Oktoberfest at The Boynton

My father went to WPI in Worcester, MA.  One of his favorite college hangouts was a small (at the time) pizza joint/bar called The Boynton on Highland St.  40 some odd years later, The Boynton is still there, and over the years has transformed into a large bar/restaurant that has one of the better craft beer selections in Worcester.  While it may not be quite on par with places like Armsby Abbey and The Dive Bar, The Boynton does have a selection that is 40+ beers strong, and also is an incredible place to grab a bite of food.  The pizza is still there and Executive Chef Bill Bourbeau has expanded the menu giving diners plenty of elegant food choices.

For awhile now, The Boynton has been hosting themed beer dinners, and this past Tuesday the official Oktoberfest beer dinner was held.  My friends Pete and Nate and myself each dropped the $50 dollars to get a ticket to the small event.  Only about 50 tickets were available, and the beer dinner took place in one of the back dining halls.

Now I would be lying if I didn’t say Pete and I had gotten together for a little Oktoberfest pre-gaming.  After a couple of intense games of Madden and a couple of beers from the summer variety pack from Cape Ann Brewing, we headed over to The Boynton.  They hadn’t quite opened up the dining hall for the event by the time we got there, so to the bar we went and grabbed one of my favorite BBC beers, “Steel Rail”.  Perhaps it was the beer, the packed house or the heated discussion we were having over the state of the refs in the NFL, (lets go owners!)  but we managed to miss the announcement that the dining hall was open and we ended up being a little late for the appetizer sausage plate and the first round of beer.

At The Boynton Bar waiting for the beer dinner to begin

Once we finally figured out that the event began we made our way upstairs to join the festivities.  The appetizer course was a simple yet tasty traditional German sausage plate. There was also fruit and a very tasty German style spicy mustard that had a nice kick and complemented the sausage very nicely.  The New England standard when it comes to Oktoberfest beers, (albeit not my favorite) Sam Adams was served with this course.  I’m not sure what it is about the Sam’s Oktoberfest that I don’t like; it is refreshing, malty and easy to drink.  Perhaps the fact that there are so many other complex Oktoberfests out there to be enjoyed has made me somewhat biased.

I still had almost my entire Steel Rail left at this point, so I was stuck rushing through the BBC beer in order to catch up with everyone else that was enjoying the sausage and Sam Adams.

BBC Steel Rail and my Sam Adams Oktoberfest in front of the sausage plate. Clearly I have some catching up to do!

One of the nice things about these types of events is that for the 50 bucks you pay, which includes gratuity, it is all you can drink.  For this particular event the people running the show had a two tap jockey box set up pouring off a keg of Sam Adams Oktoberfest.  While we only received tasters of the other beers throughout the night, we always had the option of a full fresh glass of Sam Adams.

Now I know very few people get excited about the “salad course”, but I am always a big fan.  I always find it intriguing to see how a chef can put an interesting spin on a generally bland dish.  The “Gurkensalaat” or Autumn salad consisted of crispy baby greens, a little bit of spinach, cucumber, apple crisps and the most flavorful roasted beets I have ever had.  Without a doubt I could have stopped drinking beer, ate a bowl full of these beets and have been perfectly content.  The salad was topped with a honey cider dressing, and yes, while it was “just” a salad, it was flavorful and a nice way to officially kick off the meal.

The salad was served with Spaten’s Munich Lager.  Pouring a brilliant light gold this beer matched up perfectly with the salad.  Malty and refreshing with just a hint of that lager “twang”, this beer was light enough to match the light complexities of the salad, but flavorful enough to stand on its own.

Course 1: Spaten Munich Lager and Gurkensalaat

Spaten Munich Lager

While the salad was tasty (I’m still thinking about those beets 3 days later) The next course was where things started getting a little more interesting.

I’m a huge fan of pulled pork, done right it is beyond delicious.  That being said I have never had pulled pork from a pork knuckle.  When I initially read the menu for this event and saw that the second course was a pork knuckle I was really excited.  When the course finally came out I was somewhat surprised to see that the knuckle had actually been turned into pulled pork.  While I can’t say I was “disappointed”, I was a little surprised that the knuckle ended up being a pulled pork sandwhich.  that being said, it was a delicious sandwhich.  The “knuckle sandwhich” was served on delicious lightly toasted pretzel role and topped with braised cabbage.  As a compliment to this tasty slider, a sampler of Wachusett Pumpkan with a full-blown cinnamon and sugar rim was also served.

