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Max’s Belgian Beer Festival

If you had walked into Max’s Taphouse this past Thursday, you might have been sorely disappointed. The world-famous Charm City bar that otherwise boasts 140 rotating drafts and 1200 bottles had no drafts available and a limited bottle selection. Though it sounds like a dismal scene, Max’s was taking these measures to prepare for one of their biggest annual events—The Belgian Beer Festival. A 3-day event, the festival offers the largest selection of Belgian beer in the US—over 100 Belgian drafts and 200 bottles. In addition, the food menu that is otherwise saturated with gastro-pub fare experiences a Belgian makeover. Here at BarleyDine we know that nothing goes together like beer and food!

Beer lovers lined up for a taste of Belgium

I arrived at the festival on Saturday afternoon, eager to tear into some Belgian pints and plates. Not surprisingly, the line was out the door, though moving steadily. In speaking to those that had attended the event previously, we learned that we were in for a “nut-to-butt” situation once we were inside. Yes, nut-to-butt, because shoulder-to-shoulder really does not serve to describe how uncomfortably crowded it was. But that’s all part of the fun, right? Pro-tip: Go with a partner, that way you can take turns fetching beer and grub without compromising the precious couple inches of flat surface (barstool, windowsill, banaster, etc.) you managed to stake out.

See what I mean?

The food menu offered moules (mussels) prepared three different ways, a cheese plate, a meat plate, a couple salads, and a few sandwiches. I’m admittedly a shellfish lover, so I decided to start with the Moules Grand-Mère. The mussels are presented in a creamy beer sauce with bacon and in this case the beer was a framboise, which I thought was a very interesting choice. I paired this with Lindemans framboise lambic and it made for a lovely appetizer!

Moule Grand-Mère and Lindemans Framboise

Lindemans framboise is heavily carbonated and has loads of wonderful raspberry tartness, which gives it a champagne quality. It’s very drinkable with an ABV of only about 3%. The salty, smoky, crunchy bacon offset the sweet, creamy mussels really nicely. Though the raspberry is very forthright in this lambic, it was an unobtrusive compliment to the mussels and it brought out the framboise in the sauce that might have been too subtle to notice on its own.

Endive Salad with Barbãr

Later in the day I went for one of the salads—a Belgian endive salad with honey goat cheese, green apples, walnuts, and citrus vinaigrette. I paired this with Barbãr (a Belgian Honey Ale) by Brasserie Lefèbvre. This was a treat! The ale had a spicy citrus and coriander character at first, but the last note was of pure honey sweetness. The bitter endives and tart apples were nicely contrasted with the sweetness of this ale, while the honey in the goat cheese was able to shine through. Absolutely delightful! I can’t imagine a better pairing for this salad.

Other notables:  Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch on cask, Stillwater/Emelisse Collaboration Holland Oats, an amber ale with apples and oats—surprisingly hoppy with a strong apple cider flavor. I talked to several people who were excited to see so many sours on the menu, so if sours are your thing, don’t miss this festival next year!

Max's bartenders were hard at work all weekend.

If you get a chance to visit Max’s, I would highly recommend it. They have beers you never even knew you wanted to try. They also host a German beer festival in the fall that I’m sure will not disappoint. Cheers!

BARREL 135

Williamsport is saturated with bars serving the typical bar food. Burgers, cheesesteaks, wings and the list goes on and on. Tonight was a culinary wonder and delight at Barrel 135. There are many familiar items on the menu, yet all the ingredients may not seem so familiar. Brian is putting a refreshing twist on the food offerings here in the Port.

My wife and I decided to head out to dinner tonight and thankfully ended up at Barrel 135. I knew that they had some great beers on draft and bottles, although limited, still a very nice selection. They had just tapped a fresh keg of Slab Cabin from Otto’s (owned by the former brewer of the Bullfrog Brewery), my mind was made up, Slab Cabin for me. Our server, Christina gave us the low-down on specials for the evening, which sent my wife and I spinning in indecision. Everything sounded wonderful. But after some debate and hard thinking we settled on our dinner.
Lots of times we order an app and split an entree, tonight though, we wanted to try all we could. She ordered the Pork Chop with green apple risotto, tart apple gastrique and bitter greens with an apple cider reduction. I must say, the risotto was spot on, the pork chop was cooked to perfection and the reduction left me wanting to lick her plate. I had a quesadilla, yeah I know, your thinking a quesadilla, but this was nothing like any quesadilla I’ve ever had. This quesadilla was loaded with  apple smoked bacon, red onion, cheddar, tomato salsa and lemon aioli. So savory with a twist of tang with the lemon aioli.
As for the beer, as mentioned before I had the Slab Cabin IPA. A fantastic rendition of an IPA, loaded with fresh hop aroma and flavor, Charlie certainly did it again. In my opinion when pairing food, an IPA is the most adaptable of beer styles. Let me say, it may not have been the best choice for all the wonderful food we ate, but it paired well. The apple smoked bacon quesadilla was a perfect match for the beer. As for the pork chop dinner, the hops sliced through all the fatty flavors, including the thick mouth coating flavors of the risotto, leaving the palate cleansed. We finished our meal with a desert. I had passed at first, though my wife and I couldn’t help but wonder what was on the desert menu. We knew with entrees that unique and delicious, the deserts had to be the same. Christina went through the list, all of the offerings sounding equally delightful, but we settled on the pizza frita. This is deep fried pizza dough, fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream with a honey drizzle. Man! It was so light and fresh. Full of sweet succulent flavors. Slab Cabin was a great contrast to this delectable desert. The bitterness of the beer balanced out the sweetness of the desert. Also, the hops cut through the fried flavors of the pizza dough. It may not have been my first choice for beer selections, but it did just fine.
Overall, this was a fantastic first experience, which won’t be the last either. We plan to return very soon for another meal and of course more fresh beers. With their constant rotation on the taps, one must stop in often to try the great beers they bring in. Well done fella’s.
beer + food = Barleydine

Barleydine

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