April 19, 2013

I-70 Showdown Dinner - The Aftermath

The past Monday three brewmasters from breweries from the I-70 corridor descended upon Beer Kitchen. Fine beers abounded my friends. First, another look at the menu -

This was a hot ticket, selling out in only 9 hours! Good job people. Having Steven Pauwels, Steven Hale, and Steve Bradt on hand is a big draw. And the fellows did not disappoint. They talked about their beers, poked friendly jabs at each other, and walked through the restaurant and spoke with diners. Each took a course to speak first, then to mix it up on the dessert course, they talked about someone else's beer. These guys know beer pretty well.

Since the beers were all local, there was an emphasis on keeping the ingredients as local as possible. Hence the Missouri trout, Green Dirt Farm cheese, brisket, and the local bananas. That last one might be made up.

The evening started with surf & turf crostinis - one with smoked Missouri trout and lemon caper aioli, the other with beef tartar, horseradish whipped potatoes and gherkin. Our beers were the 2013 Saison Brett from Boulevard, Free State's Coeur de Saison, and Schlafly's Grand Cru. The first taste of this year's Saison Brett! And the first time I've had Coeur de Saison. Both were fantastic. And while I've had Schlafly's Grand Cru before, that doesn't make it any less delicious. Stephen Hale joked that he missed the "saison" memo, but the Grand Cru isn't too far off. Brewed with coriander and orange peel, it has some Belgian wit characteristics,and fit right in with its Belgian cousins. Each of the beers had a little spice and a lot of earthiness that complimented the smoky tuna and rich beef.

Once again, I don't normally like fish, but this tuna was great. I think I've said this every beer dinner that has a fish course. I think it might be time to admit that I might normally like fish. I do know and fully admit to LOVING beef tartar. So good.

A salad course followed -- watercress with Green Dirt Farm fresh spicy chili cheese, toasted pistachio, pickled ramps, thyme, and strawberry vinaigrette. It sounds like there's a lot going on, but it wasn't too much. A very, very nice salad, all of the components came together harmoniously for a bright and sweet dish.

This time the beer memo was on IPAs, and Steven Pauwels missed it. Two of the beers choices went full on hops to counteract some of the sweet with a more bitter taste, with the Cloud Hopper IPA from Free State and the American IPA from Schlafly, while Boulevard's offering was a test Nelson Grape Ale. It was sweeter, almost a flavor between a wine and a beer with some tropical fruit flavors from New Zealand's Nelson hops. Light and refreshing. The other two stuck with hops from these United States: Cloud Hopper uses some of the C's, Columbus, Cascade, and Chinook, while the American IPA has Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial. These were both nice and bright IPAs, neither bogged down or heavy from hops, and both played nicely with the salad. All around a solid course.

The main course for the dinner was a smoked brisket with barbecue spaetzel, sweet tea glazed baby spring veggies, and pecan pesto. I will come clean and say that I didn't quite know what all of the veggies on the plate were, but I liked them all very much. There was a carrot, that's for sure. Maybe some parsnips too. And, uhh, turnip? Whatever they were, they were good. So was the beef. Well prepared, and a good cut of meat with the right amount of marbling. But the real star of this plate for me was the pecan pesto. I've never heard of such a thing, and now I want it to be a regular part of my life. Nutty and perfect to add to the smoky brisket and spaetzel.

Speaking of smoke (SEGUE), Schlafly brought a smokey offering with the peaty 21st Anniversary Single Malt Scottish Ale. All of the barley malt for this beer came from a farm in Scotland owned by Schlafly's co-founder's in-laws, and the beer is aged in Scotch whisky barrels from a distillery only 10 miles from where the barley's grown. Very cool.

Boulevard's beer for this course wasn't smokey, but roasty. The Coffee Ale was brewed in collaboration with the Roasterie, using Ethiopian coffee beans that gave it a rich coffee flavor.

The third beer for this course was the Free State Ad Astra Ale. As Steve Bradt said, this is a beer that can go with dinner. Almost any dinner, but especially barbecue. A little sweet, a little malty, and really good with the smoked meat.

Unlike the first two, this was a course of three wildly different beers, and each of the three went well with the dish. Very cool how that worked.

Caramelized bananas foster with chocolate creme anglaise paired brought a fine end to the meal. I'm a sucker for bananas foster (another statement I say about a lot of food. I just REALLY LIKE FOOD). They didn't do the tableside flambe, but the bananas had crispy caramelization, and the chocolate creme anglaise rocked. A sweet, light dessert that went with a couple of heavy hitting beers.

Boulevard had their Sixth Glass, a 10.5% Belgian Quad. Schlafly matched that ABV with their Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. At 6.5%, Free State's Brinkley's Maibock was almost sessionable compared to the two. Again, beers weren't as close to each other in style as the first two course, but they each worked with the dessert. The Sixth Glass and Maibock are both slightly sweet and malty, Sixth Glass and the Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout are both rich. This whole course was delicious. And the brewmasters showed had a good time with it, with Boulevard's Steven Pauwels talking about Brinkley's Maibock, Free State's Steve Bradt talking about the Bourbon Barrel Ages Imperial Stout, and Schlafly's Stephen Hale completing the circle by talking about Sixth Glass.

Schlafly's Steve Bradt, Beer KC's Randyl Danner, Schlafly's Stephen Hale, and Boulevard's Steven Pauwels
Come on, I was trying to not use a flash
Excellent meal all around. It's always so fun to see how much the brewmasters love not only their beer, but the friendly "competition" that they have. And really, it's no competition at all. These guys (and pretty much every other brewer I've been lucky enough to know/talk to/whatever) respect each other and the breweries and like to have fun and drink beers and talk about beers. A heartfelt thanks to Steve, Steven, and Stephen!

Keep an eye out, very, very cool stuff coming up soon with Beer KC!!

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