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Beer Camp
I knew we were in trouble when they started playing Wagner. Portentous notes filled the air as a partition at the end of the room retracted oh-so-slowly. And there it stood... the legendary Beer Buffet! More than 270 of the world's finest bottled brews. "Ladies and Gentlemen," boomed our leader, "I give you the beers of Beer Camp!"

Beer! Beer! We live to drink beer,
We love to drink beer here at Beer Camp!

William Blake once wrote that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. He might be surprised to learn that, at least twice per year, it also leads to the Oldenberg Brewery & Entertainment Complex in northern Kentucky. These biannual detours occur on the dates that Oldenberg holds Beer Camp — a weekend dedicated to reading, singing, talking, eating, and (of course) drinking civilization's founding beverage. Billeted at Oldenberg's on-site hotel, campers taste dozens of flavorful brews, explore the world's largest collection of beer memorabilia, and examine the inner workings of the microbrewery itself.

Nearly 150 beer-lovers from cities across America and Canada attended Oldenberg's latest gathering, March 18-20. Gripped by some primitive tribal communion, we spent the better part of three days contemplating bottle-caps and getting in touch with our inner beerhood. Indefatigable camp counselors' helped us survive the elaborate and excruciating process. "Your counselors have two jobs," revealed camp director Dave Heidrich. "To make sure you have fun, and to make sure you do not die." In light of the Beer Buffet's 278 tasty brews, theirs was an awesome responsibility.

Beer! Beer! We're thirsty for beer,
And it flows just like water at Beer Camp!

"I told my wife I'd try to control myself," said camper Dean Takko, surveying the choices before him. But neither he nor his concerned spouse had reckoned on the power of the official Beer Camp song. Introduced at Friday's inaugural ceremony, this siren call lured even the most temperate drinker into the time-warp of the World's Fastest Beer Tasting. Over the whirlwind course of an hour, we sampled 13 classic beer styles — brown ales, wheat beers, porters, pilsners, and more! Slick Willie Clinton never moved so fast.

New brews landed on the table every five minutes. Sweetly-malty German bocks replaced the dry nuttiness of Newcastle Brown Ale. Silky-smooth oatmeal stouts soothed the scorpion sting of Crazy Ed's Chili Beer. "Try to remember the differences!" urged our counselors. Considering the 'supplementary samples' available at the Beer Buffet, we were lucky to remember the location of our hotel rooms.

We flew into Oldenberg looking for beer,
We've met all the people, and now that we're here,

Saturday's activities began to the sadistic tune of James Brown's "I Feel Good" as we assembled for the ritual tapping of the First Keg at 8:30 am. Surrounding an oversized barrel of Oldenberg's best, we jostled for position like the prehistoric chimps who circle the Monolith in Kubrick's 2001. Gas hissed, foam sprayed, and suddenly the sacred brew flowed! Holding fresh glasses aloft, we pledged to drink always "with an open mind and open mouth" — the Beer Camper's Oath.

United through our communal glugging, we listened en masse to the teachings of beer anthropologist Alan Eames. "Man defines his place as the animal that brews," lectured this visiting brew-guru. "The significance of beer in a primitive society is that those who drink beer regularly have an enormous dietary and health advantage over the tribes that don't."

Supper carried this "beer diet" concept to enjoyable extremes: its five courses were both prepared with and accompanied by characterful international brews! From the palate-cleansing Pilsner sorbet to the sinful chocolate-stout mousse — delightfully paired with a sweet Belgian framboise (raspberry ale) — the special meal introduced many campers to the rewarding tastes of cuisine à la bière. We celebrated our good fortune with a post-prandial round of the Beer Camp song before returning to the sacred waters of the Beer Buffet.

We're dying of thirst! So please serve us first!
A big foaming tankard of beer!

Sunday morning illustrated the theory of natural selection. Only the strong arose for "Coffee, Tea, Juice & Aspirin" at nine o'clock. Others struggled to attend the afternoon's graduation ceremony, where every survivor received a personalized Beer Camp diploma (suitable for framing!). Secure in our newly-confirmed beerhood, we bid farewell to our fellow campers. But Heidrich delayed our departure with a shout. "We have one order of business left," he bellowed. "Open those songbooks!"

And so our voices joined in bibulous harmony one final time:

Beer! Beer! We live to drink beer...



ALE'D POTATO SOUP (serves six as a first course)
This soup makes a sublime first course. The ale, ham and shallots add an appealing change of pace to the creamy potato base. Prepare with a golden ale (or a sweet American-style cream ale), and serve with a malty, semi-sweet brown ale or — for the more adventurous — a full-bodied and malty Trappist ale.

