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This year's brewer's dinner opened up as a few others have in the past, with an immense number of reservations and a large number of no-shows. That most likely means that the Summer brewer's dinner will likely require a credit card for a reservation. It kind of stinks that people treat reservations for an event like this with such disregard, but such is life. There was still a decent showing with about 30 or so people in attendance.
The menu this year was slightly modified from the menus sent out previously advertising the event. The courses were as follows:
Marinated flank steak grilled to medium rare, topped with almonds, water chestnuts and served with sauteed papaya and coconut cream sauce.
Fresh Fruit Salad served with Belgian Tripel
Grapefruit, mandarin oranges, kiwi and mangos drizzled with tangy honey soy dressing.
Tuna and Salmon Spring Rolls served with Maibock
Fresh Saku tuna and salmon wrapped with sticky rice, pickled ginger, wasabi and sliced carrots. Served with Thai peanut sauce.
Candied Fruit Egg Rolls served with Saison
A succulent fried egg roll stuffed with apples, pineapples, craisins, brown sugar and oats. Served with vanilla ginger ice cream.
The decor at brewer's dinners is usually very festival and whimsical, but for whatever reason they decided to make this one a bit nicer. We thought the improved decor was a nice touch. The centerpieces would probably be a nice touch for our mantle.
The first course made for a very good appetizer. The medium rare flank steak was marinated in coconut rum and when wrapped with the papaya sauce and carrots inside of the lettuce wrap it paired excellently with the beer. The coconut cream sauce was decadent and very tasty, but it slightly overpowered the beer pairing. The Alt Bier was a great example of the style and was perhaps the best beer of the evening. The flavor profile contained a dominant malt presence with strong chocolate tones, a creamy mouthfeel and accompanying nutty notes. The finish was very light and had a hint of cherry on the back of the tongue. Overall it was a relatively sweet beer and very refreshing. Jerry brewed this style a few months back and both Jess and I agreed this round was noticeably better. When paired with the wraps, the nutty presence was amplified by the grilled beef and the sweet coconut sauce brought out a bitter character.
The second course was somewhat surprising for a brewer's dinner. The salty sweet honey soy dressing did an excellent job contrasting with the fruit while still complementing it greatly. The Belgian Tripel was a 4 month aged version of Jerry's Tripel this past Winter. The beer contained banana, clove and coriander flavors with accents of honey and Granny Smith apple skin. The sweeter fruits in the salad brought out hoppy and wheat characteristics while the more bitter and sour fruits brought out a spicy finish. Jess noted that it tasted a lot like Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde. This dish made me wonder if Unibroue's Ephemere would pair well with kiwi. My initial guess is yes.
The main entree of spring rolls really showed off the versatility of the Rock Bottom chefs. We would have never guessed that they could pull of sushi so well. The peanut sauce was real peanut sauce and not the typical peanut butter base you'd normally find at even some Asian-themed restaurants around town. The Maibock was extremely malty and sweet and seemed to have a slightly minty finish, though that could have been brought out by the lingering kiwi flavor on our tongues. The spring rolls brought out spicy notes in the beer and the ginger paired especially well. The peanut was also a nice complement to the sweet, malty character.
Rolls of apple pie! That's exactly what these tasted like. The Saison had an intense banana taste and a very heavy, wheat-like body. There was also a hint of lime that made for a very drinkable beer. After a few bites of the apple pie egg rolls, a matching apple character emerged in the beer and a lactose-like creamy sweetness pulled through.
Overall this was another great beer dinner by the guys at the downtown Rock Bottom. In comparison with other Rock Bottom brewer's dinners, it seemed like the portions were a bit smaller, but the creativity was stepped up a bit. Rock Bottom continues to be one of the best values in town when it comes to beer and food pairings and this dinner did not disappoint. We're going to try to make the north side brewer's dinner in a couple of weeks to see how Liz' pairings compare to Jerry's. We stayed around a bit and talked with Jerry and Iain Wilson of the Orland Park Rock Bottom after the brewer's dinner. Iain pulled our chile beer recipe out of us and said he'd like to try it in a cask up at his location. Watch for his peanut butter beer at this year's Microbrewer's Festival!