Hey look! It’s another Coffee Break guest review! This beer pairing dinner review comes from Lauren Hoff, blogger behind Napa of Beer. Lauren is one of the many dear friends who started out as a Feasting Fort Collins reader whom I’d comment with on the Facebook page. Now we have regular beer chats and she has joined me on a good number of reviews (the one we always talk about is International Appetite Bistro, when The Preschooler chanted “Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!” at the table and it’s seared into everyone’s memory. Nice one, kid).
At any rate, Lauren was awesome in helping out with a guest review and what better assignment for a beer blogger than a beer pairing dinner! Thanks for the review, Lauren!
Usually when people think of pairing food with alcohol, it is wine that come to mind. Here in Northern Colorado, where we probably drink as many gallons of beer as we make, beer pairing dinners are more abundant that wine dinners. As a recent Fort Collins transplant to Loveland, I had been missing beer dinners at restaurants like Choice City Butcher and Deli, The Moot House and more. Beer dinners are an excellent way for those new and seasoned to the beer world to challenge their pallets and discover new flavors.
Wapiti Colorado Pub in Loveland does a monthly beer dinner featuring a different Colorado brewery. The July dinner featured Fort Collins favorite Pateros Creek Brewing Company. I enjoy going to different restaurants for beer dinners, as each place will operate them differently. The experience of the beer dinner; the people you meet, interactions with the brewer, etc, are just as important as the food and beer.
A social beer was served before the meal. The Old Town Ale, a Kolsch style beer, was a light and refreshing way to kick off the meal without getting full before the courses started rolling out. However, there wasn’t much “social” about it, as everyone sat quietly (except for us) at their tables. The meal started with a run down from Steve Jones of Pateros Creek and Chef of Wapiti. Usually at beer dinners you don’t see the chef until the end, so it was neat to see him out of the kitchen and talking about the food that was to come.
The first course was a gluten free course. An ear of corn was roasted with cilantro, garlic and chili paste topped with cotija cheese. It was paired with Pateros Creeks’ Punk Rock IPA, a gluten free beer made with 4 different kinds of hops. The spicy notes of the hops made the sweetness of the corn pop and was mellowed by the creamy cheese. I enjoyed how the staff knew what the beer was and some basics about that they shared as they were serving it to us, rather than just setting them on the table.
There was a lot of time between the courses, and our beer for the 2nd course came out over 15 minutes before the food. The Mt. Massive IPA is a double IPA from Pateros Creeks’ Fourteener Series of IPAs. The big beer was malty and sweet and balanced with Summit hops that provided a tangy orange flavor. The citrus complemented the poached shrimp made with lemon and rosemary that topped southern style grits made with cream and butter. I’ll admit it, I am not a grits fan. It’s a texture thing. However, these weren’t gritty or dry, but smooth and creamy. The shrimp was cooked perfectly and the lemon rosemary sauce added a flavor kick to the grits.
A buffalo pastrami Reuben with zucchini fries came out next with the Stimulator Rye Pale Ale. This dish was huge! A whole sandwich and a handful of decent sized fried. The chef told us that this dish was made using “quick prep” method for the meat and cabbage. This kept the cabbage nice and crisp, which I enjoyed but I was still missing that snap of vinegar which would have gone well with the spicy rye notes of the beer. The meat was a bit dry, and one of my tablemates was unable to eat hers due to the amount of fat on her slice. All of it was sitting on a house-made rosemary foccacia roll that was chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside. The breading on the zucchini fries was delicious and herby, perfect with the earthy hops in the Stimulator Pale Ale.
The chef came out between each course to give us a low down on the food, but it made me wonder if that was one of the reasons there was so much time between each course, sometimes over 30 minutes. After the 3rd course we decided to take a break and head outside to check out the amazing scenery around the Wapiti Pub. The restaurant is located on the which golf course and has a stunning view of the foothills and surrounding course. Unfortunately, when we came back in the wait staff had cleared the table all of beers (which we were not done with) and tableware. This confused me, clearly we were still there (our bags and phones were left on the table) and clearly the dinner wasn’t over.
The last savory course was a roasted corn and cheese agnalotti with a crab and arugula salad. The description was a bit deceiving, as I don’t consider 5 leaves a salad and it was more just a bowl of ravioli. The filling was delicious and creamy, a perfect compliment to the roasted malt of Pateros Creeks Car 21, an English Best Bitter. By this point I was so full and I wasn’t able to finish the course as the agnalotti casing and the sauce it was swimming in was so rich.
Finally, dessert! We were served a poached pear with a sticky rice custard and a tulle cookie. This dish didn’t excite me in one bit. It was paired with the same beer as the first course, Old Town Ale. I was hoping to try 5 different beers, and not have the same beer twice. However, the sweet, crisp malt finish went well with the sticky rice custard and a salted caramel sauce that was drizzled over the top. My pear wasn’t poached, but rather raw and hard and the cookie seemed store bought.
Overall the food was delicious and the beers paired well, but the service (don’t take my beers!) and the amount of time between courses made me glad this beer dinner was on the cheaper side. Next month will feature Wynkoop Brewing out of Denver, and I am interested to see what creations the chef comes up with for the next dinner.
- Lauren Hoff, NapaOfBeer.com