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SAN DIEGO BEER WEEK: Walking And Drinking

It’s always nice to get in on the ground floor of something great and I felt quite honored to be part of the first sextet to meander through Urban Solace’s inaugural Beer Walkabout. What’s a walkabout, you ask? Consider it the culinary equivalent of speed dating.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, my party and a trio of patrons thirsty for beer and hungry for chef Matt Gordon’s soul and stomach satisfying new American comfort cuisine, were ushered out of the main dining room and onto the courtyard where a U-formation of tables staffed by brewery representatives stood at the ready with their fermentable wares. We were guided to the closest table where we were given the lowdown on the process and taste profile behind a duo of polar opposite beers from Green Flash Brewing Co.—Hop Head Red, an assertively bitter, full-bodied Irish red ale, and Trippel, a slightly sweet, botanical Belgian-styled brew. Try one, try the other, try both…anything went and, just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, in came a tray adorned with six plates stocked with individual servings of buttery roasted black bass a sweet orange juice reduction and a coriander gremolata that amplified the spice notes in the Trippel.

San Diego Beer Week 2010

San Diego Beer Week 2010.

Photo by Brandon Hernandez

No sooner had we set down our perfectly cleaned plates then were we ushered from Green Flash’s space to a table five feet away serving Palm Belgian Ale and Rodenbach Grand Cru, one of the most popular, not to mention smooth and palatable, sours on the face of the planet. That fluidic duo was made all the more enjoyable by a rich mussel stew served in a hollowed out potato skin that had been fried in duck fat. It was the sort of scrumptious edible vessel that made me want to holler out, “take that, sourdough loaf” and decree my undying affection for this meal of the moment. But, much like with the aforementioned speed dating, where just when you think you’ve fallen in love, there was something just as, if not more incredible waiting in the great unknown mere minutes away.

The next hour consisted of 15 minutes shifts at tables stocked with delicious beers and thoughtfully prepared dishes that Gordon composed to accent subtleties in each of the brews on our sudsy circuit. While each plate and tasting glass tandem worked well, the most successful, hands down, was a seared duck breast dish that included a bread pudding studded with shredded confit of duck leg (a savory take utilizing Gordon’s bread pudding dessert recipe minus the sugar) and a pomegranate gastrique (pomegranate juice and vinegar reduced to a syrup) that meshed seamlessly with New Belgium’s La Folie sour brown ale, a tart brew featuring tasty traces of the wood barrels it ages in.

Another match made in heaven was Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale—a recipe that changes yearly and features five holiday spices and five fresh produce additions in addition to the standard beer ingredients that make up the beer recipe—and a pumpkin-pecan toffee. The latter was topped with a pumpkin seed gelato that featured a creaminess that bridged the gap between the bittersweet toffee and nutmegy yet easy-drinking winter ale.

Adding to the already enjoyable nature of this station-to-station food-for-all was the fact that it benefitted San Diego Coastkeeper, a non-profit organization employing 17 full-time employees working vigilantly to protect our county’s bays and water supplies. While organizations like Surfrider get plenty of well-deserved visibility, this group has been actively making a difference since the mid-nineties and is responsible for reducing sewage spills in our region by over 90% since its inception.

Supporting their efforts (and getting our gums around such delicious cuisine) was certainly worth a little walking about. On top of that, it was great practice for the next evening’s affairs—the San Diego Beer Week Drinkabout. What is a drinkabout, you ask? Much like North Park’s wildly popular 30th on 30th events, where free shuttles transport patrons along 30th Street to a number of popular eateries and bars, this event will take Beer Weekers on a route that includes stops at Toronado, which will have the florally hopped wine barrel-conditioned beers of Russian River Brewing Co. on tap (along with brewer co-owner Natalie Cilurzo), The Linkery, which will be serving beers from Pasadena’s Craftsman Brewing and Sea Rocket Bistro, who’ll be doling out beer-marinated fish jerky.

Whether it’s numerous breweries coming together under one roof or numerous venues coming together within a community, its collaborative events like this that help make San Diego Beer Week such a profoundly special time of year for fans of fine beer.

My picks for great San Diego Beer Week events on Wednesday (November 10)

Owning & Operating an Urban Winery or Brewery Seminar, 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

This isn’t for pipe-dreamers, it’s a real deal class to guide entrepreneurs considering entering the brewing industry as the head honcho, a dream keynote speaker Jack White, owner of Ballast Point Brewery and Spirits, has realized big time. Find out how. 1646 Front Street, Downtown, 619-239-6800

Thirty Sheets to the Wind Wednesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Ballast Point’s Three Sheets Barleywine is a fav among SD beer aficionados who’ll be thrilled by the chance to taste vintage versions dating back to 2006 and the first batch of Thirty Sheets—Three Sheets aged in Ballast Point Spirits rum barrels. 5401 Linda Vista Road, Linda Vista, 619-295-2337

Green Flash 2nd Annual Fling, 3 p.m.

Brewers, pros and recreational users alike are invited to partake in this (pre-sale only) frisbee golf tournament where winners tap a winning cask. But don’t worry, there are plenty of cask-conditioned ultra-uncommon beers for runners up to wallow in, too. Morley Field Disc Golf Course, Hillcrest

One-of-Eight Collaboration Release Party, 6 p.m.

Dive into a brand new beer brewed by Ballast Point and Coronado Brewing Co. in support of the fight against breast cancer. Proceeds from sales of this Belgian amber ale go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation so drink up! 1801 Morena Boulevard, Bay Park, 858-395-9503

Stone Archives Beer Pairing Dinner, 8:30 p.m.

Former Top Chef contestant Brian Malarkey’s preparing a five-course feast at his new restaurant Searsucker and Stone Brewing Co. CEO Greg Koch’s bringing the beer, which includes archived gems like Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale. 611 Fifth Avenue, Downtown, 619-233-7327