Insight Beer Dinner at Fire Lake Grill

Insight Fire Lake

Not all that long ago beer dinners in the Twin Cities were a rarity. Now you can hardly turn around without tripping over one. Despite their current ubiquity, there is still something deeply satisfying about sitting down with friends to a fancy meal paired to great beer. I’ve interviewed hundreds of brewers, but I still love listening to them introduce their beers and brewery with each new course. The chef emerging from the kitchen to explain each dish just adds to the elegance of the affair.

It’s especially exciting when the dinner is the brewery’s first, as was the case at Fire Lake Grill House in downtown Minneapolis last Tuesday. Five-month old Insight Brewing was feted in a five-course meal prepared by Chef Jim Kyndberg and his crew. Founder/brewer Ilan Klages-Mundt was on hand to unravel each beer and tell the tale of his world-wide journey of brewery apprenticeships. It’s really no secret that I’m a fan of Ilan’s beer, so I was excited to be able to attend.

Fire Lake is really trying to ramp up its attention to the local beer scene. They have held beer dinners in the past with Lift Bridge Brewing Company and Big Wood Brewery. In addition to showcasing Minnesota beer, these beer dinners allow the kitchen staff to flex their culinary muscles a bit. The menus feature dishes that wouldn’t ordinarily appear on the Fire Lake menu. One thing that impressed me is that Chef Kyndberg assigns a dish to each member of his lead kitchen staff. The dishes don’t all revolve around him.

It is clear though, that they are fairly new at this. I chuckled a couple of times listening to Chef as he talked about the difficulty of pairing beer with food – especially dessert. In my own experience, beer presents so many options to go with any dish that the difficulty is often choosing which direction to pick. Some wine sommeliers will even admit – at least in private – that beer is the more food-friendly beverage. And dessert is my favorite course to pair. But if the broad flavor palate of beer is not as familiar, I can understand having to put some extra thought into the pairing process.

That said, they did a good job. The food was excellent and the pairings were generally good. On a couple of dishes they were extraordinary. The ambience of the private room was elegant and yet congenial. I do think that we were over poured. (Did I really just say that?) There were five beers and the pours were big. I had a pretty good buzz going by the time the dinner ended. Fortunately I had taken the train downtown. It might have been an Uber night otherwise. Also, brewer Ilan’s name was misspelled on the menu card. It seems important to me to get your guest of honor’s name correct. That attention to detail matters.

On to the pairings!

Starters – Paired to Lamb & Flag
Bacon Wrapped Quail Legs, Pork Belly and Scallop Skewers, Bacon Popovers in Beer Cheese Soup.
Not bad, but the smokiness of the quail legs and the scallop skewers overwhelmed the light, English bitter a bit. The bitterness of the beer clashed. A maltier brew would have paired better. The popover pairing, however, was brilliant. The smoke was there, but tempered by the beer cheese soup. The beer’s bitterness cut through the creamy soup. The popover dough and bacon brought out the beers subtle malt.

Fish Course – Paired to Yuzu Pale Ale
Miso Marinated Char, Furikake Rice, Red Curry Broth
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The fish was perfectly prepared and the curry sauce had a flavorful, spicy zip. The impulse to use the Yuzu fruit infused pale was understandable. I probably would have gone there too. Unfortunately the beer’s bitterness amplified the curry spice to the point that the delicate fruitiness of the yuzu was overpowered. The very thing that makes the beer special was lost.


Poultry Course – Paired to Curiosity IPA
Applewood Smoked Beer Can Chicken, Chipotle Rub, Black Bean Salsa
Best pairing of the night. The dish was delicious. The spice was just right. Acidity in the salsa offered a bright, cutting contrast. Curiosity is perhaps my least favorite beer from Insight. It’s not bad, but it’s kind of just another IPA. Nothing special. The dish really brought out its best points. The fruity hops really popped. Its relatively modest bitterness didn’t over-amp the spice. The combination brought out the chipotle smoke.


