August 2, 2009

Beer dinner IV: Beer is the new wine

Half Pint and I had fallen off the beer-dinner horse we started riding back before we even shacked up together, but got back on in fine fashion. Since it's been a while, a recap is in order. We invite four other people over (since our table seats six), devise a theme (Stoutstanding, Locavores, Bob's Yer Uncle, among other similar ones), plan a menu replete with beer pairings, and clear some space in the Beeradise.

The guest list called for Colleen & Hunter (Half Pint used to work for Colleen, and they've had us to their new house a few times) and Esther & Emmett (I forgot how Half Pint and Esther met, but I now play ultimate frisbee with Emmett).* Let's just say that C&H live in Marin and have an impressive wine stash; Esther was born in France. As we were dealing with oenophiles over beer enthusiasts, the chosen theme for our beer dinner was wine. A little proselytizing on my part, if you will. (*At the last minute, Emmett was called away on assignment by the New York Post, and Tanya graciously accepted our 11th hour invite.)
I first selected beers already in my Beeradise, and I'll explain how they fit the theme:

People say the perfect accompaniment to wine is cheese & crackers. I say it's homebrew. So as an antipasti, I poured my latest homebrewed creation, my Single Minded (single-hop: Centennial) American Pale Ale. It went over quite well, including the part where I explained to Esther that yes, this beer was made by me in my kitchen. 

Telegraph Reserve Wheat and Dogfish Head Festina Peche: These Berliner Weise-style sour beers, 5% and 4.5% ABV respectively, are akin to the Sauvignon Blancs of the wine world. Just as you'd start a meal with this wine, why not pair the insalate with these beers. And what kind of salad to serve? The peach juice in the Festina Peche made me think: stone fruit and prosciutto salad. I grilled up organic peaches, white nectarines, apricots, and plums and tossed them in some sort of a dijon balsamic vinaigrette I whipped up. Plated on a bed of prosciutto with freshly-shaved parmesan and a chilled slice of green pluot. I ain't gonna lie, it was a tad weird, but I thought it was tasty and I'd make it all over again and pair it with the exact same beers.

Brooklyn Blue Apron and Napa Smith Lost Dog Red Ale:  Here was my primary thought for these beers to pair with secondi. The only Brooklyn Brewery beer commercially available in San Francisco is this brown ale designed specifically for the menu at Thomas Keller's French Laundry. Any beer not just fit for, but requested, for what has been dubbed the very best restaurant in the country--in the heart of wine country--HAD to be uncorked at such a dinner. As for the Napa Smith beer, hello?, it has Napa in the title. Both are 7.2%, surprisingly malty, and both beckoned for a hearty meat dish. With some expert advice from Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, I marinated pork in Affligem Tripel along with cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, orange peel, and sea salt. The fact that I had all these on hand leads me to believe I'm more of a half-assed gourmet than I suspected. A day after the homemade marinade set in, the pork met our awesome grill built into the range, while some butternut squash that was in the same marinade (but swapping olive oil for beer) roasted to perfection. (Esther's tasty green beans also found their way onto the plates.) To my surprise, while I love brown beers and might opt for a pint of Blue Apron straight, the Red drew more praise in this round of pairings.

O'Hanlon's Original Ruby Stout and Ale Asylum Mercy Grand Cru: I think I found this bottle of port barrel-aged stout at Beverage Warehouse in LA, and wherever I picked it up, I knew I had to try it. The Grand Cru (which astonished French-raised Esther, who pronounced it tres bien) is of an ultra limited release from this Madison, Wisc. brewery and came into my possession c/o Tom Griffin, the Barrel Guy, which is an entirely different story altogether! I have many fine dessert beers in my possession, but for dolce, the mere appearance of port and the mere mention of Grand Cru made them custom-fit for a wine-themed beer dinner. Now it all makes sense, yes? These unique brews helped wash down the vanilla bean Tripel pot de creme, found on Sean's dessert recipe page. I've made creme brulee before, but this was my first (and certainly not last) pot de creme. It required reducing 12 ounces of the aforementioned Affligem Tripel into mere tablespoons, but it was worth it. Rich dessert, two rich beers, made for six rich tummies.

I fear I raised the bar for future beer dinners on this one. But ultimately, it's just about good friends and good conversation sharing a nice meal, and if I converted any winos into beeros in the process, so be it.

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