A Monday night beer dinner is an ambitious way to start a week, but with a chance to pair some of Revolution’s greatest beers alongside smoked oysters, suckling pig and a big shrimp boil, I manned up quickly.
I got there early with one intention: the Workingman Mild. This beer continues to be a beacon for me at Revolution due to it’s subtle flavors and mal character, and surprisingly low ABV. Not every beer has to be a big beer to be special. And when you have a five-beer tasting to follow, it makes a great warm-up. But before we headed upstairs for the dinner, I couldn’t help but do a quick shot of the Hugene, a giant 10.6% porter that drinks like a cereal. This was a shot across my bow.
After much warranted ado about the dining style and the concept of the pairings, Nkosi and I got to chatting about our respective experiences in beer events. We were both impressed with the sheer number of tastings, dinners and craft beer festivals popping up these days — so many in fact, that it was impossible to “cover the scene” any longer. Finding the time, and the liver, to handle it all is no longer the stuff of a single blog. Instead, it seems the only way to stay up on things is to share in the art of each other’s experiences and collaborate whenever possible. We all have our online and offline networks for craft beer news, brewery openings, stories and tastings. But in the end, sharing those great experiences with like-minded beer geeks is what it’s all about. And thanks to breweries like Revolution giving back to their supporters, this is becoming a real part of what we do. (stay tuned for my road trip with Paul from Chitownontap.com next week).
And just like that a stunning oyster dish appears. Tonight the kitchen paired a smoked oyster and country ham with a smoked porter, The Bandit. The succulence of the oyster and the strong viscosity of the porter seemed like various states of the same element. It was astounding. And the ham, with its sharp saltiness and crisp texture, cut through the sweet malt and smoky character of the beer. Nkosi and I were a bit dazed.
Up next was the Fistmas, a holiday, spiced brew that was a little off-center, using ginger and orange peel in place of cinnamon or cloves. Paired with the ham and tomato-based stew, these flavors worked just fine. The pickled okra was a bit complicated for a spicy seasonal beer, but it didn’t miss. As brewer Jim Cibak pointed out, for a holiday brew, this was surprisingly refreshing.
Now for the first main course (there were two!): a suckling pig with mollasses-glazed ham paired with the Weegene (4.7%) — a smaller version of Hugene (10.6%) and actually made from the run-off of its big brother. But even in this lighter form, there’s plenty of roastiness and malt character, a little bit of dark fruit and some molasses in a session-like porter. It was perfectly light and easy for the citrus of the apple to cut through. If it were any heavier it would have been lights-out with a main course like that.
Main course number two caused some pondering. Alongside the shrimp boil, the Threesome Trippel showed me how delicate food and beer pairings can be sometimes. The creaminess and booziness of the trippel was a bit odd with the shrimp itself. And if you used any hot sauce like I did, it was even more odd. The abrasiveness of the hot sauce kept the trippel from settling in on my palate the way I’d typically like. But in that shrimp boil was a secret weapon — house-made Andoullie sausage. With the inherent sweetness of the sausage, the trippel complimented perfectly, and I was quickly back in to my beer-hall, low-country state of mind.
Alongside our sharp, tart lime cheese pie sat the Anti-Hero IPA. Not any IPA can be served with dessert, but the Anti-Hero is open and fluffy, and it sparkles against the lime of the pie. The merengue topping fit perfectly over the hops. But we weren’t done there. As a special bonus, our hosts served a truly special beer cocktail made from their Bottom Up witbier and moonshine. There’s been a lot of talk lately about beer cocktails, and their attempt to get in on the spirits game — but few I’ve had could hold their own against this recipe. It was fiery and sweet, with the sharpness of the witbier pushing all the way through.
Did I mention this was a Monday night? Yeah. 6+ beers and some moonshine is no way to start a productive week. But a chance to break bread with a bunch of beer geeks, chefs, brewers and a few dozen enthusiasts is a wonderful way to live a life. If you’d like to see a little more about the event, Nkosi and I did a collaborative recap over at Chicagobeergeeks.com (should post any day now). From there, you can take a dive into the deep-end of the craft beer scene — Nkosi and co. do an incredible job covering what’s new, and what’s important, and would be a great addition to anyone’s craft beer network.