Meat Course – Paired with Saison de Blanc
Pretzel Crusted Pork Rillette, Gribiche Sause, Pickled Carrots and Beets
Saison de Blanc is a Belgian-style saison made with Sauvignon grape must. The dish had the feel of Provence that worked well with the farmhouse ale. Herbal and herbal notes spoke to one another. The acid from the wine grapes cut through it all. The really magical part for me though was the acid/acid mix of the beer with the pickled vegetables.


Dessert – Paired with Door County Cherry Saison
Lefse and Dark Chocolate Stout Sauce, Mascarpone, Apricots
Door County Cherry Saison is Saison de Blanc with a pound per pint of tart, Door County cherries. The dessert was like an upper-Midwest tiramisu. You can’t go wrong with chocolate and cherries and between the glass and the plate there was plenty of both. The beer had enough acidity to cut through it all and the apricots added a nice touch to pull out some of the other fruity notes of the base saison. This was the second-best paring of the night.


Cheers to Insight and Fire Lake for a successful and enjoyable night.

Cured + Crafted – A Prosciutto di Parma Tasting & Craft Beer Pairing


Sometimes I think that I am the luckiest man alive. That’s the feeling I got when I was asked to judge the Cured + Crafted event that’s happening this Thursday, July 31st at the Muse Event Center in Minneapolis. How could I refuse the invitation to sample and evaluate eight different beer and food pairings prepared by some of the Twin Cities’ best chefs, all incorporating Prosciutto di Parma. I mean seriously, who doesn’t love Prosciutto di Parma?

And then they sent me the menu. OMG! Someone hand me a napkin. I’m salivating all over myself.

Barbette with Boom Island’s Saison
Prosciutto-wrapped veal sweetbreads, fava bean tabbouleh, charmoula sauce

BoneYard with 612’s Gateway Park lager
Summer Shandy Infused Compressed Watermelon with BBQ’ed Prosciutto Crisp – Summer shandy made with 612’s gateway park lager, fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon infused vodka infused into watermelon cubes and vacuum compressed, served with a BBQ spice rubbed oven baked prosciutto crisp.

Broders’ – Terzo with Indeed’s Shenanigan’s Summer Ale
Prosciutto mousse with pineapple mostarda, grissini breadsticks

Haute Dish with Bauhaus Brewery’s SkyDive Midwest Coast IPA
Prosciutto wrapped smoked pineapple, aji amarillo mayo, pickled fresno, cilantro, farofa

Porter & Frye with Dangerous Man’s Belgian Tripel
Crab cakes with a roasted fennel Yukon hash and prosciutto olive sofrito

Rinata with Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine IPA
Bruschetta with Prosciutto di Parma with a spicy beer mustard, arugula and fresh sliced peaches, adding this to our house made sausage, Tuscan bread, and spicy mustard.

Union with Bent Paddle’s Venture Pils
Saffron corn pudding agnolotti, heirloom tomato smoked jam, thyme powder, crispy prosciutto

Wise Acre Eatery with Indeed’s Day Tripper Pale Ale
Minnesota Sushi – Proscuitto Wrapped Tater Dots with Wise Acre Eatery Rhubarb Ketchup

I’ll be judging with an all-star group of MSP foodies – Jeremy Iggers from Twin Cities Daily Planet, Sue Zelickson, Food Writer and James Beard Award winner, and Stephanie March, Editor Eat + Drink at Mpls St Paul Magazine. WCCO’s Jason DeRusha is MC.

But you too can live the lucky life. Tickets are still available for the event. And there will be plenty to do besides eat cured ham (as if you really needed more).

