Monday, July 2, 2012

BRU Fest Recap

BRU Fest was a fabulous party serving everyone's favorites - burgers, wings, 'n' beer - to benefit The Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.  It was a great time for an even greater cause!

Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Bell's Brewery all provided hearty food and an astounding variety of beers for tasting and testing at the event.  Treat Dreams - one of my favorite vendors from Baconfest - also offered lusciously rich ice cream and vibrant sorbet for a sweet ending after all the feasting.

Photo credit: Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes
My BFF Wendy and I did our best "Thelma and Louise" impersonation (something we're pretty good at, after years of practice) and undertook this excursion into the wild world of beer tasting with open minds and a sense of adventure.

We were absolutely there for the food, there's never any doubt about that (especially with me!).  But as noted non-beer drinkers - Wendy's sister Cheryl laughed when told of our planned escapade; and Jeremy told me point-blank, "You're not worthy" - we were determined to take advantage of this opportunity to taste everything from sparkling ale to summer specialties to stouts.  With such a range, and with such exceptional quality from one of Michigan's finest breweries, we were on a mission.

We started with food - always a good plan before drinking (or, in our cases, sipping).  Bagger Dave's was offering four different burgers, and Buffalo Wild Wings was serving eight different sauces to coat their boneless chicken. On our first go-round, we tried:

- The Kickin' Cheddar Burger: beef burger with cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, diced onion, and horseradish mayonnaise

- Parmesan Garlic Wings: breaded chicken coated in roasted garlic and parmesan sauce with Italian herbs

- The Big Fat Greek Burger: turkey burger with tomato, mint and fennel white balsamic vinaigrette, and cucumber-dill yogurt sauce.

It was good to see a mix of indulgent offerings as well as some that were a bit lighter and healthier.  We happily finished our burgers and split the order of chicken; the seriously garlicky, but not overpowering, wings turned out to be my favorite savory food option of the evening.

Then we went off to the beer tables, where samples were poured into the cute souvenir glasses we'd been given when we arrived. Wendy and I must have looked a bit dazed, 'cause my buddy, Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes, took a few moments to give us some recommendations.

I started with Black Note Stout (pictured to the left in the picture at the top of the post), which Joe had told me was rare and distinctive.  It's "a blend of Expedition and Double Cream stouts, aged in freshly retired bourbon barrels," and it had a strong essence of coffee and mocha flavors to it.  (Imagine my glee when I read confirmation of my palate on the Bell's website - "malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso & dried fruits!")

Wendy picked the Cherry Stout (pictured to the right, above), which has been likened to the "Pinot Noir of the beer world."  Given that it features tart cherries, for which Michigan is rightly famous, I was surprised to find it had a hint of sweetness.  And interestingly, each of us preferred the other's selection to our own.

I need to thank Alex Ostrom (left) and Jeff Caldwell for being so friendly and so generous in allowing us to borrow a corner (a quadrant?) of their table at this event that was packed with revelers; without them, there would have been no photo of the stouts for posterity ... or, at least, it wouldn't have been as good a picture as I tried to balance beer and my camera and my purse and my notebook and my pen and ....

In chatting and explaining that I really was working (I may be a flaky chick who takes pictures of everything she eats and drinks, but it's my job!), we found out that Alex was drinking Two Hearted Ale and was planning to try a variety of beers over the course of the evening. Jeff, on the other hand, had chosen the reigning favorite, Oberon, because it's an absolute classic - light and refreshing, a perfect summer beverage.

I have to say that the annual flurry over Oberon reminds me of the festivities surrounding Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released on the third Thursday in November with gleeful signs announcing "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arriv
é!"  There is such celebration, such joy, to see Oberon each year!  Of course, this is not only a chance to get reacquainted with an old friend, but a simultaneous return of beautiful blue skies, of barbecues, of bonfires at the beach, of baseball ... of all that is good about summer in Michigan.

Caramel Pecan ice cream, Lemon sorbet, and Chocolate Stout ice cream from Treat Dreams in Ferndale

At this point, we meandered over to the ice cream ... sigh. Treat Dreams had offered an amazing concoction at Baconfest called "Sunday Breakfast" that had bacon (of course!), maple syrup, and bits of waffles stirred into it; it was just luscious!  The company prides itself on ice cream that is "lovingly created in small batches on site." They "strive to use local ingredients and vendors whenever possible, and take pride in ... exotic flavor combinations."

So I was giddy to find them at BRU Fest, serving generous tastes of three different varieties: caramel pecan ice cream (I forget which type of beer was used, 'cause I was too busy eating it to scribble notes), lemon sorbet with Pale Ale, and chocolate with stout ... sigh.  Wendy's favorite was the sorbet, which was bright with a definite note of the ale, with much more depth than just a standard citrus dessert. The rich chocolate stout ice cream reminded me of the fabulous Guinness Cake I'd made last fall.  And my favorite was the caramel pecan ice cream, which was a perfect blend of all its flavors with a brown sugar-y sweetness and layers of flavor; it immediately made me want to bake some cinnamon rolls and slather them with a caramel-stout frosting.

Before leaving, Wendy and I took one more tour of the Bagger Dave's and Buffalo Wild Wings buffet, opting this time for:

- The Jamaican Me Crazy Burger: turkey burger with Swiss cheese, jerk cole slaw with walnuts, tomato, and Jamaican barbecue sauce

- Spicy Garlic Wings: "a tasty, spicy, garlicky good sauce"

- Honey BBQ Wings: "a sweet, sassy sauce."

The burger and the garlic wings were too spicy for our already well-tested palates; but the barbecue wings were zesty and sweet, and very very good.

We also paid one last visit to the Bell's tables, ending our evening with tastes of Sparkling Ale, Pale Ale, Oberon, and my personal favorite for "Best Name" - Hell Hath No Fury.  We tried an entire range of foods and beers at BRU Fest, and had a wonderful time!  As Wendy put it, we "almost felt guilty raising money to fight children's leukemia" because the event was so much fun!


Cranberry Morning said...

What an epicurean adventure - and all for a great cause! I laughed at Jeremy's comment about your worthiness. That Big Fat Greek Burger may just tempt me to be more adventurous in burger making. 'Hell Hath No Fury' is a great name. :-)

Jenn said...

Fantastic food - hearty beers - cute boys.. what more could you ask for?? :)

Robin said...

That does look like the perfect summer party for the best of causes. You also looked like you were having a great time. Looking good!!!!

Nikki Little said...

Thanks so much for coming out and supporting BRU Fest! Glad you enjoyed the event.

Chris said...

So much food! How could you even walk out of there at the end, I'd have to be rolled out on a dolly.

Debra Kapellakis said...

As always, thank you for sharing! :D

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