Against the Grain / Stillwater Beer Dinner – Pt. 1

stillwater artisanal ales beer dinnerThe recent rain/sleet/ice/snow storm prevented a lot of things from happening in Louisville this weekend, but the Against the Grain / Stillwater Artisan Ales beer dinner wasn’t going to be a victim of the white stuff.  While most of the city was probably still stuck in traffic, dinner guests found themselves enjoying a nice cocktail by 6:30.  The mixture of almond and orange liquor started the evening off before an onslaught of beer and culinary excellence.  The menu was a collaboration between Chef Levon Wallace of PROOF on Main and Chef Jordan Delewis of AtG, paired alongside the offerings of Stillwater Artisanal.

Brian Strumke, the man behind Stillwater Artisanal, gave everyone a little background on himself, gypsy brewing, and what he strives for with his beers.  Strumke, a former techno DJ who dabbled in IT, started homebrewing in an effort to develop beer that he actually liked that fit his specific palate.  Since he started Stillwater, his beer portfolio and distribution has taken off more than he ever thought it would.  Brian can be found either in his hometown of Baltimore, MD or in Belgium producing his hand crafted beer.

After the welcoming cocktail to loosen things up, patrons were seated for the first course offering.

Kentucky fried chicken skins with brussels sprout leaves, braised fennel, sweet onion and buttermilk dressing paired with Why Can’t IBU.

As a child, my grandmother would get so pissed at me because I used to pick at all the chicken skins (my pieces or not) when she would be making fried chicken.  It’s obviously the best part.  The braised fennel (which it may be my first time ever eating fennel) was awesome.  I literally had to google fennel this morning to see what the heck it was.  The beer, Why Can’t IBU, is a Belgian IPA sitting at about 22 IBU.  IBU = International Bittering Units.  As I learned throughout most of the night, Strumke likes his beers to have low IBUs and also a dry finish.  Good way to start off a dinner.  John Wurth’s hand is on my right leg and he’s only had two drinks.  Going to be a long night.

Time between courses was just enough to allow for pleasurable conversation.  I was lucky enough to have the delightful Jerry Gnagy on my left.  Half of our conversation involved new names for their beers.   My sincerest apologies to the couple next to us.  We talked about a lot of new things in the works for ATG including adding four more beers to the market, a Louisville Chef series of beers, and new variations involving past recipes.  More to come on that from Louisvillebeer.com though…

Bourbon barrel soy cured salmon with Benedictine, fermented ramp hot sauce, pumpernickel chips paired with Cellar Door. 

Am I reading a Roger Baylor article?  What do these words mean?  Needless to say, the word ‘pumpernickel’ was cleverly turned into a few potential ATG beer names.  Let your mind wander, folks.  The bourbon barrel soy sauce paired well with Cellar Door, an American Farmhouse Ale.  Cellar Door is a clean, crisp beer with a citrus aroma and a dry finish.  By far, my favorite beer of the night.

I was handed chopsticks before the main course was brought out.  What the hell and I going to use these for?

Wild boar southern noodle bowl with collards, potlikker, scallion, and pickled egg paired with As Follows.

A few beers combined with poor finger dexterity due to cold weather equaled poor form on my part. The collards and the broth melded very well and the table loved the pickled eggs.  I dissected my bowl with caution eating the greens, then the eggs, the noodles and finally the boar.  Although tempting, I didn’t bring the bowl to my mouth to finish the broth.  My favorite offering of pairing thus far.

As Follows, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, was the strongest beer of the night clocking in at a very well hidden 9% ABV.  This golden ale has many types of flavors ranging from fruity notes to Belgian spices.

Pardon the pun, but dessert took the cake.  Everyone agreed it was the best offering of the night.
Chocolate Caramel Tart with Roasted Pear, Cardamom, and Bay-Peppercorn Gelato paired with Folklore.

Rich. Creamy. God, this dessert had everything.  I was almost completely finished with the tart and then remembered I had the Folk Lore to go with it.  I tried my best to savor the tart and make it last as long as it could, but there was no stopping myself.

Folk Lore is Strumke’s take on an imperial stout minus the big chocolate presence (maybe that’s what the tart was for).  Strumke noted that it’s one of his hoppiest beers coming in at 33 IBUs.  My tongue was all sorts of confused.  I was then handed a finger of Pappy 12 Year Lot B.  Life is good.

After the chefs came out to praise and applause, ATG Scorched Monk was shared along with Fernet Branca.  Damn you Fernet Branca. Just damn you.

Overall greatfood, great beer, but even greater conversations were had.   Many thanks to ATG, Chef Levon, Chef Jordan, Brian, the ATG crew and a special thanks to the ATG staff  for providing excellent service.

What's your take? Please comment below.