  • VOTE your paired-pick via social media to enter to win dinner for two at the winning Chef’s restaurant.
  • DRINK Craft Beers from Bauhaus Brew Labs, Bent Paddle Brewing, Boom Island, Dangerous Man, Fulton, Indeed and 612Brew. Head upstairs to the Parma Party Loft and see what’s brewing at the Summit Sampler Bar.
  • SIP specialty craft cocktails served by two of the city’s rock-star mixologists: Tyler Kleinow of Marvel Bar and Johnny Michaels. Featuring hand crafted, small batch spirits provided by Norseman Distillery.
  • BE A VIPP (very important prosciutto person) and enjoy the decadent specially aged Prosciutto di Parma hand-sliced by our Master Slicer Francesco Lupo, direct from NYC, paired with delicious cheeses provided by Broders’ Cucina Italiana.
  • GROOVE with DJ Jake Rudh who will be spinning tunes all night.
  • HAM-IT-UP in our Slo-Mo Video Playground.
  • GET INKED Tattoo Artist Garrett Rautio will ink the iconic Parma Crown logo onsite to adventurous guests. That’s right; you can get an actual tattoo at the event. Tattooed guests will be rewarded with a whole leg of Prosciutto di Parma to take home!

I mean really, how can you pass this up?

Summit and Smashburger Team Up for Beer & Burger Pairings

Summit Brewing Company and Smashburger are pairing up to bring beer and burger pairings to the Twin cities. The collaboration could be seen as a partnering of pioneers in a way; Summit an original in Minnesota’s better beer scene and Smashburger the leader in what they call “better burger” restaurants.

Actually the Denver-based burger franchise has introduced some interesting innovations to fast food fare. They use all Angus beef, for one thing.  Their menus allow for regional inspiration. While there are some standard sandies across the chain, each location creates special burgers tailored to local foodways, such as the Twin Cities burger with garlic-grilled onions reflecting the regional love-affair with the onion. I didn’t know that we had a love affair with onions, but that’s something I learned during a special media tasting prior to the pairings launch. In terms of the beer and burger program, the company is working with a different brewers in every city to create pairings that are unique to the market.

Smashburger takes its name from their process of smashing the burgers onto the griddle while cooking them. This creates a caramelized crust on one side and seals in the juices, according to founder Tom Ryan. They do make a juicy patty. I’m not sure how innovative the burger smash is. It seems to me Steak & Shake has been smashing since the 1930s. But Smashburger does it with a patent-pending, cookie-cutter-like gizmo as seen in this video of Mr. Ryan making a burger.

Ryan worked with Summit Head Brewer Damian McConn to come up with eight pairings for the Twin Cities stores. How did they do? Well, let’s take a look.

Classic Burger & Summit EPA

Classic Smashburger & Extra Pale Ale: A pairing of classic with classic. This one didn’t do much for me. Both beer and burger are good. I’m a big fan of EPA and I like a plain ‘ol burger, but together they were just sort of “meh.” I also think that the burger overpowered the beer a little bit and made it seem bitterer than normal. Maybe it was the smash sauce – a combination of mayo, mustard, relish and lemon. I’ll say this though, the burger had ketchup on it. I hate ketchup and always have. It didn’t really taste like ketchup. Nice!

Mushroom Swiss Burger & Great Northern Porter

Mushroom Swiss Burger & Great Northern Porter: This was lovely. The combination brought out an earthiness in each part and there was umami on top of umami. Caramel malt spoke to caramelized beef crust. This was probably my second favorite combination. I was happy to learn that the mushrooms are crimini mushrooms, sliced fresh for each order.

BBQ Bacon and Cheddar Burger & Horizon Red Ale

BBQ Bacon and Cheddar Burger & Horizon Red Ale: This is the best pairing of the bunch. The caramel and citrus in the beer play very well with the tangy BBQ sauce. The pairing emphasized the hops in the beer, making it seem almost IPA-like. And again there’s that caramel to caramel handshake. And who doesn’t love bacon and beer?

Avocado Club Burger & Summit Pilsner

Avocado Club Burger & Pilsner: This was one of two pairings that were described as difficult to deal with. That’s because they really needed Summit Hefeweizen, which has been discontinued. The sliced avocado, smoked bacon, and ranch dressing on the burger would have been splendid with a hef. The pilsner brought out the bacon and cut through the fat, but spicy hops clashed a bit. It was the best pairing with the Summit lineup, but it wasn’t quite wonderful.

