What’s Brewing: McCormick & Schmick’s Final Beer War Dinner

The final beer war dinner between New England breweries came to a head (no pun intended) last Friday evening at McCormick and Schmick’s, which has been hosting said dinners since October of last year. The competition started with twelve brewers: Geary’s, Harpoon, Gritty McDuff, Shipyard, Allagash, Long Trail, Blue Hills, Cisco, Ipswich, Cape Ann, Peak Organic, and Ithaca. The last supper was between Nantucket’s Cisco and Maine’s Peak Organic.

For $55, each attendee enjoyed a 5 course meal (thanks to the culinary wizardry of chef Art Landis) with one beer pairing from each brewer, and from the two choices, selected their favorite on a paper ballot. A few standouts, from our perspective, included Cisco’s Whale’s Tale Pale Ale paired with a corned beef Reuben crostini. The malty, English-style IPA cut through the salty brisket and sauerkraut perfectly, while Peak Organic’s King Crimson imperial red ale was a bit too big at 9 percent ABV. The fourth course was a lobster and brie en croute with maitre d’hotel butter. Cisco went with the Indie Pale Ale while Peak chose their Hop Noir, a black IPA. I was confounded by both choices; the Indie was hoppy with notes of cannabis while Hop Noir was piney—both were too overpowering for such a rich dish. I’m all for contrasts, but this one just wasn’t happening for me. And for dessert—bananas foster with vanilla ice cream—Cisco won our love for serving their barrel-aged Winter Woods, while Peak Organic came through with a stronger pairing: Taza Chocolate Imperial Stout, an effervescent brew with a slight hint of mint, which is added during the brewing process.

And before I get to the winner, I have to admit that I think the voting procedure was definitely flawed. The majority of diners in the room were associated with one of the breweries. A gent at the other end of our table had circled all of Peak Organic’s beers on his ballot before any food was even served, which defeats the whole purpose of the event—clearly this wasn’t an unbiased selection of people. But, since it’s the first year I hope kinks like this will be ironed out next time. But congrats to Peak Organic, who won the final war and in return get a draft line at M&S for the next year. But, as Cisco brewer Pete Burke said, “The real winner here is craft beer.”

Did you attend a beer war dinner? If so, what did you think?