Wednesday Dec 09, 2009

Monk's Kettle: November Beer Pairing Dinner!

I can't think of a better reason to take the train up to San Francisco than the Monk's Kettle's Beer Pairing dinner.  My second (or was it third?) beer dinner there was the November 4th event hosted by Firestone Walker Brewing Company.  We all got comfortable and finished our happy hour beers (note to self: happy hour beer not necessary when dinner comes with 6 beers) in our seats along the kitchen. It took me awhile to write this up, as I left my notes there and had to return again to retrieve them (for December's dinner). :)

Our host welcomed us and quickly told us, "No driving. The training wheels are off. These are real beers," and beer service began! All of these beers were barrel aged and got their primary fermentation in oak barrels, and they got stronger as the night went on.

We started with a nice English style pale ale poured from the cask, Double Barrel Ale. It was light and fruity, coming in at a nice 5%. This was paired with a delightful crostini with white bean puree and olive tapenade. YUM! This small amuse-bouche was delicious and a great way to start.

The salad course was served with a saison, Lil' Opal. We learned that this beer was actually an accident when it was created when a batch of Big Opal ended up too much sugar. I love happy little surprises like this!  We all loved this beer, for its lemony and sweet flavor, with just a touch of hoppiness.  My friend Lucas said, "It tastes like when doves cry". An unexpected and apt 80s references. but... then the salad came. The salad itself (red Belgian endives, baby letuces, shaved red onion, pomegranate seeds and feta) was delicious, but the "Lil' Opal Vinaigrette" did not pair well with the beer, changing the flavor to a distinctly PBR taste.  Not terrible, but nowhere near as good as the beer tasted without the food. In the future, I hope that Chef Kevin stays away from vinegar in these dinners.

My favorite course was the house-cured bacon stuffed dates drizzled with a balsamic reduction and topped with pickled shallots, served with house made cheddar bread. They came with Walker's Reserve, a very robust porter. Four pounds of oatmeal go into each barrel, along with chocolate malt and cascade hops. The beer I could've repeated this course several times - delicious!

(Yes, I know Balsamic is a vinegar, but in this reduction, it was sweet and not acidic.)

The main course was "A Drunken Lamb, A Rare Bird" - the lamb leg had been marinated in the beer that was paired with the course, Black Xantus, and came out very tender and the match was made in heaven.  The Black Xantus was a Russian Imperial Stout, made with Mexican coffee which made for a slightly bitter, but very nice, flavor. This is a beer that can really get you in trouble, coming in at 11% ABV!

For dessert, the scrumptious chocolate fondant cake was served hot with a side of Chantilly cream and mint.  There were also some "drunken Fuyu persimmons", but they had been left in the "cheap" bourbon a bit too long and we couldn't really eat them.

The bonus? Dessert came with two beers! Yay! Abucus, which was an American Barleywine coming in at 12% ABV, paired wonderfully with the chocolate cake, with its own dark cherry and chocolate flavors soaring when enjoyed together with the cake.  I also enjoyed the Firestone Twelve (which had been cellared for one year), another 12% ABV.  The Twelve had been aged in bourbon and brandy barrels, and then blended.

I really enjoy these dinners, as there is no rush, service is outstanding, and you get to hear directly from the brewers so you fall in love with the beer as much as they have. And while the event is not rushed, the staff is aware that we've all come via public transport and we always finish with time to pay the bill and get to the Caltrain station. :)

Friday Aug 07, 2009

Monk's Kettle Beer Pairing Dinner

Made it up to San Francisco this week to the Monk's Kettle's once a month beer pairing dinner.  This month featured the brews from the Bruery. The food was delicious, service was great and the company was fantastic, what could possibly make this a better night out? Oh, that's right, the amazing beers!

I was glad my friend Phil had warned me about the size of the meal, so we just had a very light salad for lunch, no afternoon snacks and I avoided the tempting bread basket at the table when we arrived.

The founder of the Bruery, Patrick Rue, was in attendance and introduced us to each beer as it was served. It was cool hearing about their humble roots as a home brewer and how they've developed so many new recipes as well as attempting to bring back old styles.  The Bruery is just over a year old, and I haven't had much luck finding them here in the south bay (quoth the BevMo employee, "I'm sorry, \*which\* brewery are you looking for?").

The first course was organic bibb lettuce with fresh tarragon, chervil, parsley and fried capers, paired with Hottenroth Berliner Weisse. The salad was delicious, but a bit of work to cut into and a bit too much for the plate it was served on, as we all had trouble with flying lettuce and splashing dressing :)  The beer, at a light 3.1% ABV, was super refreshing with a delightful lemon flavor. It reminded me of what I think Mike's Hard Lemonade should taste like (hint: not like syrup ...). It was delicious and I could easily see myself sipping on that on a lazy summer afternoon. (speaking of fried capers - they tasted almost like bacon! they were so good, and seemingly no semblance of vinegar on them)

For the second course, we had pan seared local halibut, crayfish risotto cake, a Sausalito Springs watercress salad and an organic pesto beurre blanc.  When I looked at the menu in advance, I was not particularly excited by this course, not being a huge halibut fan, but was surprised when the fish came perfectly cooked (neither dry nor gooey) and loved the sauce!  This was paired with the Trade Winds Tripel (8.1% ABV), which is apparently made with Thai Basil. You could catch the basil on the nose, but the taste was much lighter.

The third course was Blue de Sassenage, fresh slices of pear, spiced almonds, organic honey and toasted bread.  I'm always a fan of a cheese course, so no complaints here! We all wished the "spices" used on the almonds were listed, as they were quite tasty. We were guessing paprika and brown sugar. This was paired with Humulus Lager (India Pale Lager, 7.2% ABV). This was much lighter than a pale ale, and apparently made with rice to make it an American style lager. Patrick assured us, though, that rice is not a cheep beer making ingredient, as it is often referred to, as it costs him more than his hops.  I'm not a big fan of hoppy beers, but Mark was more than happy to finish the last half of my beer.

The fourth course was what we'd all been waiting for: 'Black Orchard' marinated short ribs, roasted garlic potato puree, haricot vert, and a 'Black Orchard' demi glace. This was all paired with the Black Orchard beer from the Bruery (5.7% ABV).  These ribs had been marinated in the Black Orchard beer with bay leaves and garlic for 24 hours, before being braised for 5 hours (with a mixture made of Black Orchard beer, chicken stock and brown sugar). These spare ribs were phenomenal!  The Black Orchard beer (yes, that Orchard, as in Apple Orchard, not Orchid) was my favorite one of the evening. A nice brown ale, soft and smooth, slightly sweet, and a crisp after taste.

Dessert was house made ice cream sandwiches with a 'Papier' chocolate sauce. This was served with two beers: Papier (first anniversary old style ale, 17.5% ABV) and Black Tuesday (bourbon aged imperial stout - 19.5%). Both beers were really good, though I would have to say that I loved the chocolaty flavor of the Black Tuesday the best. And who wouldn't like a beer named after the start of the Great Depression that sells for $30/bottle? ;-)

Anyone else make it up here for the event? I can't wait for the next one! This is a great way to discover how beer can make food better and to discover small craft breweries.


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