As a gal who’s all about my food and wine pairings I was intrigued to be invited to a beer and food pairing lunch at Ecliptic Brewing last week.
Beer and Food pairing? But I just thought beer was for burgers and typical bar food? Nope. Beer can be just as intriguing with a multi-course meal as wine. And John Harris knew this when he created Ecliptic one year ago this weekend.
Located in Portland’s Mississippi neighborhood, Ecliptic is the creation of iconic brewmaster John Harris. Harris has had a long career creating some of Oregon’s most well knows beers. His career began at McMenamins’ breweries, moving on to Deschutes where he is credited for creating some of their most famous recipes; like Mirror Pond, Black Butte Porter, Jubelale and Obsidian Stout. He then spent the next 20 years of his career as a brewmaster at Full Sail.
“The creation of Ecliptic Brewing is the next chapter in John’s illustrious career.”
(photo of John Harris, courtesy of Ecliptic Brewing)
Harris noticed the foodie scene evolving in Portland but not at the same pace for micro breweries. Many of these breweries had good beer, but “mediocre” food (average pub fare like burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, etc.).
“I wanted a brewery that took the food as seriously as the beer,” Harris explained.
So he brought in executive chef Michael Molitor (formerly of Pazzo), to create a seasonal rotating menu meant to pair with Harris’ signature beers. The menu still has traditional pub fare like soups, salads, and burgers. But there’s also a serious and creative side to the menu.
The name Ecliptic refers to Harris’ two passions; brewing and astronomy. Every beer name on the menu is influenced by astronomy and the seasonal items on the menu change every six weeks in accordance with the old world calendar. But don’t worry; there is also a classic menu of items that won’t be changing anytime soon.
We began our meal with a selection of a few classics, as well as a couple seasonal items:
Steamed Mussels, with tomato, hefepils, garlic, bonito, grilled sourdough ($13)
Baccala, a salt cod & potato fritter with malt vinegar aioli ($9) (not pictured)
Caesar Salad, with romaine, treviso, garlic-anchovy dressing, pecorino, croutons ($8)
Sweet and Spicy Drumsticks, made with chicken confit, sweet chili sauce, and celery salad ($9)
Phobos Extra Red Ale
Pluto Belgian Table Beer
The salads were fresh and crisp, the mussels had a flavorful broth, and the chicken was crispy, sweet, and spicy. But my favorite was hands down the Baccala (not pictured), and luckily for me it’s considered a “classic menu item” and won’t be leaving the menu anytime soon!
Fried Green Tomatoes, with bay shrimp and dill ($9)
Paired with Procyon Pale
Get there by the end of the month to try this delicious creation from chef Molitor. To honor tomato season, chef added this perfectly crispy and seasoned fried green tomato with a creamy dill sauce that was a fantastic pairing for the refreshing pale ale. This item is seasonal and will be gone after Halloween, so get it while it lasts!
Pan-Roasted Chicken, with roasted corn, zucchini, cotija, red pepper vinaigrette ($16)
Paired with Canopus India Wheat Ale
Red Wine-Braised Brisket, with savory cabbage and pickled rutabaga
Paired with Kuiper Porter
The chicken, currently on the menu, was beautifully plated, and tasted as good as it looked.
The brisket, not yet on the menu, is a preview of what’s to come when the menu changes next month. Rich, smooth, and indulgent, slow braised brisket that melts in your mouth like butter. I’m not typically a porter fan, but this was such a spot on pairing that I could seriously drink a pint of it with this dish. Maybe two?!
We finished with the most interesting and creative pairing of the day.
Vanilla-fig & pistachio ice cream
Paired with Mintaka Stout (beer to be released very soon)
OMG. I’m suddenly a fan of stout… when paired with this ice cream of course.
I kinda want to shout it on a rooftop.
The ice cream, made in house, had thick chunks of rich figs throughout that couldn’t have gone better with the stout. Such a surprising pairing — beer and ice cream! Who knew? The lady sitting across from me even combined the two items and made a beer float. Great idea!
This experience was obviously the creation of someone equally passionate about beer and food, and also someone determined to share his vision with his guests.
I asked Harris if the presentation of the dishes is something guests can expect, or if this is how they present for their multi-course meals (which they do monthly for the public). He said the only thing that may change would be portion size (our portions were a bit smaller due to the multi-course experience). But he was clear that they are focused on the food looking as good as it tastes. So… the answer is yes, the food will be this pretty when you visit.
I also asked him what has been the biggest challenge of sharing this vision with his guests in his first year being open.
“Getting people to understand that we are equally about the food as the beer.” But one thing he’s discovered is that once they get in the door, it becomes obvious. Or as he has realized, they “come for the beer, and stay for the food.”
You can visit Ecliptic Brewing 7-days a week.
They are located on 825 North Cook St., in Portland’s Mississippi District.
***And this coming Saturday, October 25, they will be celebrating their First Anniversary, with music, food specials, and brewery tours. Find out more about that event HERE.***
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