Four Roses and Bluegrass Brewing Co. teamed up for an excellent “Beer and Bourbon” dinner last night in the Bourbon Barrel Loft space at the BBC at 300 W. Main St.
The evening began with a taste of BBC’s new Bourbon Barrel Alt, which you should try at your earliest opportunity. I’ve always liked BBC’s Bourbon Barrel Stout, and enjoyed it again with last night’s dessert, a peanut-butter creme brulee. But where the stout is heavy and chewy and chocolate-y, the alt is very delicate. Four weeks of aging in a Four Roses barrel right there in the Loft gives it a subtle vanilla flavor that sweetens the alt, but not by too much. The combination also draws out the elusive pear note of the bourbon.
Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge spoke briefly before dinner, starting off by conveying BBC owner Pat Hagan’s thanks to everyone ”for drinking enough bourbon to supply these barrels.” He talked about Four Roses’ 10 distinct bourbon recipes and how they are combined to create the distillery’s products. All 10 are used in the 80-proof Yellow Label, for instance, to achieve consistency. “No two barrels are the same,” he noted; “each has its own fingerprint of flavor.”
The Yellow Label was paired with the appetizer, smoked beef brisket over cornbread with a bacon jam, shaved gouda cheese and arugula. That was followed by an amazing salad bursting with flavor (spinach, pickled red onion, sweet-potato “hay,” toasted pine nuts, blood oranges and dried cherry vinaigrette), paired with Four Roses Small Batch.
The main course, paired with Four Roses Single Barrel, was a grilled beef tenderloin served with butternut squash risotto and brown butter brussel sprouts and topped with a vanilla bean glaze.
After the aforementioned dessert, we had another treat: the first taste outside the Four Roses lab of the 2012 Limited Edition Single Barrel. At barrel strength, it was about 118-120 proof, Rutledge estimated. The nose, with oak and vanilla notes, was mild and in no way prepared me for the spicy fire on the front. That quickly gave way, however, to a lot of fruit on the middle of the palate that lingered into a very smooth finish.
I had expected Jim Rutledge to talk about the brands as we enjoyed each course, but I suspect he was worn out: He had flown in from Philadelphia immediately before the dinner and had been in Ohio before that. He told me after the dinner that he spends probably 75 to 80 percent of his time on the road. It’s tiring, he said, but “I get excited once I get someplace.”
That’s because he loves talking about the passion that everyone at Four Roses has for the product, he said. “It’s not what’s in the bottle that makes it special; it’s the people behind it.”