Now I think pumpkin beers are very hit or miss, they are either tasty, or way over spiced.  I also think it is truly hard to judge a pumpkin beer when it has been contaminated with the cinnamon and sugar rim.  I understand the appeal of the rim, but I personally believe it greatly effects the flavor of the beer.  Therefore, I think it is only fair to reserve judgment of this beer until after I can try it without the rim.  That being said it is awesome to see Wachusett canning more of their beers.  I had taken a trip up to the brewery right after they got their canning machine, and I feel like every time I turn around they are adding another one of their beers to their canned line.  My buddy TJ who works for Wachusett was their as well, helping explain the Pumpkan to the people at the event and also taking a minute to fill be in on the latest news up at their Brewery.  (they just released their homegrown hop beer again which is fantastic)

Second course, knuckle sliders and Wachusett Pumpkan

A closer look at the second course

After the knuckle course it was time to move on to the seafood portion of the meal.  Steckerlfisch, the native whitefish of Germany was the chef’s choice for the night.  The fish was served kabob style and was tender, flaky but also had a slight steak-ish characteristic.  Generally Steckerlfisch is made with common bream fish, but it was very difficult to tell exactly what the chef decided to use.  Steckerlfisch refers to small stick or pole in the Bavarian dialect.  Thus, this meal generally refers to a fish served on a stick.  Most commonly the fish is is served “as is” meaning head, skin and everything in between.  For this meal, and probably for the sake of not creeping out some of the patrons, the fish had been filleted and dressed lightly in herbs.  The fish was also served with some roasted brussel sprouts and a dill spetzle.

The beer served with this course was without a doubt my favorite of the night.  For those unaware, Germans are very specific about their beer.  They hold true to the reinheitsgebot, also known as the German beer purity law, requiring that beer is only made with the three true beer ingredients of water, barley and hops.  Furthermore their world re-knowned Oktoberfest is limited to only 6 German breweries being allowed to serve their beers during the festivities.  One of these six breweries is Paulaner.  (The other 5 are, Spaten, Lowenbrau, Hofbrauhaus, Augustinerbrau, and Hacker-Pschorr)  For this course we were served Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen, perhaps one of, if not, the most quintessential beers when thinking about Oktoberfest.  This beer pours a beautiful amber color and has a complex sweet and malty taste that screams Oktoberfest.  Light fruit notes and a refreshing crispness accompany this beer.  While Sam Adams Oktoberfest may be the standard in New England when it comes to a marzen, this beer by Paulaner is certainly the cream of the crop.

Course 3, Whitefish and Paulaner

The fourth course consisted of my favorite meal of the night, and probably the most surprising and sadly the most disappointing beer.  First let’s talk about the beer.  It may not be the worst beer in the world, but the generic Narrangansett Lager is certainly far from the best.  Any beer that you can spend two dollars on for a 16 ounce can at a bar certainly can’t be that special.  While I was unaware that this brewery actually had an Oktoberfest seasonal, the fourth course was served with ‘Gansett’s Fest Lager.  In my opinion this beer was a poor man’s rip-off of Sam Adams Oktoberfest.  The malt profile was very 1-dimensional and the balance seemed to lean a little to much towards the malty side for my taste.  While I was happy to see ‘Gansett showcasing different styles of beer, (In fact they have a stout that I enjoy) this beer missed the mark, especially when compared to some of the other beers of the night.

This course was saved however by the Zwiebeltrostboten, also known as a pan fried beef tenderloin with caramelized onions.  This dish was AMAZING!  Tender and juicy with perfectly caramelized onions this piece of beef may have been the star of the night.  Served with roasted carrots, mushrooms and traditional potato gratin this dish contained a wealth of flavors and definetly helped me forget about the sub par beer served with this meal.

The beef certainly outdid the beer in this course!

I am not a desert fan.  That being said I am not a person to turn down a course of food and it was inevitable that the final course would be a desert.  The menu said it would be an ice cream sandwich and as I sat their with Pete, Nate and the other people at our table, we thought this was going to be a giant let down.  I mean really, an ice cream sandwich?  With all do respect that does scream Oktoberfest to me.  Now I must say that while this particular desert still didn’t scream Germany to me, this was no ordinary ice cream sandwich.  This sandwich consisted of a homemade caramel ice cream made using Wachusett’s Pumpkan beer.  The cookie was a decadent black forest chocolate that was hard on the outside but moist in creamy on the inside.  I’ll admit I don’t like chocolate, but this was tasty and a nice way to finish the night.

Desert was served with the only “non-beer” beverage of the night, Harpoon Breweries Pumpkin Cider.  Generally cider is not my go to beverage, but this was a nice twist on a traditional hard cider.  The pumpkin flavor was minimal but present, and the overall feel of the cider was refreshing and counteracted the richness of the desert nicely.  I suppose that since it is fall, the occasional cider is necessary and this would certainly be a cider I would drink again.

The evenings dessert.

All in all this was a very enjoyable evening.  The food was great and the beer selections, albeit a couple were medoicre, paired nicely with the food.  I would have loved to have seen a little less American breweries at this event, but at least there were a couple of traditional German Breweries represented at this German inspired dinner.

I will certainly be keeping my eyes open for more beer dinners at The Boynton.

Oktoberfest at The Boynton

Categories: Beer

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