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Dinner in Review: Allagash Beer Dinner at Ripple

From time to time, DCBeer is invited to attend beer dinners across the city. In "Dinner in Review," one of our writers will offer their thoughts on the dinner and the beer pairings therein. The inaugural edition of this column covers an Allagash beer dinner that took place at Cleveland Park's Ripple on October 15.

By DCBeer Contributor Josh Perry. Find more of his stylings at @justjptweet.

Along the north end of Connecticut Ave in Cleveland Park, just past the metro, resides a row of unassuming storefronts and streets filled with foreign luxury cars. This is not the sort of place I would typically visit due to location; however, there was a killer lineup of my favorite Allagash beers at a restaurant I had heard of but never visited. That restaurant? Ripple.

I met up with my friend and Allagash beer representative, Suzy Woods (@beerlass). Upon entering, we were greeted by two ladies running a charcuterie station, complete with hanging meats with offerings like Iberico ham, salumi, and house made chicken liver parfait. Rounding this out was a decent selection of cheese, including one of my favorites: Caciocavallo. (Note: check out the grilled cheese bar at Ripple, which has a grilled cheese happy hour daily.) While waiting, our host and Ripple’s beermonger Dave Delaplaine made us a cocktail called, “Putting on the Spritz” which is a light and refreshing blend of aperol and lemongrass-juniper soda.

Dave, Suzy and Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley worked in tandem to create a five course dinner with an Oktoberfest feel. The evening started out with one of Allagash’s more popular offerings, White, along with chicharrones and beer nuts. The chicharrones were like pork pop rocks and melted in the mouth, and the roastiness of the nut blend gave an almost raisin like character to the palate that was supported by the White’s yeast profile. This was a more communal course and allowed for people to causally come in, be greeted, and meet the other participants, which was a nice way to start the evening.

Course One

Scallop schnitzel, fennel, grapefruit, trout roe with Hugh Malone Belgian Style IPA, from their Tribute Series*

I have had a few schnitzels in my life, but never one made from scallop. This was pressed almost to the thickness of a quarter, lightly battered, finished with a grapefruit hint, and finally topped with trout roe. This was paired with the Hugh Malone, Allagash’s take on humulone, the bitter-tasting chemical compound found in the resin of mature hops. This beer isvery citrus-forward due to the hop varieties in the beer, such as Chinook, Centennial, and Amarillo. The citrus components from the beer and the dish played extremely well together, and the hop finish allowed for the salty aspect of the scallop to come through in a nice way. I was confused by the trout roe, as it lended an unnecessary fish bite to the dish. In retrospect, I may have gotten more roe than others, but still believe it could have gone without.

Course Two

Pumpernickel pasta, lamb pastrami, apples, mustard with Golden Brett**:

The layers to this dish were incredible! The rye from the pumpernickel and the grassy element from the lamb blended so well with the mild tartness from the Brett and apricot notes of the beer. This dish seemed tailored for me, as I am a huge fan of the house Brett strain Allagash uses and the grassy/game-like flavor of fresh lamb.

Course Three

House made sausage, spatzle, sauerkraut with 2012 Interlude

Once again, the Brett fanboy and proponent of things aged in French Merlot and Sirah oak barrels comes out in my review. Interlude has been a favorite of mine for years and really stood up to the smoky goodness that was this sausage. The spatzle helped pull out the pear, apricot, graham cracker, and bread crust elements in the beer that is usually covered up by the tart, vinous, and tannic finish imparted by the wine barrel aging. The crown jewel that tied everything together was the surprise addition of a house-made pretzel roll that was soft and doughy pillow of goodness that was used to mop up all the left behind juices from the sausage. I could really use another round of this dish in my life.

Course Four

Sweet potato cheesecake, five spice marshmallow fluff, cinnamon walnut brittle with 2013 Fluxus, another in the Tribute Series***:

I have stated several times that when ending a beer pairing dinner, one should steer clear of the “sweets.” This means stay away from the stouts, barleywines, and other inherently sweet and boozy concoctions that seems to be the go-to for finishing off a dinner. It is something simple that people get so wrong. In this instance, the pairing was right on point. Selecting a porter with blood orange pulp and zest, liberally hopped using Perle, Tettnang and Glacier varieties and fermented with a Belgian Abbey yeast was a good pairing with the rich and plentiful pumpkin flavor from the cheese cake. The sweetness from the caramelized fluff was beautifully contrasted by the citrus, orange, and coffee notes in the porter. The hints of cinnamon from the walnut brittle tied the course together in a pleasant way that I did not expect. This was a bold move by the beermonger and chef, and it paid off.

After this dinner, and reviewing some of the other work going on at Ripple that is headed by Chef Marjorie, who trained at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville, Calif., and his Per Se in New York City, I would not be surprised if she won a Rammy in the very near future. The food was flavorful, exciting, and in seasonal flux. Along with the food, Ripple's wine and cocktail menu is well curated with options for various palates and moods. Dave, a young up and comer to the beer scene, has put together a strong offering with some highlights of note: Lindeman’s “Cuvée René” Grand Cru Geuze, Verhaeghe "Echt Kriekenbier" Flemish Sour, Millstone Cellars “Gingeroot” Apple, and Anchorage “Galaxy” White IPA. My one pause is that the menu is overly dominated by New Holland, Dogfish Head, and New Belgium, which are nice choices, but I would like to see more variation with breweries, especially as the menu changes with each season.

Overall, I would come back for a meal here anytime. The relaxed and slightly rustic environment lends itself to a warm and inviting experience. Come for the food and stay for a few beers.

Located at 3417 Connecticut Ave NW, DC Ripple is committed to featuring local, seasonal ingredients from the following sources: Path Valley Farms, Tuscarora Co-Op, Lancaster Farms Fresh, The Fresh Link, Shenandoah Valley Co-Op, Northern Neck Fruit and Vegetable, Davon Crest II, Horst Farms, Trickling Springs Creamery, and Alan Benton.

Disclosure: DCBeer was a guest of Ripple for this dinner.

* Hugh Malone is a tribute to responsible agricultural practices and informed consumption. Allagash Brewing Company donates $1 from every bottle of Hugh Malone sold, to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), the country's oldest and largest state organic farmer coalition.

** http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/dining/brettanomyces-a-funky-yeast-makes-flavorful-beers.html?_r=0

*** Allagash donates $1 per bottle sold to the Allagash Pediatric Nurses Scholarship at the Maine Medical Center. This scholarship directly supports the training of nurses in the field of pediatrics.

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