The last time I was at the Brown Palace Hotel was several years ago, for a very fancy-schmancy high tea. There were black ties and high heels and tiny food served on silver trays. Given that neither cucumber sandwiches, petifores, nor high heels are really my style, I never found much reason to venture back. That is, until the Wednesday before Great American Beer Festival.
A perfect kick off to my GABF week, the Brown Palace and the Wynkoop Brewery reached out to the Denver beer community with a food and beer pairing ending with the unveiling of the Wynkoop’s latest brew, the Rooftop Honey Saison: a beer aptly named for the 75,000-80,000 honey bees living and churning out fresh honey on the rooftop of the Brown. The Wynkoop was looking for collaboration with local Denver flare, and given the history within these two Denver staples, I don’t think they could have picked a better partner then the Brown Palace.
Brown Palace Chef Thanawat Bates created an amazing menu and the beer pairings were perfect. Each course was introduced by both the chef and Wynkoop’s Head Brewer, Andy Brown, who teamed up to provide a bit of information on the food as well as the beer.
The first course was a beer cheese soup served in a shot glass, with truffle oil popcorn and paired with the Wynkoop’s Two Guns Pilsner. The classic Czech-style beer played off the richness of the soup and was delicious.
Second course was chicken, done beer can style, using the Rail Yard Ale and then glazed with a barbeque sauce made with some of the Rooftop Honey. This was paired with a glass of the Rail Yard Ale.
The third course was pure foodgasm. A hops cured (yep, hops cured!) Kobe beef slider cooked in bacon, topped with blue cheese and served with a champagne mustard sauce. Paired with the B3K Schwarz Bier, it was a party in my mouth that I hoped would not end. This is the slider that has ruined all other sliders…nay, all other burgers, for me for the rest of my life. Yes, it was that good. This was my first B3K and I was impressed. A “black lager for people that say they don’t like dark beer” said Brown, and a 2008 GABF gold medal winner, the roasted flavor of the beer went so well with the beef that I am pretty sure I got a glimpse of food heaven. And yes, I do like dark beer.
Fourth and final course was a sausage wrapped in pretzel dough and violet honey mustard. This is the course that the Rooftop Honey Saison was introduced.
Being that most Saison-styles rank pretty high in my book, I recognized that I would be biased but wow…this was good, good beer. Made with 75 pounds of the Rooftop Honey, the beer does not pick up any of the sweetness, but more of the botanical extracts. According to beekeeper Matt Kentner of Kentner Farms, the honey is “linden tree honey which will have notes of mint and camphor”. In the beer, it comes off as a hint of eucalyptus, floral and very delicious. The honey is added directly to the fermented beer, which increases the flavor profile as opposed to adding it in during the boil. Combine that with a blend of four different strains of yeast, and the Wynkoop has got itself an exceptional brew.
For the first event of this kind, the Brown Palace did an amazing job. Charlie Papazian, the founder of GABF as well as the author of The Great American Ale Trail: The Craft Beer Lover’s Guide to the Best Watering Holes in the Nation, and Christian DeBenedetti were both on hand to give a welcome. I loved seeing the Brown Palace reach out to the non-tea and brunch crowd and I hope the success of this event spawns more like it. I also really loved seeing such a great brewery of my past show me they are still producing amazing beer and reminding me of the potential of being a great brewery of my future. Well done!
The Rooftop Honey is only available at the Brown Palace’s Ship Tavern bar and Wynkoop Brewing Company. Just 20 kegs were made, so I highly recommend you hurry and get yourself some.