Twin Cities Burger & Summit EPA

Twin Cities Burger & Extra Pale Ale: Between caramelized onion, caramelized meat crust, and loads of cheese, this is one rich burger. The EPA did the job cutting right through it. All that caramelization brought out the maltiness in the beer, giving a more balanced impression than with the Classic burger. This pairing really worked.

Spicy Baja Burger & Saga IPA

Spicy Baja Burger & Saga IPA: Do hops amplify or dampen chili pepper heat? That’s the age old question in the beer-food pairing biz. I happen to think they do both; amplify first and then clear away. This burger is all about peppers. The heat of pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayonnaise, and raw jalapeno slices gives it a real kick that is tempered a bit by creamy guacamole.  Saga IPA was up to the task and the hops did just what they do. The citrusy flavors offered a nice contrast to the savory and spice of the burger. My mouth was left with a nice level of lingering heat.

Cucumber Goat Cheese Chicken Sandwich & Summit Pilsner

Cucumber and Goat Cheese Chicken Sandwich & Pilsner: This was the other sandwich that needed the hefeweizen. Let’s face it – chicken, spinach, goat cheese and cucumbers – a hefeweizen would have been great with every element of this sandwich. Pilsner again was the best choice from the Summit lineup, but it just didn’t quite do the trick. This was one of my favorite sandwiches though.

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich & India Pale Ale

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich & India Pale Ale: Spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese paired with a balanced, English-style IPA. The beer is bitter enough to stare down the buffalo, but ample caramel malt keeps the combination from overheating. And blue cheese with English IPA simply can’t be beat. This was my third favorite pairing of the night.

World Tour of Beer Class at Cooks of Crocus Hill

The Beer, Wine & BBQ class a couple of weeks ago at Cooks of Crocus Hill was a blast. Sommelier Leslee Miller, Chef Mike and I rocked the kitchen with great grilled treats and eight luscious libations.

On September 9th I’m back at Cooks, this time teaming up with Chef Rachael Rydbeck for World Tour of Beer: A Beer Pairing Dinner. Together we will take you on a hops-filled international excursion to find the best beer and food pairings anywhere. The menu will feature five courses of great food and beer from around the world. Get to the Cooks website and register!

photo from

Where: Cooks of Crocus Hill, 877 Grand Avenue in St. Paul
When: Friday, September 9th, 6-9 pm
Cost: $75
Menu: Provençal White Bean Dip (France); Chicken Tamales with Tomatilla Salsa (Mexico); Vegetable Curry (India); Thai Beef Salad (Thailand); Blueberry Cobbler (United States). Each course paired with beer.

Tasty Beer/Food Pairings at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Last Friday night I teamed up once again with sommelier Leslee Miller of and Chef Mike Shannon at Cooks of Crocus Hill for one of our quarterly beer and wine pairing dinners. The theme this time was BBQ. The four course meal included everything grilled from romaine lettuce to knife and fork Manchego burgers. While all of the beer and wine pairings were pretty darn good, a couple of my beer pairings really stood out to me.

Salads often have so many different things going on at once that it can be difficult to decide where to start. One of my salad-pairing rules of thumb is to pick an ingredient or flavor and just go with it. The pairing Friday night of Schell’s Pils with grilled romaine salad was a perfect example of how this works. This salad (the recipe is below) consisted of grilled romaine hearts, blue cheese vinaigrette, fresh basil and oregano, and crisped prosciutto. In a case like this do you go with the toastiness that grilling will bring to the lettuce, the lightly acidic blue cheese dressing, the fresh herbs, or the prosciutto?

I opted to pair to the basil and prosciutto. The spicy hops of a pilsner often remind me of licorice are totally at ease with fresh basil. And how could I miss with pilsner and prosciutto? If the blue cheese wasn’t too funky the pilsner hops would complement it as well.

My first bite of salad was only lettuce. I really thought I had made a mistake with this pairing. The bitter beer accentuated the bitterness in the romaine creating a not altogether pleasant taste. The next bite though got to the targets of my pairing. The fresh basil and prosciutto sang with the beer and pulled the whole pairing together. The salty meat took away the unpleasant bitterness and allowed the basil and hops to come forward. The mild blue cheese dressing set the whole pairing off.

