My first thought was to just shut up and enjoy it for what it was. But that wouldn't be me. So I'd like to add a few thoughts on last night's Three Floyds beer dinner at R Bistro (produced with help from World Class Beverages). Hopefully pointing out some weaknesses can be a good thing, and perhaps can serve as a tool for improvement the next time around.
I'd agree that the dinner was very good - it's just that a (perhaps impossible) standard has already been set, and I now know what's possible. Our previous beer dinner at L'Explorateur was so mindblowing that I was left wishing the R Bistro dinner was a little more thought out.
Consider the beers paired with the first three courses - after the aperitif of Gumballhead (which was fine), we had Dreadnaught (big hoppy IPA), Pride and Joy (big hoppy "mild ale"), Alpha King (big hoppy American Pale) - granted, this is Three Floyds, and big hoppy beers are par for the course, but I think a little more variety could have been a good thing.
The courses that succeeded for me were those in which we took a few steps outside of the Three Floyds wheelhouse. The lamb sausage paired with Gorch Fock Munich Helles was surprising in that the light Munich-style beer held it's ground against the lamb, and the Behemoth Barleywine proved to be an equal match to at least one of the cheeses (hint: not the one that tastes like wet dog* or "dirty underwear" (as said by the woman at the table next to us)). Finally, the use of Robert the Bruce against vanilla ice cream and banana cake seemed to be an odd choice - we had figured they were going stout, or perhaps even Alpha Kong for the banana notes - but the ice cream's sweetness did wonders for the beer, and left a hint of coffee on the back on the palate.
In a way, the use of Three Floyds beers paints the parings into a corner. Consider the variety of beer at the meal at L'ex: Frank Boon Geuze, Brugge Black, Krusovice Imperial Czech Lager, Ankle Biter Barleywine from Broad Ripple Brewpub, and Brugge Tripple de Ripple - beers that jump all over the map (the Belgian Map with stops in the Czech Republic and England).
Another concern was the feeling that the chef didn't really seem to have a lot of thought about the beer - and maybe I'm wrong here. But it seemed as though she presented a food menu to the World Class folks and then sort of stepped out of the way. All in all, the meal worked well - but Gina noted that perhaps we were seeing the difference in a beer dinner put together by a distributor versus a beer dinner put together with the help of a brewer. I think she may have a point.
Also worth noting was the crowd last evening. Perhaps I'm assuming, but based on our survey results, I think it's fair to say that this wasn't a Hoosier Beer Geek sort of crowd. First off, many of the folks in attendance seemed to be older than our demographic, and judging from reactions and question, entirely new to craft beer. To introduce those folks to Three Floyds, World Class' Matt Clapseattle painted the story of the reclusive and shy Nick Floyd - a humble brewer slaving away up in Munster, creating world renowned beers and hiding in corners with a hat pulled over his eyes. Though I doubt it was intentional, Matt failed to mention the death metal and tattoos.
While I'm certainly not a food critic, when we left the question I had floating in my head was "would I go back for the food alone?" I think I would. After the dinner at L'Ex, I was ready to kidnap Chef Neil (and staff) and lock him in my kitchen. I think that might say something.
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*A taste that still lingers in the memories of my mouth