Thursday, October 14, 2010

Beer Dinner: Catalan

Last night just about marked the middle point of Houston Beer Week. A couple of days ago I wrote a summary of the amazing time I had at Flying Saucer's Divine Reserve Vertical Tasting. Well last night I attended the Catalan Beer Dinner, which had Food from Chef Chris Shepard and beer parings from Kevin Floyd of Anvil. This was a 6 course dinner with an appetizer course that left me full, and amazed at some of the pairings. During each course Chef Shepard would come out and briefly talk about the food, before stepping aside and letting Kevin talk about the beer, some history, some stories, and a little about the pairing.

Appetizer Course: I have to admit when they first brought out the beer for this course I thought it was a joke, but later learned there was a good reason for it. The course was Keystone Light served in a Champagne flute with a home made bologna sandwich topped with home made spicy bread and butter pickles. I can't remember the last time I've had Keystone, and there is a good reason for that. Luckily it was served ice cold and the initial sips weren't too bad, but man the finish is horrible. It was a fun pairing as the highly carbonated beer helped cut through the fat of the sand which. Kevin then came out and talked about why Keystone. Turns out this was the first beer that Kevin bough at 21, and he wanted to start off the dinner with your typical American Lager before showing those in attendance (many who had never been to a beer dinner) how far the craft beer industry has moved away from that.

Course 1: The first course brought a surprise, a beer that we don't get in Texas: Saison De Dottignes from De Ranke Brewery in Belgium. Simply this was just a great example of a Belgian Saison and one that we can't get here in Houston, yet. Notes of lemon, yeasty peppery notes, just a bit of funk on the finish. It was served with mussels in a chorizo garlic broth. The mussels were HUGE. Good pairing, spicy broth goes well with the yeasty peppery notes of the beer and its dry finish.

Course 2: The third beer of the evening was Left Hand Polestar Pilsner. A great example of a European Pilsner, poured a very pale straw color with notes of pils malts, a little funk on the finish, grassy. Good beer that was perfect for the dish of fish and chips. Chef Shepard fried up Gulf Hake and paired with malt vinegar potato chips. This was a good dish, and the beer paired well by basically getting out of the way, the beer washing away some of the fat from the batter while not over powering the dish. This was a good dish, but not one of my favorites.

Course 3: Kevin brought out a second beer that we don't get here in Texas, Nogne O Imperial Dunkel Wit. I've never had an Imperial Dark Belgian Wit ale, let alone one that weighs in at 10.0%. This beer was amazing, it blew me away with its level of spices, figs, some alcohol, brown sugar, even some bannana chocolate and a bit of malty sweetness. But it was so much more than what I'm describing, really just an amazing beer. It was paired with suckling pig taco's, pickled onions and homemade hot sauce. A pairing of spicy and sweet, richness of beer, and richness of dish, a really perfect pairing. Kevin reports we may just be getting some Nogne O in Texas, let's hope that we get this one.

Course 4: Kevin brought out a familiar favorite here, pouring Victory Wild Devil and paired with an usual dish called Mofongo, that Chef Shepard informed the eager crowd was a combination Jamacan and Puerto Rican dish. Chef took some plantains and mashed them with some braised pork belly, and then topped it with braised baby goat that had been shredded and mixed with All Spice, cloves, and scotch bonnet peppers. The funky spiciness of the beer paired well with the heat of the dish. Dryness and carbonation of the beer really contrasted with the rich sweetness of the dish.

Course 5: A traditional food pairing here of beer and burgers. Of course you know its more than that. The beer was Lagunitas Hopstoopid, the burger was cooked medium rare and stuffed with cheese, the bun made of pretzel from Slow Dough bakery. The side dish was barbecue baked field peas. A pretty solid pairing, but I wasn't the biggest fan of the burger....maybe it was because by this point I was STUFFED, barely able to eat (should have taken some food home with me!).

Course 6: Yes I'm stuffed, but that didn't mean I couldn't eat dessert especially when it's paired with Stone Russian Imperial Stout 2009. The dish was chocolate ice cream and rich rich dense chocolate cake. A perfect pairing of course the roasted coffee, chocolate, burnt beans of the beer with the sweet dark rich chocolate of the cake. With some encouragement from Kevin a bunch of us threw the ice cream in with the beer....I love beer floats!

Over all last night was incredibly successful. When Kevin asked who had never been to a beer dinner before the majority of the room raised their hands. In fact I'd say only a half dozen folks had been to one. This is what I had hoped Houston Beer Week would do, bring non-beer people to beer events and if last night is any indication that's exactly what it's doing.

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out fellow beer blogger Steve from All Good Beer was at the dinner as well and has posted his thoughts (with pictures) as well.

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