I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a meal at Pairings in Winterport, Pairings is the food component of the Winterport Winery and Penobscot Bay Brewery. The event I attended was their monthly beer/wine dinner with a summer theme.
With Pairings, owners Mike and Joan Anderson have created a space where fine food and fine wine and craft beer can play in harmony. Beer dinners and wine dinners are not unusual but it is unusual to find a craft brewery and winery housed in the same building that can also host a dinner paired for both wine and beer simultaneously. Each course of this summer themed dinner was paired with both a Winterport Wine and a Penobscot Bay Beer and you could stick to the program of beer or wine or you could switch back and forth between the two if you wanted to. This is the first paired dinner I’ve ever been too that catered to both the beer and wine crowd.
The appetizer course was held in the retail space/tasting room, I did have the beer but walked right by the appetizer, that’s just the sort of thing I would do at a paired dinner. The appetizer was summer sausage pastry puffs paired with Old Factory Whistle Red Ale or Pear Cider.
We then moved into the dining area of Pairings, three long tables were set with place settings fancier than I am accustomed too at dinner time, the family style seating allowed for easy conversation at the table. The kitchen and prep area are at the front of the room so you could see Chef Ryan Cough plating the next course and Pairings staff moving about the room refilling water, clearing plates and glasses or prepping for the next course.
The first sit down course was a grilled summer salad paired with Tap Into Summer #4 blonde ale or Apple Wine Sangria. This course was very textural, pineapple, watermelon, eggplant and tomato. Everything on the plate was super fresh and had been grilled, the flavor seemed to burst forward. The beer which was brewed for the Tap Into Summer brewfest paired quite well with such a diverse array of flavors, though I can’t say it enhanced the course it didn’t clash with anything as I expected it might.
The second course was Asian style pork ribs paired with Wildfire Rauchbier or Orchard Blush Wine. The ribs had a wonderful balance of teriyaki and smoky char flavor with a slight crunch from the sesame seeds, after a few bites a light heat developed. The Rauchbier which works well with barbequed foods complimented the already smoky flavor of the rib while cooling that heat, this was a perfect pairing, delicious.
The third course was marinated pork tenderloin topped with pineapple salsa, black beans and rice and smashed plantains paired with Humble B Honey Ginger Lager or Pear Dry Wine. This course was not preplated so guests were passing baskets of bread and platters of food around the table serving themselves. The pork was cooked just right, very tender and topped with a super fresh pineapple salsa. The rice and beans were simple and flavorful addition that didn’t take the focus off the pork. The plantains brought a textural component to the plate and while I expected them to be sweet they were more like fried potato chips. I found the beer to pair well with the pork but not so much with the plantains or beans and rice, and I think it generally worked well with the pineapple salsa but did little to relieve the heat from the jalapenos that were in it.
The dessert course was a Summer Berry Shortcake paired with Red Flannel Brown Ale or Flying Dutchman Blackberry Port. I tend not to be a dessert person but this may have been my favorite course, the crumbly, buttery biscuit, tart berries and lemon zested whipped cream paired up perfectly with the brown ale. The beers rich malty flavor lended some balance to the tartness of the berries while still allowing the delicate whipped cream and lemon zest to shine.
The food and drink at Pairings were great, I would not hesitate to go again and bring friends along. The staff at Pairings was the component that put this beer dinner over the top, friendly and courteous while zipping around the room they managed to serve and clear the table without you noticing they were there. The format was loose but structured, I never felt rushed and at the same time never felt like I was waiting, all signs that they had everything under control
Craft beer or wine can be tough to get into for some people but the addition of food can be the missing link, the way the food changes the flavor of the drink and vice versa can give a new perspective. I also find that submitting yourself to a pairing is a bit like taking your hands off the wheel, you have no control over the food or drink and it challenges any preconceived notions you may have about either or both. I would never have thought to smash up and fry plantains to serve at dinner but now I might.
Pairings offers monthly beer and wine dinners ranging between $55 – $65 plus tax and gratuity depending on the menu items or special occasion, more info can be found on their website.