If the pall of smoke lingering over the Roaring Fork Valley has left your mouth and throat dry, or, even more, if you are one of the courageous souls who have been involved in actually fighting the fires, then you may want to shuffle over to the Mountain Fair beer tent this week to sample the suds this year. Roaring Fork Beer Company seasonals and flagships have taken the baton from New Belgium to become the official tap for Mountain Fair. Brewing on Dolores Way, Little NAPA, they also pour at their Main Street tasting room, Batch. If you have the desire, you should have plenty of opportunities to pour some down your own throat, while it lasts.
Recently on a torrid, smoky afternoon, I had the pleasure of tasting through their current offering and acquired a greater understanding of what this brewery is striving to accomplish. My impression is that their beers are complete, balanced, focused, and display a high level of nuance and craft. RFBC is the official brewery of Mountain Fair–a hearty congratulations to them for this deserved honor.
But let’s get real.
Mountain Fair isn’t like tasting vintage Bordeaux at the Savoy. So while RFBC’s beers are sophisticated beverages, they also promise to be great at slaking your thirst as you participate in, or gape at, the carnival in Sopris Park. This fair is a physically demanding event, with crowds of sweating, enthusiastic mountain people milling about, or at least plenty who emulate and would like to be mountain people themselves. If you are one of the genuine article, you may be running a fourteen mile race, or demonstrating your prowess with a maul, a fly rod, a hula hoop, or a guitar. Those are all ways to become powerful thirsty.
Even if your affiliation with the scheduled events is more detached, let’s say it’s a more academic, or, how about, an intellectual appreciation, you will still need to drink something.
Maybe even drink . . . a lot.
For that reason, I’d like to offer the following suggestions for pairing RFBC’s Mountain Fair brews with some of the food you will find this year in the park.
Leg O’ Damn Turkey
The Cascade IPA’s more insistent flavor (and by that I mean it has a more muscular “cut” than the Roll Blonde or the Slaughterhouse Lager) will penetrate the dark leg meat and buoy your impression of the protein so that both coexist with neither gaining dominance.
The grapefruit, ginger ‘n mint hard seltzer’s exotic flavor combinations are tart and snappy. The softer, sweeter flavor of the corn masa in the pupusa will envelope those more aggressive sensations and show them—even them—that they have a raison d’etre. That softening will make the beverage refreshing and the food will acquire a lift and a touch of lightness.
Non gluten-free gut bombs…
With the funnel cake–both the Roll Blonde and the Slaughterhouse Lager would play well here. I was fascinated by the fine perlage of the Slaughterhouse, its discrete, tiny bubbles I mean, and by its more insistent flavor–that’s the one I would drink, but they are both clean, bright, fresh beers and would each shine with the fine flour and the oil used to fry the cake.
Sex On A Stick
These luscious mango blossoms of Mountain Fair are ubiquitous. Regardless of whether you would normally eat this complex, earthy, sensual fruit, you should above all try the Mountain Fair beer. Not only does it have the complexity and flavors to tango with the food, it also is a captivating drink on its own. It looks like a rosé wine with a fine mousse, like a champagne, and possesses floral perfumes that mingle provocatively with the smell of the mango. It has a dry, serious flavor of pomegranate, hibiscus, tea, lime, and rose petals. I don’t typically enjoy brewed beverages with other plant or fruit ingredients used in their production, but this beer was completely convincing. I loved it.
If you’d like to share your feelings about these beers with me during Mountain Fair, I’ll be avidly watching the log splitting contest and would enjoy hearing your reactions. I’ve already had one conversation with a chef about the Mountain Fair beer and learned something important about hibiscus beers and subtlety. You’ll know me by the spotted top hat I wear.