Pairing is all about chemistry.
Sometimes, chemistry comes into play by showcasing discernable interactions or likenesses; other times it’s about creating a fluid narrative. In both instances, on Thursday evening, guests were utterly captivated. Attendees delighted in the spirited commentary of Chef Rob Fecteau, along with brewers Jay Sullivan and Sean Nolan.
Owner Avra Hoffman had set the stage for enchantment. Breathtaking floral arrangements adorned two unending tables that included stunning ceramic cabbage centerpieces made by Worcester Center for Crafts resident artist, Paige Ward.
The evening began with Honest Weight’s unfiltered pilsner, Prescott. This bright, dry lager was named for one of the four towns flooded in 1938 to form the Quabbin Reservoir. Honest Weight is located in the north Quabbin region of Massachusetts, and many of their beers honor the brewery’s storied surroundings. Prescott was paired with grilled cheese assembled from BirchTree’s country bread and Robinson Farm’s own tribute to Prescott – a nutty alpine artisanal cheese made from raw milk. Guests also enjoyed bratwurst and pretzel sliders, a collaboration by Fecteau and Matt Mahoney of neighboring establishment, Kummerspeck.
Next, came the buckwheat grisette, Gate 37, a nod to one of the Quabbin’s most remote access points. The brewers praised their grisette as “saison’s little sister,” a sessionable farmhouse style offering up hints of lemon and spice. Fecteau paired Gate 37 with crispy skin rainbow trout – native to the Quabbin – served over a buckwheat crepe with lemon-pepper burre blanc.
The most fascinating pairing of the evening came during the fourth course with soy-marinated pork belly ramen and a multi grain stout called Tom Swamp Road. Fecteau credited BirchTree team member, Christopher Ly, for his unctuous emulsified broth made with collagen-rich chicken feet. He also applauded farmer Sean Maki of Christian Hill Farm for raising the heritage breed pork with dignity and respect. Sullivan echoed his admiration for Maki, explaining that the pork had been fed on spent grain from Honest Weight for close to a year – a fact that elevates the symbiosis of this pairing to astounding heights.
Sullivan likewise appreciated the unique pairing saying, “I find Tom Swamp Road rich enough but also dry enough that that it can balance a whole number of different dishes,” adding, “Happy pigs, happy brewers!” As if to illustrate this fact, the brewers toasted their glasses, initiating a “beer wave,” which to guests’ great amusement, traveled the length of the table.
As for the legend of Tom Swamp Road, the beer’s name comes from a local myth about an alleged counterfeiter who mysteriously disappeared in a local pond after a night of debauchery. Honest Weight knows there’s nothing like a ghost story to embrace local culture. (And, Mass Foodies knows there’s nothing like a swamp stout to brandish a broth’s great depths.)
BirchTree Bread Company’s beer dinner series will continue on April 5th with Stone Cow Brewery of Barre.