Another basic pairing rule of thumb is to keep the drink just a little bit sweeter than the desert. But while rules can be helpful, they are not iron-clad. Sometime rules should be broken. The desert course on Friday night was grilled peaches topped off with a Grand Marnier whipped cream. A light brown-sugar cinnamon glaze added a bit of additional sweetness. I paired this with Lindemans Pêche, a sweetened peach lambic. This beer is not as sweet as the desert, but sweet enough to stand up to it. It has the added bonus though of higher-than-normal levels of acidity. It matched the acidity in the peach one to one. I find that Pêche has more residual barnyard lambic funk than the other Lindemans flavors. This added an earthy base that brought some additional depth to the pairing.

Recipes by Chef Mike Shannon, Photos by Nicholas Kolnik

Grilled Romaine with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
Serves 8

3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoon Dijon
6 Tablespoons Olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
3-4 oz. of crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

4 romaine hearts, halved
4 slices of prosciutto, crisped in oven

In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, shallots, garlic and Dijon.  Slowly whisk in the oil until combined.  Add herbs, cheese and season to taste.

Brush romaine halves with oil, season with salt and grill for 1 minute on each side. Serve with dressing and crispy prosciutto.

Grilled Peaches with Grand Marnier Cream
Makes 8 servings

8 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 unpeeled peaches, halved, pitted

¼ cup Grand Marnier
2 cups whipping cream

Prepare grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Whisk first 4 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add peach halves; toss to coat well.  Place peaches, cut side down, on grill. Grill until slightly charred, about 1 minute.  Using tongs, turn peaches over.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip cold cream to medium peaks.  Spoon some into each halve and serve.

Cozy Comforts Beer & Wine Pairing Dinner at Cooks of Crocus Hill

Last night the tastebud-teasing trio of Sommelier Leslee Miller, Chef Mike Shannon, and Cicerone Michael Agnew (that’s me) came together at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul for another beer, wine, and food pairing experience. This one, called Cozy Comforts, focused on the kind of foods that Minnesotans need to help them through January’s deep-freeze. As temperatures routinely drop well below zero, we crave rich and wholesome foods like pot roast and mac & cheese; the kind of food that your grandma used to make (only a lot fancier). During the three-hour class, guests tasted their way through five courses, each paired with a beer, a wine, or both.

I started the night off with a welcome beer, Schell’s Snowstorm. Snowstorm is the annual winter seasonal release from New Ulm’s August Schell Brewing. Every year it is brewed to a different style. This year’s version is a dark wheat doppelbock (just try saying that three times fast). This is a fantastic beer to warm the soul, combining the familiar banana and clove flavors of a German Hefeweizen with the rich, sweet, caramel maltiness of a doppelbock. Several people told me that they typically don’t like wheat beers, but that this one made them reconsider.

The first course was braised winter greens with bacon. Imagine kale (I love kale) braised in cider and topped off with cranberries and bacon; bitter, sweet, tart, and salty/savory all in one place. Leslee paired this with Helfrich Riesling from Alsace. The wine had earthy aromas of wet stone and a bright acidic tartness. It really spoke to the cranberries in the dish and made them absolutely pop.

For the second course Chef Mike whipped up four-cheese macaroni and cheese with gruyere, white cheddar, parmesan, and just a touch of gorgonzola. I paired this with Isolation Ale from Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. Isolation Ale is a traditional English winter warmer, malt-forward with a bit of bitterness to balance and light orangey citrus notes. It paired well, but I think I could have gone even maltier with something like an English barleywine.

Next on the menu was ginger orange Cornish hens with sweet potatoes and green apples. Leslee made an unexpected pairing to this dish, choosing a bigger Spanish red, Caliza Syrah from Marqués de Griñón. The wine had strong peppery flavors that spoke to the ginger in the dish, while the citrusy sauce and sweet potato/apple side-dish pulled out nice fruity notes from the wine.

