If someone can make salami that looks like beer bottles, couldn't someone like Salumi savant Armandino Batali make a nice snack platter for the next beer festival?
One of my colleagues complained to me about last weekend's Washington Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival.
Loud and cramped weren't his exact words, but those are descriptions I'll second. Let me add this: The food wasn't exciting either.
I've been to a few of these things, put on by the Washington Brewers Guild and others. I've come to accept them for what they are and how they're presented: a bunch of tables and kegs lined up on the periphery of a room that has the acoustics of a Boeing assembly plant; a mass of hops and malt aficionados crowding the center; and buckets of pub grub in the corner.
I've got nothing against the food at Hale's Ales, which hosted the Winter Beer Festival in the concrete-floored, cacophonous barn that the brewery calls its Palladium. But let's admit it: pork sandwiches, sausages and pretzels were just tired old grub wrapped up in a different pub.
The grub was about the same at the Washington Brewers Guild's Cask Beer Festival in October, with one exception: tasty lobster bisque from Fred's Rivertown Ale House, the Snohomish pub that hauled its catering equipment to Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion.
I actually took my own food to the cask beer festival: cheeses (nasty blues, creamy brie, good Gouda), salami, baguette and bottled water. I'd learned my lesson from the Guild's summer festival, where Montezuma's Revenge wasn't a Mexican lager but something that bummed my burrito.
This summer's Seattle International Beer Festival had more food choices, although not necessarily better (barbecue over-indulgence made my ribs hurt).
I'm chewing toward a point, and here it is: I wish the food at these festivals matched the beer, specialties that showcase brewers' work. The food at Saturday's Winter Beer Festival –- and, again: I've got nothing against Hale's food –- wasn't served from the host pub's kitchen. It came from a beat-up barbecue grill in the parking lot and some chafing dishes crammed in a corner.
Returning from a pub crawl in Victoria, B.C., last month, I ordered a $6 packaged snack from the Clipper ferry's galley: pita chips, cheese, carrots and hummus. I popped the cap off a brown ale I'd bought on the island. As I ate and drank, I thought about the brewmaster's plate I had enjoyed at one of the four Victoria pubs I'd crawled that day: cured meats, cheeses, pate, fruit, chutney and crackers, all of which had something to offer and complement each of the beers I'd sampled at the pub.
As we approached Seattle, I got to wondering what kind of beer Armandino Batali drinks. It was Batali's Salumi products that I had taken with me to the cask beer festival in October. I'm still wondering what kind of brewmaster's plate Batali could come up with for the next beer festival, if he was asked. Or maybe I'll just grab some of those $6 snack packs from the Clipper.