What Goes Well With My Beer?
svetlana | Nov 23, 2010 | 12:25PM |

all photos: Jeff Martin

With wine pairings being so 2006, and the food industry always on the look-out for newish things to obsess about, the “beer dinner” is making a big move for your holiday season food trend. Flying Dog Brewery, which happens to also manage beerdinners.com (“because every dinner can be a beer dinner”), hosted their first annual beer dinner @ The National Press Club’s Fourth Estate restaurant (nicely drawing a parallel between Flying Dog’s connection to gonzo journalism) and we went to eat, drink and learn our way through the five courses prepared by Chef Susan Delbert and her team. Each course was introduced by Chef Susan and JT Smith, of Flying Dog, and since I know you all can’t wait to look through the food porn photos Jeff took, lets just dig in:

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Salad Course: Spinach and arugula, mango, oranges, breakfast radishes, pecans and apricot vinaigrette with the BYT favorite Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA (the hoppy beer for people afraid of hoppy beers, packing in a nice 8.2% punch). Raging Bitch smells sweet and inviting and then delivers a bitter kick from it’s earthy, medium bodied flavor. The fruits in the salad (accentuated even more by the apricot vinegrette) combined well with the more bitter vegetables (the radishes and arugula especially) to attempt to recreate this experience on a plate. Overall success (we polled the table): 3.75 (out of 5)

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Mezze: Veal and pork country pate with pistachios, toast points, grainy dijon mustard, and creamed cucumber salad with the Snake Dog IPA. Snake Dog, as the title implies, is a tempesteous beer with quite a bite. What you come off remembering about it is the hoppiness and the bitterness of the pines which lingers in your mouth. I actually probably enjoyed the contrast between the cucumber salad and the taste of beer, and we all hoped that the pistachios in the country pate would provide a little more kick to complement the chewy body of the beer, but it just came off a little bland, especially when surrounded by all the bitter flavors around it. Overall success rate: 3.0 (out of 5)

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Next up was the Fish Course: Oven seared strawberry grouper with lemon risotto, spiced sauce, tri-color pepper papaya salsa with our Tire Bite Golden Ale. The Tire Bite Golden Ale was described by JT as “the craft beer for people who don’t drink craft beers”-it is light, non-offensive and well, washes down extra easily. I like to think of it as a beer I’d like to have by my side while lounging in a hammock oceanside. It was probably a natural choice to pair it with the fish course because out of all the beers we tasted, it was the most natural match to a white wine (which traditionally goes well with fish, as we’ve been told all our lives). The grouper was deliciously prepared, the lemon risotto was creamy and decadent (though I always wish for a little more kick when promised a lemon anything) and the beer kept up well, but maybe lacked a little bit of a kick I’d like to see go with my white fish. Overall success: 3.0 (for the pairing, the individual components deserve higher ratings)

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Next up was hands down, everyone’s favorite Meat Course: Grilled flat-iron steak with mushroom demi-glace, Flying Dog mac and cheese (From their recently released “Doggy Chow” cookbook) and roasted figs with our Gonzo Imperial Porter (chef Susan exclaimed: “I am in love with this pairing”).  The Gonzo Imperial Porter is a killer of a beer: thick, malty but not too bitter, chocolatey in smell but not overwhelmingly so and as creamy as a beer can get before we decide it is actually syrup. Pairing it with the equally rich flat-iron steak and the demi-glace could have spelled disaster but the sweetness of the figs in the meal played off really well against the Porter and for once, we had two matching contenders in front of us-the beer stood up to the dish and the dish faced off to the beer without any issue, kind of like a Tracey-Hepburn dynamic: you think it may all be just too much for a bystander to handle, but the chemistry works out. Overall success: 4.25 (out of 5)

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Intermezzo: Sorbet (delicious and beerless)

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Dessert Course: Apple strudel with crystallized ginger and pineapple sauce with our In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen. JT noted he was super excited that, for once, The Gonzo Imperial Porter was not part of the dessert pairing (I guess all that malty chocolateyness in beer provokes people to pair it with chocolate, who knew?) but instead, after the kick of the meat course, we took a lighter route: a crisp apple/ginger strudel and a sunny Hefeweizen. For most people Hefeweizens are reserved for summer: the golden wheatiness and the color just evoke feelings of sundresses and straw hats while you drink them, which is why I, in particular, appreciated this pairing: showing us how matching this summery wine to a traditional fall dessert could evoke just the right amount of seasonal nostalgia. Delicious and airy. Overall success: 4.0

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Cue: the food coma.