The pairings with the fourth and fifth courses were the best of the night. The fourth course was a very traditional pot roast with carrots and shallots. Leslee focused on the sweetness of the carrots and onions, choosing Root: 1 Carmenere, a red from Chile. It featured juicy plum and berry flavors with light tannins on the finish. The wine went perfectly with the veggies and also pulled some sweetness from the meat. I went with Meantime London Porter, a medium-bodied, moderately-roasty porter from England. The roastiness of the beer was perfect with the meat and the light caramel sweetness also spoke to the carrots and onions.

Desert was S ‘more Pot De Crème, an original creation of Chef Mike. Rich chocolate custard was topped with crumbled graham-cracker and torch-toasted marshmallow cream. The drink pairings offered a lesson in both complementary and contrasting flavors. I chose Rogue Chocolate Stout, rich, sweet, and chocolaty. I was going for chocolate overload. The flavors melded perfectly as one disappeared into the other. Leslee went with Astoria Lounge Sweet a tasty sparkling wine from Italy. It’s deep honeycomb and fruit flavors countered the rich chocolate/marshmallow of the desert and the light sparkle cleansed the palate for the next bite. It reminded me of the way a tart raspberry sauce enhances a dark chocolate cake.

Our next Cooks of Crocus Hill beer/wine pairing event is on April 15th. The theme is “the Big Thaw”; food, beer, and wine to bring us out of hibernation.

Gulpdown Showdown I – Beer vs. Wine in St. Louis

Friday night, July 23rd saw the first Gulpdown Showdown, an epic battle of food pairing savy pitting beer against wine in a seven course exercise of gustatory excess. The combatants: Cicerone Michael Agnew and Chef Erik Jacobs, old friends, but bitter rivals in the realm of fermented refreshments.

Eight people gathered at Chef Erik’s home in Clayton, Missouri. Eight people ate. Eight people drank. Eight people voted for the best pairing with each course. In the end, ballots were never counted and most disappeared with the celebrants. Surreptitious glances through the evening suggested to me that the results may have been a draw. But who really cares. The food was incredible, the beverages were fantastic, and everyone had a great time.

Because we never tabulated ballots, I can only report here on my own and Erik’s clearly biased pairing preferences.

First Course: Thai Crispy Prawn Cakes with Sweet Chili Sauce
My Pairing – Schlafly Pilsner, St. Louis Brewry
Erik’s Pairing – 2009 Rudesheimer Magdalenkreuz Spatlese:  Leitz

My Pick – Wine
Erik’s Pick – Beer

Comments: I misjudged the sweetness of the chili sauce. The wine matched it much better in my view. Erik liked the way the beer cleansed the palate.

Second Course: Sopa de Pomodoro Crudo – Brunoise Tomato, Bocconcini, Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
My Pairing – Old Scratch Amber Lager, Flying Dog Brewery
Erik’s Pairing – NV Cava Rose:  Segura Viudas

My Pick – Beer
Erik’s Pick – Wine

Comments: The soup was very acidic. The wine was very acidic. They were too similar in my view. The toasty malt sweetness of the beer offered a balancing contrast.

Third Course: Causa de Cangrejo – Peruvian Potato, Avocado and Crab Salad
My Pairing – Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
Erik’s Pairing – 2008 Chardonnay:  Foxglove

My Pick – Beer
Erik’s Pick – Wine

Comments: I found Erik’s chardonnay to be too heavy for the dish. It overpowered. The lighter beer matched the weight of the food. The flavors of the herbal potatoes and shellfish flowed seamlessly into the spicy flavors in the beer. This was the best pairing if the evening for me.

Fourth Course: Duck Confit with Sweet Corn and Summer Vegetable Salad
My Pairing – Westmalle Tripel
Erik’s Pairing – 2006 Pinot Noir:  Harmonia

My Pick – Beer with the duck. Wine with the veggies. If I were to choose an overall pairing it would be the beer.
Erik’s Pick – Wine

Comments: I found that the Westmalle blended brilliantly with the saltiness of the duck. However it overpowered the veggies a bit. I was surprised by the concordance of the wine with the veggies, as I expected the pinot to overwhelm them. This was a close one.

