The first course featured Oysters Rockefeller. The Rock Bottom take on this famous dish included cream cheese, bacon, and green onions. This dish was paired with Happy Pils, a hopped-up interpretation of the standard Pilsner.
The beer: Very clean aroma with a hint of lemon and citrusy hops. Very pleasant hop character is a welcome variation on the traditional Pilsner style. Lemon, orange, and grapefruit compliment a peppery hop bitterness and create an enjoyable sweetness. A great summer beer.
Why it worked: It's nice to see an oyster pairing that isn't stout. The cream cheese does a nice job of overpowering the sweetness of the beer, revealing a more distinct hop presence. The bitterness of the hops, in turn, cleans the palate very well.
The second course was a soup course of a chilled gazpacho that had a nice spicy kick. The Altbier used for the Microbrewer's Festival Replicale was paired with this course.
The beer: Cocoa and sweet, roasted brown malts dominated the nose. Malt soda, coffee, pine, and lavender created an interesting flavor profile that combined typical Alt malt flavor with an interesting floral aspect.
Why it worked: A pale ale would be the assumed pairing for a spicy dish, but the sweetness of the Alt did an excellent job of subduing the heat. The mouthfeel of the beer increased in its creaminess when paired with this dish.
For the main course, a Sea Bass filet was seared and topped with a fruit salsa of cantaloupe, strawberries, papaya, and honeydew melon. All of this was served with a cheddar polenta cake. The beer to accompany this dish was this year's American Dream IPA.
The beer: Dry pine hops overwhelmed the aroma and the American Dream IPA has the taste aspects to back it up. In addition to pine, grapefruit finds its way into the bitter profile. Honey and sugar cane comes across as a sweet compliment to create a very balanced and sufficiently hoppy IPA.
Why it worked: The fish was light enough to play a neutral role in the pairing of this dish. The fruit salsa was the pairing's strong suit. The bitterness of the hops were calmed and the honey-like sweetness of the IPA flourished with the combination of fruits.
For dessert, blueberries were mixed into a classic creme brulee. Hoosier Ma Stout played the part of the dessert beer - this incarnation featured Coffee malts.
The beer: The nose on this stout was very sweet and rich, with elements of coffee, dark chocolate, and chocolate milk. An interesting agave nectar style sweetness is found in the flavor profile, along with cocoa, milk, and oak.
Why it worked: The blueberries were practically lost in the richness of this dish until paired with the stout. The sweetness of the beer helped relax the sweetness of the creme brulee and brought out both the blueberries in the dish and coffee in the beer. Together they created a delicious blueberry milk stout. Someone should make that beer.