The Beertender Can't Get Enough of That Wonderful Duff's Beer Dinner

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As if the holiday itself wasn't great enough, this year's Twelve Days of Halloween included some pretty fantastic beer moments. Celebrating the long-awaited opening of Foam on Cherokee Street. Sharing a friend's homebrew made with hops he grew himself. Pouring my own beer during a Mike Sweeney-led brewhouse tour at the Schlafly Tap Room. Dressing up as Fidel Castro and knocking back a few Tecates with my buddy Che.

The pinnacle of the week had to be to the autumn beer dinner at Duff's Restaurant. For nine years, Duff's has collaborated with New Belgium Brewing Co. to create a fantastic fall feast. This year -- my third in attendance -- chef Jim Voss chose to pair his hearty, locally sourced creations with selections from New Belgium's Lips of Faith series, and the results were, shall we say, freakin' exquisite.

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M. Doxtad, Wikimedia Commons
The New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado
The five beers chosen from the series were La Folie, Biere de Mars, Le Fleur Misseur, Fall Wild Ale and Transatlantique Kriek. These beers are indeed leaps of faith, for the brewers as well as drinkers, because they are examples of the Belgian-inspired creative abandon many American brewers employ today. Strange yeasts, unconventional spices, completely unexpected flavors: This is the cutting edge of brewing.

Opening with the sourness of the Flanders Red-style La Folie was brave. Several in attendance were unsure but eventually expressed surprise at how much they enjoyed their first sour beer. Voss wisely decided to pair the beer with flavors that stood up to it and matched its intensity, as opposed to trying to cut or balance the strong sourness. Smoked trout on pumpernickel and goat cheese crostini worked beautifully.

Biere de Mars is an ale brewed with lemon verbena and Brettanomyces yeast. I certainly expected some funky flavors but the aroma said "plastic diapers" to me. Maybe I was just feeling guilty for enjoying a rare kid-free night with my lovely wife. Anyway, the paired pork belly and warm cabbage salad with smoky blue cheese was absolute heaven. Real last-meal kinda stuff.

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