It’s not every day that Highland Brewing Company produces a small-batch beer for a client. When it does, people take notice. And when the said client is Asheville’s Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, there’s even more interest.
After all, Highland has spent the last 15 years brewing up consistent high-quality microbrew in Asheville. And the Grove Park Inn is renown as a world-class get-away.
The Great Gatsby Abbey is the result of the unique partnership. Celebrated with a four-course dinner pairing beer and food at the inn’s Horizons restaurant, the abbey-style brown ale was hailed as a drinkable, light-on-the-palate brew with Juicy Fruit-like notes.
The dinner was the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year process to develop the beer, according to Kevin Schwartz, the inn’s assistant food and beverage director. Working with Highland’s brewers, the inn staff met and refined the flavorings until it got exactly what it wanted — a drink to pay homage to famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who summered (and drank) in rooms 441 and 443 of the inn in 1935 and ‘36.
The beer features a Belgian nose with flavorings that include banana, clove and hops. “It’s balanced all the way through, and it’s very drinkable, with enough there to intrigue the serious beer drinker,” Schwartz said.
During the dinner, the Great Gatsby Abbey Ale was paired with pan-seared scallops, shaved Benton’s ham and fingerling potatoes with banana and toasted walnut coulis. Next came Highland’s Gaelic Ale, paired with malt-glazed local pork belly with mini-pork ravioli and Gaelic-braised Kim Chi. The brewery’s Oatmeal Porter was served with cast iron-seared Piedmontese strip loin, wild mushroom and root vegetable hash, potato gnocchi and truffled black garlic emulsion. To top it all off, a Black Mocha Stout arrived with Black Mocha Stout spice cake, compressed cocoa and mocha coffee gelato.
The menu was designed by Horizons chef de cuisine Duane Fernandes and staff pairings by Todd Phillips and Kenneth Pace. The key to a good brew-and-food pairing is to keep things simple, says Fernandes.
“Taste the beer and use the first flavor you get — whether it’s a floral or citrus or whatever — to complement the food,” says Fernandes, who added that his favorite pairing of the night was the beef dish, which matched the malty, smoky flavor of the porter.
Oscar Wong, Highland’s owner, says his brewery frankly isn’t eager to do small batch beers because it’s a time-intensive process and not all that profitable. But the Grove Park Inn has been a good customer over the years and made a good partner in developing the Great Gatsby Abbey, says Wong, noting that the project was a fun change of pace for his brewers.
Wong says he’s happy with the beer. Since word has gotten out about the project, Highland has been inundated with requests from other customers asking for their own special brew.
“We’re wondering how to tackle it. We don’t want to get to the point where we’re so big that we can’t address customers needs,” he says.
Great Gatsby Abbey is being sold at the hotel in 12-ounce bottles and on draft.