Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Beer Tasting

I am a beer snob.  A major beer snob.  If I am going to suck down liquid carbs, then they damn well better be in the form of an excellent brew.  Chef and I were recently invited to our first Beer Dinner.  A four course beer and food pairing; the beer provided by Intuition Ale Works and the food purveyed from local sources, mainly Black Hog Farm, and crafted by the team at Chew restaurant in downtown Jacksonville.   This meal, this extraordinary dinner, knocked our socks off.  The menu:

1st Course
a local seafood trio  
cured st. augustine snapper, citrus smoked appalachicola oyster, kimchee mayport shrimp ceviche, cauliflower, apple
beer: willow branch wheat 

2nd Course
oeufs en meurette
farm egg, potato confit, black hog farm ham, shotgun shack vinaigrette
beer: shotgun shack black rye ale

3rd Course
black hog farm pork belly
house-made sauerkraut, pickled mustard seeds, candied apple gastrique
beer: people's pale ale

4th Course
black hog farm chicken thigh
brussel sprouts, house-made bacon, cauliflower, chicken jus
beer: i-10 i.p.a.

We arrived at this dinner and didn't know a soul other than a gentleman named Allan, a player in the restaurant scene in these parts, who organized the event, and the fellas running the show in the kitchen.  Chef and I have two totally different ways of mingling with strangers: I do, and he doesn't.  We headed to the bar where beers were lined up for grabs, and grab we did a glass of the willow branch wheat ale. 

I love wheat beers.  Bright, yet rich and full in flavor.   They are also warmer in color, golden.  The willow branch wheat glowed, it was almost orange. (The picture above does not do it justice) Wheat beers are usually paired with citrus, so it made a perfect compliment to a seafood course.  I have never had local oysters, which was a treat, and the cured snapper was perfection.  After the first course it was confirmed, our first beer pairing was going to be exceptional.

Lately I crave poached eggs.  There is nothing I love more than yolk running all over my plate.  The second course of this meal featured a poached egg which had a dark hue, similar to that of the beer.  The beer, Shot Gun Shack rye ale, was a deep brown, almost black.  Eating while drinking dark beers is hard for me.  Dark brews, like Guiness for example, remind me of gulping a pot roast. I find them so filling I rarely can drink more than 2 pints.  The beer served this evening was deceiving.  It looked heavy, but was so light to drink with hints of coffee it was genius to pair it with eggs, potatoes, and ham...the perfect hair of the dog breakfast!

The People's Pale Ale.  The name itself is brilliant.  If there is one type of beer most people will drink it is pale ale.  This was paired with pork belly, which in my book you can never go wrong with...but the highlight of this meal were the pickled mustard seeds which topped it and the homemade sauerkraut.  I was sitting next to a chef and across from my Chef and let me tell you, these men were gushing like middle school girls over the mustard seeds and kraut.

Last but not least...a chicken thigh followed up by a surprise stout panna cotta for dessert, paired with a delicious i.p.a. . Panna cotta and beer...who knew?  Only one of my favorite desserts, a classic, done in a totally original way.  It was incredible.

One of the most lovely things about this dinner was that the farmers from Black Hog Farm who provided most of the ingredients were also in attendance.  I always feel so lucky when I get to meet the folks who raise the food at any meal, and this young couple was really inspiring. 

Heck, this entire meal was really inspiring.  Original.  It opened my eyes to how beer and flavor profiles work together.  Chef and I always seek out dining experiences that change our perception, and this was definitely one to be remembered. The gentlemen in the kitchen at Chew rocked this tasting.

And let me tell you, this beer snob will make her way to Intuition Ale Works sometime in the very near future.  I need to learn more about this beer tasting business.  Beer is something we tend to take for granted as we slug it down.  This meal made me think about beer in an entirely different light.  Chef and I are going to have to indulge in a little research and development on this one!


Cari Sanchez-Potter said...

Thanks for this great write-up, Nan! I work for Intuition Ale - glad you enjoyed the dinner as much as we did. Shoot me an email when you plan to come to the brewery and we'll set you and your husband up for a tour and tasting. I'm a big fan of 29 South and am working with Slow Food First Coast so we seem to have a lot in common and I'd love to meet you in general. Thanks again!

Nan said...

Thanks Cari...the pictures did not do the meal justice! It was really wonderful. We would love to come for a visit. Sounds like we definitely need to get together!