They only do two of these a year at some locations, but
the folks at Iron Hill have them down to a science. I have always told
you what a class act this company is and they work constantly to prove
We were lucky enough to have this one fall on my day off, so I eagerly put our names on the list despite it being over an 1 1/2 hr drive for us.
They held the event in a private room in the upstairs bar area. We were greeted by Gretchen and Brian and told that we were entitled to a pint of any of the draft beers to get the festivities rolling. Twenty-seven other aficionados were to join us for what appeared to be an excellent food and beer pairing. Not having seen Brian Finn, the brewer, for a while, we caught up on all the news. He told us that Iron Hill was going to change their regular beer lineup for the first time in 11 years! The Lodestone Lager and the Anvil Ale are to be replaced by a Vienna Lager and a rotating Belgian-style seasonal selection. I can tell you that their Belgians are great and I definitely look forward to seeing them on the tap handles more often. Great news for Iron Hill fans!
We were soon joined by two other couples at our table, Denise & Steve and Kay & John. Denise and Steve were UK transplants and Kay and John were also SJ residents though not so far. We enjoyed some interesting conversation throughout the evening.
Brian Finn introduced the chef, Bill Robbins, who explained his dishes and motivations to an appreciative crowd. Then Brian talked about the beers.
Our first selection was a Rauchbier, a German-style beer made with smoked malt, an outstanding accompaniment for the Smoked Duck Salad with bibb lettuce, candied walnuts, roasted shallots, goat cheese crisps and blueberry vinaigrette. After having chosen this course, he found that only 12 bottles of the beer remained throughout the entire organization and he was lucky enough to procure them for the dinner.
Next up was their fabulous Abbey Dubbel with an excellent estery, fruity nose and palate. Candi sugar hits the tongue with a sweet explosion, followed by plum and raisin notes and a warm finish from the 7.3% abv. Out came a Herb Roasted Quail with root vegetable ratatouille and balsamic red grape emulsion. The dark, oily meat of the quail was complemented perfectly with the Dubbel.
For the main course, we were served Grill Rack of Wild Boar with gorgonzola mashed potatoes, basil-peach relish and wilted spinach. For this, a big beer was needed to stand up to the boar and the richness of the potatoes. Brian chose his Oak-aged Quad at 12.5% abv. The oaky, vanilla cream of the Quad cleansed the palate beautifully and stood up to all the ingredients. It finished with fruit and a distinct warmth. As a special treat, he brought out one of his last bottles of an '02 Quad. What a delight! The slight oxidation gave it a smooth dryness and lots of plum, prune and raisin with a diminished vanilla oak flavor. God I love well-aged beers!
Now that we were all bursting at the seams, they brought out the Pumpkin Ale along with Pumpkin Cheesecake Spring Rolls which I barely got to taste. Most people immediately asked for takeout trays to enjoy this splendid dessert at a later time.
Needless to say, everyone was delighted with the menu and the fine service provided. We only wish we didn't have to drive all that way home!
Be sure you get on the Iron Hill website and sign up for their newsletters to keep up with all the fine events they offer. Look for the opening of their newest location in Lancaster, PA soon!