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Blowout Craft-Beer Dinner

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Last year, I was one of a supersmall group of journalists and brewers invited to the Brewers Association’s first-ever craft-beer dinner at NYC’s Gramercy Tavern. This year's dinner was even more spectacular. Some highlights:

New Glarus Brewing is legendary for its hard-to-obtain beers. Stories circulated around the table about attempts to smuggle them across the Wisconsin/Illinois border. We had the rare chance to try their seasonal Wisconsin Cran-bic. This is exactly what I’d want to pour with my first course at Thanksgiving dinner.

Scott Vaccaro of Captain Lawrence Brewing in Pleasantville, NY, brought his intense, dark, malty, bourbon-barrel-aged Nor’Easter Winter Warmer to pair with our cheese course.

The Twelve XII from Firestone Walker Brewing in Paso Robles, California, is one of the most complex beers I’ve ever tasted. Brewmaster Matt Brynildson enlisted area winemakers to assist in the blending of component beers, some of which spent more than two years aging in a combination of retired bourbon, rye and wine barrels.

I tend to prefer pumpkin in my pie, not my beer. But Lakewood, NY’s Southern Tier Brewing Company has made an extremely drinkable pumpkin beer called Pumking that is meant to be served in a goblet to bring out all of the spicy aromas. It’s full of cinnamon and clove, yet doesn’t have any cloying sweetness, and was brilliant with poached lobster served with turnips, daikon and lobster-squash sauce.

David Katleski, founder of Empire Brewing in Syracuse, NY , surprised us with a growler of what he’s calling White Aphro, a supposedly aphrodisiacal brew made from ginger, lavender and honey. The jury is out on whether it really works.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.