December 7, 2008

Sideways (viva la Hopmonk)

Think Sideways and you're apt to think of that movie with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. From now on, I'll think of the Dungeness crab dinner (the crustacean's lateral movement is a bit of a stretch, I know) at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, which, like the movie, is in wine country.
Because I had to head down to SoCal for Thanksgiving and a few book events, I've been remiss about updates, hence Jesse at Beer & Nosh beat me to this post. And all the photos below are his. Lastly, his beer dinner tasting notes are more on topic, since he loves crab and I can't touch the stuff, a point which bummed out our host, Dean Biersch, but didn't bother me because I love ordering off the menu there. (Yet somehow, I missed out on going up to the buffet table for the steamed artichokes, garlic buttered corn on the cob, and something involving sweet potato puree.)

What began as Dean's splendid idea to do a book signing there turned into another in their series of beer pairing dinners. For example, Half Pint and I spent election night at Hopmonk with fellow revelers all donning "I voted" stickers and enjoying beers brewed by Dean's long-time partner, Dan Gordon. As he says, "Never trust a skinny brewer." Pairings that night included their Hefeweizen + pork tenderloin medallions, Marzen + roasted duck & parsnip puree, and concluded with the deceptively strong Winterbock + gingerbread crepes. So really, I kid you not when I say that I love the increasingly popular beer dinners and that it's impossible to go wrong by partaking of one at Hopmonk.

As for the crabby one, guests were welcomed with a pilsener glass filled with my favorite house brew, the Kellerbier, an unfiltered pils. To accompany the potato gratin app, we were poured Anchor Liberty Ale. It may not knock the socks of Double IPA fans today, but Fritz Maytag debuted this beer back in 1975. Good luck finding anything remotely this hoppy back then, cowboy. That was pretty much the discussion Dean and I had as we all ate and the night turned into an exercise in face-stuffing, peppered with commentary on the beers by myself and Dean.
It didn't hurt that the next beer poured was New Belgium's Mothership Wit, another beer from the pages of Red, White, and Brew. New Belgium is renowned for eco-friendly brewing and to complement both the beer and the idea of sustainable cuisine, the meyer lemons appeared courtesy of Dean's backyard! My grandfather the citrus farmer would've been proud.

Speaking of citrus, the meal concluded with Brewery Rodenbach's Grand Cru, a sour belgian from the same brewery that New Belgium's brewmaster Peter Bouckaert hailed from before he hopped the pond. It washed down what I seem to recall was angel food cake drizzled in a citrusy reduction and kicked up by lemon flan. (Like I said, this was a beer dinner. All you need to remember is how much fun it was, not the specifics of what was served)

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