- First course: Brooklyn Winter Ale with shortbread.
- Second course: three spiced ales -- Anchor Our Special Ale 2008 (a very drinkable vintage), Sly Fox Christmas 2008, and Nogne Ø Peculiar Yule -- with an assortment of small portions of ginger shrimp, duck paté on miniature toasts, air-dried beef in puff pastry, and a blue cheese crostini with house-made onion fig jam.
- Third course: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale with pasta with spicy pork sausage, fresh organic spinach, and three Italian cheeses.
- Palate refreshment: a Burns Day toast with Aberfeldy 12 Year Old.
- Fourth course: Corsendonk Christmas and Delirium Noel with lamb stew with dropped dumplings.
- Dessert: Samichlaus 2006 with house-made cinnamon ice cream with an amaretto raisin reduction, followed by coffee and assorted chocolates (including bacon chocolate...).
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Here's the surprise: this was a private, in-home tasting I did for 18 people. The woman who hosted the party contacted me with a suggested beer list; the beers you see above. I ordered them -- I liked the idea of beginning with shortbread, and of putting out all three spiced beers together so people could compare and contrast -- and made general food pairing suggestions: the shortbread; matching the spiced beers with something cheesy, something spicy, something salty, and a paté; cheese or spicy with the SNCA; a stew with the Belgians; and something with raisins for the Samichlaus. And I brought the Aberfeldy; I always like to add a little bit of lagniappe to the small in-home tastings I host. She made all the actual decisions on what particular foods to pair, and then she made all the food herself (except the shortbread and the paté). And it was very good, particularly the cinnamon ice cream and the reduction.
I post this for two reasons. First, for business: I do private tastings, in homes or for business events, and I wanted to make you aware of that. But second, for general discussion: I was very impressed by the level of sophistication and enthusiasm shown by the hostess and her guests. It was quite a menu, and a very nice beer list; one I'd have not been disappointed in at any restaurant. The bar keeps going up, and that's great!