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Zioglbier, paired with fried mortadella.
Before last night, I was a virgin to beer-pairing events.  This is not for lack of want by any means, but a product of the fact that for the better part of the past twenty-five years, I've been either a vegetarian or a pescatarian.  Have you ever seen a vegetarian beer pairing event?  I didn't think so.  I read that Stone Brewing did a vegan event a while back - god bless them - but that's the only time I have ever heard of such a thing.

Is it for lack of demand?  I don't think so, even in Portland - a place where people will wrap anything in bacon.  Three of my closest beer-geek friends are vegetarians and I would bet they've never been to any beer-paired dinners either.  I found myself one night complaining about the absence of vegetarian options at beer events to a couple of people when one of them said to me, "Why don't you just organize one?"

Because I am neither chef nor professional brewer, I had never even thought of such a thing...but why not?  So, I've taken on this challenge.  I have a couple of very talented (potentially) interested parties but have no idea where to begin.  Where does one begin with a new challenge?  Education.  Research.  Which leads me to the reason I found myself ingesting cow, pig, chicken and duck; pate and rillettes; liver, heart and breast last night.  Yes, I am taking one for the team.  I've signed up for multiple beer-pairing events - marrow and all - in order to better understand how these events happen and what makes them work - or not work.

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Presentation was impressive
I'd also never been to Imperial Bottle Shop and Taproom before and was really impressed by the owners' engagement with the customers -and despite the pervasive, new-development concrete, which always puts me off a little, and the slightly too-bright lighting (all the better to see the color of the beer though!) it was a pretty inviting atmosphere. 

The presentation of the food - provided by Laurelhurst Market - was stellar (except for serving on paper plates) and the pairing with The Commons beer was very well done - the flavor intensity of food and beer were SPOT-ON, and the flavors complimented each other well.

I have to admit, while I admire the shit out of The Commons for their creativity and experimentation (and they're one of my favorite Oregon breweries), I haven't liked ALL of their beers.  That being said, all five beers at the pairing last night was excellent and clearly mindfully-selected. 

I'd already tried three of the beers before: Madrone (a dry-hopped amber saison with a lot more flavor than the traditional version, a great balance, a touch of funky fruitiness, a mild sweetness with a dry, spicy finish), Walnut (a roasty Belgian-style porter with a dry, slightly bitter finish - much like a walnut, in fact), and the Ortucky Common (their collaboration with De Garde - another one of my favorite Oregon breweries.  This one is a unique dark rye sour, a bit of toasted chocolate and a lot of sour throughout).  All great beers.  You can often find bottles of Madrone in stores and I suggest picking it up. 

I've been wanting to try Fleur de Ferme for a while, and this was a treat which did not disappoint me.  Fleur is a dark farmhouse ale brewed with lavender, hibiscus and chamomile - and, as one might expect there are beautiful, bright floral, herbal notes which are well-balanced by a dark roastiness.  Probably not for everyone (in reviews, people seem to either love or hate it - which is usually a sign of a truly unique beer).  I, however, love the addition of lavender to certain styles of beer and I think The Commons pulled it off really well.

The biggest surprise of the evening (besides the fact that the beef heart was delicious) was the unfiltered Zioglbier, an obscure style from Franconian Germany.  It poured a hazy, medium-golden orange with great head retention and lacing.  The aroma was subtle, with distinct lager yeast character and a slight fruitiness.  The flavor was a lot more pronounced, refreshing with citrus and fruit, a distinctive lager yeast character - a slight bready malt profile, but not overpowering - and a great earthy, spicy finish.  I usually don't like lagers (don't judge me, I'm trying), but this one was exceptional - and the woman next to me said exactly the same thing.  If you have a chance, check this one out.

Thanks to the fine folks at the Imperial Bottle Shop and Taproom.  Check them out.