Fifth Course: Meditterranean Grilled Lamb “Lollipops” – Mint Pesto, Truffled Pommes Anna, Spinach
My Pairing – Traquair House Jacobite Scotch Ale with Coriander
Erik’s Pairing – 2005 Shiraz “Testament”:  Killikanoon

My Pick – I declared this one a draw, but if forced to choose I would go with the beer. This was my second choice beer. My first choice, a brown or amber Biére de Garde, would have knocked it out of the ballpark. I couldn’t find one.
Erik’s Pick – Wine

Comments: The rich, earthy, and lightly funky flavors of the wine worked very well with the gamey flavors of the lamb and the mushroomy truffled Pommes. But the silky sweet caramel and subtle peaty flavors of the beer were equal to the task. The light floral/spicy character of the coriander brought out similar flavors in the dish.

Sixth Course: Honey Lavender Panna Cotta with Berries and Stone Fruits
My Pairing – Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2008
Erik’s Pairing – 2009 Moscato “Brilliant Disguise”:  Two Hands

My Pick – Wine
Erik’s Pick – Wine

Comments: I completely misjudged the nature of this desert. I was expecting something more like Crème Brule. The Vintage Ale, though brilliant, completely missed the mark. A Lindeman’s Peach Lambic would have rocked it though.

Seventh Course: Assiette des Fromages
My Pairings – Boulevard Tank 7 Saison & Samuel Smith India Ale
Erik’s Pairing – NV Tawny Port “Grandfather”:  Penfolds

My Pick – Wine
Erik’s Pick – Wine

Comments: By this point the competition no longer mattered. The beer was opened and never touched, even by me. It’s hard to compete with a really good port.

We were going for excess, and we got excess in abundance. No one went home hungry and there was enough great beer and wine poured to insure a rough morning for many of us. We are already planning the next event, to take place in Minneapolis. Perhaps we’ll keep it to five courses next time.

Many thanks to Erik and his wife Melissa for hosting. The food was absolutely brilliant.

Another Testament to Pairing Beer and Food

Flying Dog Doggy Style Classic Pale AleIn an earlier post I related a story about the power of good beer and food pairing. When well paired the two really do raise each other up, creating a combination that is better than the sum of its parts. At a beer dinner that I facilitated last night for a corporate Christmas party I witnessed yet another example of this. For the second course we were pouring Flying Dog’s Doggy Style Pale Ale, a classic American Pale Ale with a lightly cracker malt character and explosive citrus/pine flavors and aroma from loads of Cascade hops. It was paired with a warm escarole salad with mustard-sherry vinaigrette, brioche croutons, and crumbled blue cheese expertly created by Chef Philip Dorwart of Create Catering.  As I moved from table to table working the room and discussing beer and food with guests, one particularly outspoken diner had this to say about the pairing. “I hate hoppy beers. But with this salad, this is fucking awesome.”

There you have it. Another straightforward testimony to the power of pairing beer and food.

The Power of Pairing Beer and Food

I facilitated a beer dinner last night at the Dining Studio in Minneapolis. The main course was a ribeye of prime beef with a bleu cheese potato gratin. I paired this course with Traquair Jacobite strong scotch ale flavored with coriander. As I made my way around the room there was one gentleman who was not overly fond of this beer. He had pushed his glass away and gone back to the leftovers of the earlier two beers. When I asked him what it was he didn’t like about it, he said it tasted too much of chocolate. I guess he wasn’t a fan of chocolate, at least not in his beer. He swore to me though that he would try it with the ribeye.

When I came back to his table a few minutes later, he had pulled the glass back toward himself and it was now half empty. This time he said that he loved the beer. While he didn’t like it on its own, the food pairing had mellowed the chocolate flavors and enhanced the dark fruit flavors, making the beer not just palatable to him, but pleasurable.

Flavors played off of each other really do affect one another. It’s a nice testament to the power of pairing the right beer with the right food.