3 tablespoons butter
5 medium baking potatoes, peeled and kept in water
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cups light or heavy cream
chopped Italian parsley or scallions for garnishing
1 1/2 cups golden ale / cream ale
3 - 4 ounces of Canadian bacon, or ham julienned
1 teaspoon dried thyme OR dill
2 cups light chicken stock
2 shallots, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter on medium heat.
Fry the Canadian bacon until lightly browned and crisp.
Remove and set aside.
Add the chopped onions to the pan and sautee until wilted.
Add the shallots and continue cooking until a pale gold.
Remove the onions and add them to the Canadian bacon.
Combine the stock, beer, and thyme in a large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat.
While the stock heats, julienne the potatoes.
Add the potatoes, Canadian bacon, and onions to the stock and bring the mixture to a slow boil.
Cook until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape (35 - 40 minutes).
Remove from heat. Slowly stir in the cream.
Reheat just until bubbles begin to form around the edges.
Remove from heat, taste, and adjust salt and pepper.
Garnish each bowl with freshly minced Italian parsley or scallions.

The cleanly malty, hoppy Pilsner required throughout this dish should be a quality domestic microbrew or a noted import. Philadelphia's Dock Street Brewing makes a Bohemian Pilsner that meets admirable standards of quality and local availability. For serving, however, turn to a rounded and malty lager in the German Fest/Austrian Vienna styles.

1 cup quality Pilsner beer
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed
2 teaspoons tarragon
2 whole chicken breasts: split, skinned, and boned
4 3x2 inch slices of Black Forest ham (or prosciutto)
4 3x1 inch (thick) slices of Swiss cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Sweet-Hot Beer Mustard (recipe follows)
1/2 cup flour

Combine the beer, olive oil, lime juice, garlic and tarragon.
Allow to stand while the chicken is prepared.
Form an unbroken pocket in the breast by inserting a sharp knife into the thickest side and cutting horizontally.
Place the chicken breast between two pieces of wax paper and gently pound until partially flattened (do not pound until thin). The idea is to simply create a uniform thickness for even cooking.
Pour the marinade over the breasts and allow to marinate 4 - 8 hours.
Drain and pat the chicken dry when ready to stuff.
Spread 3/4 teaspoon of the mustard on each piece of ham.
Place the cheese on the ham and fold the ham around the cheese. Place this in the pocket of the chicken, fold side out (to deter the cheese from leaking).
Combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne.
Immediately before cooking, dip each breast in the buttermilk, then dredge lightly in the seasoned flour.
Heat the butter in a heavy sautee pan on medium until the foam subsides.
Place the prepared breasts in the pan and brown lightly on each side.
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for approximately six (6) minutes.
Turn and continue cooking until done.
Remove and place on a heated platter.

SWEET-HOT BEER MUSTARD (approximately 8 ounces)
Try using a roasty, bitter Irish-style stout, sour Belgian lambic, or powerfully hoppy ale to achieve memorable flavors in this addictive mustard.

1/4 cup dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/3 cup aggressively-flavored beer
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon or thyme
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 egg yolks beaten
scant 1/4 cup sugar

Whisk together all but the egg yolks.
Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
Whisk in the yolks and place over a double boiler.
Cook on medium-low until thickened, whisking constantly.
Will keep up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

The chocolatey, creamy notes of sweet stouts (Mackeson, Sam Adams Cream Stout) blend perfectly with the mousse flavors. A sweetly fruity Belgian ale — not the sour kind — should also complement the raspberry sauce. Try Liefman's Framboise, based on a brown ale, or the syrupy Lindeman's Framboise.

16 ounces quality semi-sweet or extra-bitter chocolate
3/4 cup sweet (or 'milk') stout, room temperature
3 tablespoons coffee liquor
8 large eggs, room temperature, separated
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Melt the chocolate slowly in a double-boiler.
Remove from heat.
Stir in the sweet stout (e.g., Mackeson) and coffee liquor.
Blend until smooth.
Now add the yolks to the chocolate mixture, two at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
Set aside.
Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form.
Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff.
Now gently fold the whites and whipped-cream mixture together.
Slowly fold 1/4th of this mixture into the chocolate/stout blend.
Fold the remaining whipped mixture into the chocolate/stout blend until no traces or white, or lumps, are visible.
Spoon into serving goblets and refrigerate until firm.
Top each portion with a tablespoon of raspberry sauce, and serve with snifters of either sweet stout or notably-sweet Belgian Framboise.


1 1/2 pounds fresh-frozen raspberries
zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
1/2 cup of sugar (omit if berries very sweet)
1/4 cup raspberry syrup

Defrost the raspberries in a colander, retaining the juices.
When thawed and drained, run half of the fruit through a food-press or sieve to remove the seeds.
Combine the sieved pulp with any reserved juices, lemon zest and sugar.
On medium-high heat, reduce the mixture down by one-half.
Remove from the heat and cool.
Stir the syrup or brandy, plus the remaining berries, into the reduced juices.




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