Perhaps it’s odd for a restaurateur to “critique” his own beer dinner, but what the hell. More than anything, I’m just looking to reflect on what I was particularly pleased with and what could have been better. Perhaps this exercise will result in better and better beer dinners and a better understanding of what makes a great beer pairing (still something relatively new to me). At any rate, I hope you enjoy.
The Sunray Wheat was really bright and flowery and I guess I wanted to ground it a bit, but I’m not sure I nailed it. I actually don’t recall getting as much rose petal and honey out of the beer when I did the tasting to write the menu. Both the dish and beer were quite tasty, and were fine enough together, but… That said, I’m not sure if going with peaches and such would have just turned the whole thing into a big, flowery mess. So maybe I did the right thing here.
I think the Rye Pale Ale is among my favorite of the beers they make. Not that it’s the most interesting or memorable, just that it’s so damned tasty and easy to drink. The more I get into beers and, particularly, evaluating them, the more I feel the need to make room for just such a beer. A beer that does precisely what it should do, even if that isn’t blow your mind. This is just such a beer.
There’s some decent hop presence and I wanted to highlight that with the pungent purslane. The arugula was a last minute addition made for no other reason than the fact that we didn’t have enough purslane from the garden. But, it may have been an even better choice for the same job. Both worked nicely and the ripe, delicious, local tomatoes and salty cheese smoothed out and gave pop to do the dish respectively. All in all a pleasant (if not highly remarkable) foil to a tasty (if not mind-blowing) beer.
This is where things started getting particularly interesting. The beer itself, Hopsecutioner, was probably my least favorite of the night. Mind you, it’s a fine IPA, but, to compare it to the RPA, I don’t think it does what it’s supposed to as well. Again, it’s a good beer, just not my favorite. It seems right in between a classic American IPA and a double. Malt and gravity amped up but not really the hops. At any rate, I thought both the acrid qualities of the walnuts and green pepper (Anaheim in this case) would highlight the classic piny hops qualities and the spice of the dish would be taken care of by the relatively high level of malt the beer had. I think this was a very solid pair.
Easily my favorite beer of the night was Capt’n Krunkles Black IPA. I remember when I got my allocation of bottles, just as things started warming up, I was a bit annoyed because it didn’t sound like a warm weather beer. I couldn’t be more wrong. Well 1) about this beer in particular being a great hot weather beer and 2) actually about dark beers in general being fine hot weather beers (but more on that another time). The smell, the color, the rich head, all tell you something super rich is coming your way. But the flavor is bright and brilliant and the texture is very refreshing. Now a few months old, the hops have subsided somewhat and left behind a nice chocolaty quality. Oh, and lookie there, mole.
The nopales were intended to mine the hops that, while less intense than before, were certainly still there. The potatoes and field peas were just there for a nice middle, and the black mole was, of course, there to compliment the rich, chocolaty qualities in the nose of the beer. I really liked this dish and, particularly, the beer.
This was considered by most to be both the dish and the pairing of the night. Though based on the amount of beer left behind, some may have found the beer itself a bit much. Which, is likely because, it’s a pretty damned intense beer. Terrapin uses a mountain of honey in their Gamma Ray Wheat Wine with Honey. It is certainly the booziest wheat beer I’ve had and it’s certainly a beer you don’t need much of. Tasty and interesting as it is. For us, it was our first non-chocolate dessert course because it was our first non-stout (or stout-like) beer worthy of a dessert. The beer looks rich, like a sauterne and jumps out of the glass with loads of honey and tropical fruit aromas that just keep on keeping on as you taste it. I got pineapples upon pineapples, so we made a pineapple tres leches cake and a syrup made from the barely fermented drink tepache, made from soaking pineapple rinds in water for about a week. The result is a tangy, very light “wine” and I think was the base for a very cool dessert sauce.
So, there you have it. Not so much a critique, just reflections on how we did.