Kohler Festival of Beer
Tucked away in scenic and inspiring Kohler, WI is the sprawling wooded Kohler grounds which plays host to an exhaustive list of fantastic events throughout the year. Over Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29, 2011) this year the third annual Kohler Festival of Beer brought both beer and golf lovers together for one heck of a great time.
Classy and fun, we visited the festival for a lengthy stay on Saturday from beginning to near-end, enjoying the partly-cloudy-but-comfortably-warm weather as we walked to and from buildings leisurely (most of the time). Our experience started with a slow drive down Highland Drive though Kohler towards The American Club. From the moment we parked and were greeted, the service through the handful of buildings, Horse & Plow, and festival events was world-class.
Cooking with Beer featuring Central Waters Brewing Company
Saturday May 28, 2011 10-11 AM at the Craft Tasting Room at the Demonstration Kitchen
Our only shuttle ride for the day dropped us off at Kohler’s Demonstration Kitchen in the Shops at Woodlake. Our first stop of the day kicked off at 10 AM with Anello Mollica, Co-Owner of Central Waters and Lucas Oppeneer, head chef of The Horse & Plow. We started our day out with the Happy Heron Pale Ale from Central Waters, a crisp and drinkable pale that lead quite wonderfully into the free-formed braised pork belly ravioli with wild mushrooms, leeks, and Mascarpone cheese. (This recipe can be found here.) It paired nicely with Central Waters’ Ouisconsing Red Ale that was also used as an ingredient.
Oppeneer seemed nervous at first, but certainly not from lack of experience or expertise as both his European-trained techniques and cooking were wonderful. At the end when he had become more comfortable with the crowd, he let us in on a little secret; it was his first-ever demo! As a talkative, informative, and funny presenter/chef, I’d say it was a job well done! One of the finer points Oppeneer and Mollica touched on quite a bit was how much easier beer is to cook with and pair with food than wine. “Approachable”, “affordable”, and “versatile” were a few words driven home to characterize the pairing of food and beer. Classically trained with wine, Oppeneer said joyfully, “beer is so much more exciting!”
Served beautifully, our other sample of cooking with beer was poached Halibut over citrus shaved fennel and warm fava bean salad that paired well with Central Waters’ newest summer seasonal, a Belgian blonde ale. (This recipe can be found here.) Having this placed before me made me nervous at first since I’m not a seafood person at all, but I swallowed my inhibitions and dove in. I LOVED it! It was cooked so well I consider it a slightly-life-changing experience (in regards to eating fish anyway). The delicate flavors of the fish were elevated nicely by the Belgian yeast character of the blonde ale as the delicate notes from each played off each other.
Not only did the beer and food work wonderfully together, but so did Mollica and Oppeneer. Both put quite a bit of emphasis on using as much fresh, local Wisconsin ingredients in their artistry as possible. The informal, anti-stuffy atmosphere made the event approachable for and informational for the newcomer to pairing food with beer to the seasoned food-y.
After our second and final pairing we experienced one of Central Waters’ best-sellers; Mud Puppy Porter, a dark, dessert-like porter with great roast character, perfect to finish the inspiring, informational event with!
Stay tuned for Kohler Festival of Beer 2011, Vol. 2 which will cover the Beer Luncheon featuring Tenth and Blake as well as Beers Around the World events.
Photography by Bryan Nieman. Copyright BeerFM 2011