Cast Iron Cook-Off features local beer

West Virginia-made craft beer marked its debut appearance at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off on February 6 and made quite a nice addition to the event. A panel of beer judges selected one of those beers as Best of Show.

A cooking team chef presents a dish to the food judging panel at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off in Charleston WV.
A cooking team chef presents a dish to the food judging panel at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off. The event took place at the Charleston WV Marriott on Friday and Saturday.

The food-centric Cast Iron Cook-Off annually pits culinary teams, led by professional chefs, against each other to see which one can most impress a panel of culinary judges. Each dish in the competition must have a component prepared in a cast iron pot or skillet. Locally-sourced Appalachian ingredients are emphasized.

Cast Iron Cook-Off adds local beer and wine

While the Cast Iron Cook-Off is in its 11th year, the 2016 event was the first to specially feature a selection of local beverages. An event committee led by Steve Mullins added a group of local wines and beers to see how the beverages might fit into the overall event.

The beers and wines were offered for sale to those attending the cook-off on Saturday. By all accounts, the new feature was a very popular addition to the day.

First time beer judging at Cast Iron Cook-Off

The judging beer team at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off prepares for the festival's first beer judging event.
The beer-judging team at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off prepares for the festival’s first beer judging event. L to R are Tim Lepley, beer judge; Charles Bockway, competition steward; Rob Absten, beer judge; and Rich Ireland, head beer judge.

The cook-off recruited a panel of experienced beer judges to taste the beers and select a Best of Show. The judging took the form of a blind-tasting, where the judges are not told the name or brewer of the beer. The judges sampled each beer and, first, rated them for overall quality and drinkability. Next, they discussed their strengths and weaknesses versus the beer-style category in which the beer fell.

Beer judge Rob Absten isolates aromas of a beer sample at the Cast Iron Cook-Off.
Beer judge Rob Absten isolates aromas of a beer sample at the Cast Iron Cook-Off. Small subtleties make a difference.
Beer judge Tim Lepley records his notes on a beer evaluation form at the Cast Iron Cookoff.
Beer judge Tim Lepley records his notes on a beer evaluation form at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off.

Best of Show beer selected

Best of Show: Mountain Momma by Bridge Works of Fayetteville, WV. 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off
Best of Show Beer: Mountain Momma Pale Ale by Bridge Works of Fayetteville, WV.

While the judges were very impressed with all the beers, the Best of Show was awarded to Mountain Momma Pale Ale by Bridge Brew Works of Fayetteville, WV.

Judges found that beer especially “well-balanced” and admired its hop aromas and flavors.

With the success of this year’s beer feature, leaders of the cook-off said they would like to expand the feature next year. Craft beer seems to have found its place at the Cast Iron Cook-Off table.

The 2016 Winter Food Festival and Cast Iron Cook-Off included multiple cooking competitions, exhibits, and samplings over a two- day period. The weekend celebrates and preserves the culinary heritage of Appalachia.

Organized and conducted by the Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia, the event annually draws a big crowd of spectators.

2016 Grand Champion chef named

These plates won the Grand Champion title at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off.
These plates won the Grand Champion title at the 2016 Cast Iron Cook-Off.

The Grand Champion of the 2106 Cast Iron Cook-Off was Chef Jason Fleck of the 1863 Grill in Elkins, WV. Congratulations to him and his team.

Find more information on the overall program at the sponsor’s website.

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