David Fields of Wormtown delivers a draft at the brewery's 'takeover' of the Barn on Jan. 29. Patrons got to try the beer and some of the food pairing from chef Kevin DeMarco.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The interest in craft brewing has been inspiring menus that reflect the unique tones of these ales, lagers and stouts.
We're not talking hot dogs and backyard barbecues — although there's certainly nothing wrong with that — but rather pairings akin to popular wine dinners at which both food and beverage are matched to complement and enhance each other.
Think crab cakes, Korean BBQ, cheddar cheese fondue and chocolate layer cake.
That's the goal of the four-course beer dinner slated for Thursday, March 5, at the Barn Kitchen & Bar at the new Williams Inn. The beer is being supplied by Wormtown Brewery of Worcester and the menu by the Barn's Executive Chef Kevin DeMarco. The dinner is designed to not only satisfy those with a taste for fine brew and a hearty appetite, but will also benefit the Williamstown Youth Center.
The event came about from conversations between Wormtown and the Williams Inn, said the inn's Director of Sales Cory Amman.
"We wanted to do something community focused, you know reaching out to a local charitable foundation," he said. "It really started out as a small beer dinner with 12 people."
What was first envisioned as an intimate setting soon ballooned into 150 and moved to the reception hall. Patrons of the inn got something of a sneak preview in late January during a "Wormtown Takeover" of the Barn that offered five of Wormtown's beers on tap as well as two custom beer cocktails.
Yes, beer cocktails. Very good beer cocktails.
David Fields of Wormtown said the 10-year-old craft brewery has been doing about 35 to 40 beer and food pairings a year.
"So interestingly, beer and food pairings have been a driving factor of the craft beer explosion over the last five to seven years," he said. "Especially on the chef side, they recognized years ago that beer and food are really fun. There's a lot of complexity, a lot of synergy that occurs between the two."
The Williams Inn dinner is a little unique, he continued, because of the energy and intensity that it was bringing to the dinner. Chef DeMarco has said he looks for good, local ingredients and takes a "playful approach" to old favorites.
"I've probably seen one or two others like this in my 10 years or so," Fields said. "This is great. I have 100 percent confidence it's gonna be the best menu I've ever had."
Wormtown is Worcester's nickname inspired by the underground music scene that included a one-time performance by the Rolling Stones back in 1978 as well as stops by Aerosmith, J.Geils Band and Journey, among others.
"Someone wrote an article about if you don't understand how cool this underground music scene is in Worcester or if you do, if you do understand it, then you're one of the worms following the music from stop to stop to stop underground," said Fields. "So that's kind of a fun connection."
The brewery opened in 2010 and soon found a steady stream of customers and, five years later, opened in new larger quarters on Shrewsbury Street in the heart of Worcester. The ability to make more beer also opened opportunities to begin selling to package stores and expand its geographic blueprint.
The Barn has been selling the brewery's signature Be Hoppy beer (which sports the happy face that was created in Worcester), and that began a connection between the new inn and the growing, all-things-Massachusetts brewery.
"We have a slogan that's really part of our DNA that we call 'a piece of Mass' in every glass," Fields said. "So, every beer we brew always has Massachusetts-grown ingredients and most of those ingredients come from Western Mass."
So in addition to Be Hoppy, there's Rocket that was inspired by rocketry pioneer professor Robert Goddard who launched more than 400 rockets around Worcester and Auburn, and then there's Mass Whole, a play on words that features a shield on the can that could at first glance seem to be the state flag or the state police emblem.
"It's just being able to tell fun stories like that and be able to incorporate local history and tell local stories," Fields said.
It's Wormtown's focus on local and its Western Mass roots that caught the hotel's attention when it was considering doing a community-based event.
"We connected with Wormtown just because we saw their values," Amman said. "Wormtown's a Massachusetts company, all their ingredients come from Massachusetts. It's very community focused. So we really wanted to have a partnership with them."
He said it seemed the brewery and the hotel "connected on a lot of boxes."
Wormtown has made a point of supporting local charitable causes, Fields said.
"A year ago, we had five different charity beers on tap that all or most of the proceeds went to different local charities," he said. "We just finished 'Worcester's Bravest," which was for the firefighter (Lt. Jason Menard) that we lost again, unfortunately."
Menard was killed fighting a fire in November. The beer brewed by Wormtown, Greater Good Imperial Brewing Co. and Westminster's Wachusett Brewing Co. raised about $75,000 for Menard's family; Wormtown raised about $26,000.
This March, it will be the nonprofit Williamstown Youth Center that will benefit from the the Barn dinner and Wormtown brews. Tickets are $65 and include a choice from each of four courses that will matched with a brew. They can be purchased online here or at the Williams Inn.
Wormtown Mass Whole Lager cheddar cheese fondue with beer cheese, crudité, loaves, pretzels and lavash
Paired with Mass Whole, lager
Between the bread
Maryland-style crab cake slider with chipotle aioli on brioche pulled pork & biscuits with cabbage slaw
Korean BBQ Chicken Steamed Bun with Pickled Vegetables
Paired with Don't Worry, India pale ale
Mac & cheese to the extreme
Smoked bacon, pulled BBQ chicken with scallions & crispy shallots
Paired with Irish Red, Irish-style red ale
From land & sea
Clam boil & rotisserie chicken shellfish with Creole broth
Rotisserie BBQ chicken with buttered potatoes & corn
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