King of Prussia Post. June 12, 1997

Extravaganza Offers Beer Tasting

A Dinner at Valley Forge Brewery Gave Patrons a Chance to Sample a Mix of Food and Beer

By Ted Akers

David Biles, owner of the two-year-old Valley Forge Brewing Company, believes people need to broaden their perspectives about beer.

Most of the American public is used to one type of beer like a very light, low-flavored pilsener like Budweiser and Coors,” he said. “That's basically what everyone thinks of as beer.”

With the goal of enlightening people on the versatility and “exoticness” of beer, Biles held his second beer dinner last Thursday, with Beer Historian Richard Wagner as speaker.

The purpose of a brewpub, said Biles, is to educate the public on different types of beer. He explained that when you mention ale, people don't think of it as beer. “It would be like everyone thinking the only kind of wine is a cheap, dry chardonnay and that every other kind of wine was something else,” Biles said. “That's not the case of course.”

Valley Forge Brewing Company's first beer dinner was held last year and didn't have a theme. This year, a colonial theme was chosen as a tribute to the history of the Valley Forge area.

Melvin Jones, sours chef, was one of the creative forces behind the evening's culinary and beer exposition. The restaurant researched authentic colonial meals and found most of the recipes at Border's in the King of Prussia mall. From there, they perused lists of foods and finally composed a workable menu they felt would appease the guests.

I wanted to try to be authentic, but cater to the modern world,” Jones said.

In the course of hunting for ideas, they came across some foods he knew wouldn't fly with 20th-century palates. There was pepper pot soup that George Washington served to his troops while stationed at Valley Forge. It contained ingredients such as tripe and beef fat he knew people might not find desirable.

Jones said that Colonial cooking was unique for many reasons, one being that people often had to made do with what food was available. Jones and other chefs made slight changes to the meals, adding more spices and flavor than originally was called for, and the result was desirable.

In order to match the meals and beer,s Jones said that they cooked the dinners with some of the ingredients from beer.

The dinner included grilled Virginia battered bread topped with country duck liver pate and apple ginger jelly. A salad was made with julienne beets, chervil, watercress, red oak and was served with Thomas Jefferson vinaigrette. A choice of grilled quail with fried corn cakes and carrot parsnip mash or oven baked shad topped with Dutch country cheese custard served with sauteed potato cakes and Yankee baked beans comprised the entree. The dessert included brandied peach tart-lets topped with peach wheat sorbet garnished with spiced cranberry sauce.

Each food item was accompanied with a beer set. The starter beer was the golden ale, the appetizer had the oatmeal stout, the salad had the American wheat, the entree saw the Maibock and with dessert was a porter.

You're seeing a renewed interest in beer,” said Wagner, who brews his own beer and has spent years researching breweries around the country.

This is the first time I've been to a beer dinner,” said Gus P. Krasta of Wawa, Pa. He had been to the restaurant before and was impressed. He was looking forward to becoming more knowledgeable about the types of beers Valley Forge Brewing Company serves and how they relate to meals.

Wagner explained that in the 17th and 18th centuries, beer was considered a food and everyone, including children, drank it. Now people have an image of “Joe six-pack” as the stereotypical beer drinker, and that's why places like Valley Forge Brewing Company, categorized as a brewpub, are good. Biles said that the goal is not to turn a profit from the beer dinners, but to have a good time.