a cup to go home! It is a Yards Brewing Company Mug; I was so excited when I found that out. Now I can use it at home and think about this experience every time I use it. Also it is a conversation piece for me to tell my story of this great night.
I cannot tell you my favorite pairing, they all went perfect together. Individually my favorite beer was the Brawler and my favorite dish was the Pork Belly. But all together, it was the perfect meal for a perfect evening of good food, learning, and fun! Before having this fabulous tasting I never thought about drinking a beer with food, let alone pairing them together. I would have never considered picking a specific beer to help accent and bring out flavors in food dishes. I am so happy I had the opportunity to do this and see that it is possible and very enjoyable. I started out not being a huge fan of beers, especially when eating. But now, this has opened up my views. I am now excited to go out and pair myself or try at home! I have learned so much and cannot wait to find another pairing to try! Food Pairings are not just for wine, in fact the beer may accent and pull out certain flavors more than wine! I am not picking sides, but I do highly recommend trying a beer with certain foods and meals. Beers are for enjoying and enhancing, not for beer pong and card games.
I want to end with a huge Thank You to the Hyatt Morristown Staff and Scott Crystal for allowing us to attend and experience this magnificent evening!
Neighborhood Beer Club: www.facebook.com/pages/Hyatt-Morristown-Neighborhood-Beer-Club/129367080593172
Facebook: Hunterdon Distributors and Yards Brewery
Twitter: @HunterdonBrew and @YardsBrew and @HyattMorristown
*Disclaimer: The PR team paid for our meal. I was not required to write about these experiences and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*