Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beer Dinners: stepping it up

I hosted a beer dinner last night, and I wanted to tell you about the menu and beer choices.
  • 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!


Anonymous said...

That's impressive on so many fronts. The well thought out and varied seasonals, and particularly the menu. Not to mention the time she put in to prepare.

Had she tried any of those beers before? What was the response of the guests?

Lew Bryson said...

She had tried most of the beers before, if not all; not quite sure, but she was obviously familiar with most of them. The responses were about what you'd expect at a wine dinner: they liked some more than others, didn't like some of them, but they were all judged as beers, not weird drinks.

The American Don said...

impressive. We'll be hosting our first private tasting next month. I like the idea of a palette refresher. We'll have to add that to our list.

Rich said...

Dasmn, Lew, you've got some INTERESTING friends.

Lew Bryson said...

Hell, Rich, I'd never even met 'em before! They found me (God bless 'em).

lemasney said...

I love the idea that this can even happen. I look forward to the next opportunity (and many have become available of late) to go to a beer pairing dinner. Even if it's my own. Thanks for the details, Lew!

Brian said...

This was our second private tasting and in both instances we were attempting to embrace the offerings of the season and to raise interest/awareness among friends to various styles. Great beer is always good to ‘discover’ but so much better when you can appreciate it with friends.

The first round was in early November; Southampton Double White, Triple Horse, Troegenator, Mad Elf, Rt. 113, Stone Smoked Porter and Brooklyn Dark Chocolate Stout. We almost kept it regional and would have if not for the availability of Weyerbacher’s Charlie. Still, this was so successful that more than half the guests that attended purchased, on their own, at least one the beers we tasted. That spoke volumes and let me just say how refreshing it was to see the beer selection this year at holiday parties and Eagles games this year. It was unexpected and gave birth to our evil plan to push the envelope a little further.

You have already mentioned the details of our second tasting minus the whip cream incident, as it has become known. The consensus is this was better then the first tasting and in no small part attributable to our guest of honor. Everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. To answer one question, the selection was a result of pre-tasting no less then 60 holiday beers by the hostess and myself. A daunting task to be sure especially considering my New Year’s resolution to begin keeping detailed tasting notes. We have different tastes for various styles so when we are both excited about something … it makes the list and we work from there. I think all the guests are truly ‘hooked’ now and by that I mean share a newfound respect and enthusiasm for beer. As we look toward our next tasting the bar has been raised.

Thank you!

Lew Bryson said...


Thanks for the comment: again, I was as impressed with your guests as you seemed to be with me. That was a great group, and the prep you and Kim put into it was clear. I honestly wish more restaurants would put that much thought into beer and whiskey dinners.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the replies Lew and Brian. I'm sure this is inspiring for all of us craftbeer enthusiasts who like to host tastings of our own.