Against the Grain hosted a hoity-toity beer dinner this past weekend with Baltimore’s Stillwater Artisan Ales‘ Brian Strumke, PROOF on Main’s superstar chef, Levon Wallace and AtG’s Chef Jordan Delewis. John King and I braved the weather (well, he made *me* brave it in my trusty AWD Subaru Outback) to make this dinner (sans wives). Yes, it was a man date. John King might have even worn cologne. I couldn’t tell…could have been some fancy deodorant. Or was it that Axe Body Spray that the kids wear these days? I’m going with Axe.
We arrived and were handed a great cocktail concocted by Micah, bartender-extraordinaire and chatted a bit and everyone took a seat.
Here’s a tip for future beer dinners: Assign everyone a seat at first, then rotate the seating chart between each course. That way, you get a chance to speak with everyone, including the brewer (or rep) and get other’s opinions on the food/beer pairings. Since these are mainly sausage-fests, things get awkward sometimes…this would either, add to the awkwardness or force mingling and possibly spawn some new bromances. Not that I didn’t enjoy chatting with the dudes from Dauntless Distributing and Jerry Gnagy from AtG. Jerry funny.
There were 2 tables with about 7-8 people at each, quite an intimate affair. The table that Brian Strumke sat at, we named the Q&A table. Our table (the more fun one) was penned the T&A, since Jessie (AtG GM Extraordinaire) was at our table. She rocks. Brian made a point to come sit at our table for a course or two, which was appreciated. He was a laid-back dude that has a great story, and sure makes some great beers. One thing Brian and I talked about was how dry his beers are, due to the yeast. I think wine drinkers looking to get into beer would fall in love with what Stillwater is doing. Great stuff.
Since John King went through the dinner course-by-course, I won’t repeat the menu, but I will say, on the beer side, the Why Can’t IBU (Great name and The Cure reference) and the Folklore in the Dessert course were my two favorites.
The service was outstanding, Celeste kept the water full, and empty plates out the way like a ninja.
Food-wise: The Wild Boar Noodle Bowl was the standout for me. The smoked boar would have been just fine on it’s own, but it made a superb noodle bowl. The boar, which I’ve never had before, was super smoky and tender, surprisingly just how I like my women. I picked around the collards (but DID try them) as I’m not a big fan of greens. The broth was so good, I secretly put down the chopsticks and slurped a lot of it up. So rich! The pickled eggs were also a nice touch in this bowl of scrumptiously.
I am going with the majority on choosing the dessert course as my favorite. That Chocolate Caramel Tart matched perfectly with the surprisingly dry Belgian Dark Ale. The caramel “crunchies” that surrounded this perfect tart, reminded me of (gasp!) a Heath bar, only 30x more flavorful. Perfect in every way. The pear puree added to the complexity.
It was a great night, altogether, the Pappy Van Winkle 12 Year was the icing on the cake. Great finish to this fine, fine meal.
I almost went to the kitchen for a second dessert.