22 September 2009

Brewers Dinner - Sun King GABF Preview party with Chef JJ

The change from summer to fall is always a special time of year for beer fans, as we move away from lighter offerings into darker and heartier winter styles. It's also a special time of year for brewers, as Denver's Great American Beer Festival (GABF) draws attention to the ever-expanding world that is craft beer. Last week, we visited Chef JJ's Backyard for a beer dinner with Clay and Michael from Sun King, as they shared some beer from their lineup for a pre-GABF beer dinner.

This was our first visit to this cozy space and we were surprised by the spectacular view from the patio out back. We took our spot and enjoyed the weather and a view of the White River just beyond the edge of the property.

Appetizer: Sunlight Cream Ale served along side a grilled baguette with a blood orange infused olive oil.

Why it Worked:
The citrus elements in the Cream Ale are enhanced by the citrus in the olive oil and vice versa. Neither food nor drink overpowered one another, which is exactly how a food/beer pairing should be, in my opinion. I am happy to report that this fact was a recurring theme throughout the evening.

First course: Firefly Wheat paired with wild greens, smoked triple brie, and peach vinaigrette

Why it Worked:
Often a creamy cheese like brie has the tendency to leave the tongue coated with a cheesy film. This St. Andre Triple brie did just that with a sweet peach flavor and texture that made me think of ice cream. The malty Firefly Wheat cut right through that film to make the pairing a light and refreshing first course.

Second course: Bitter Druid ESB paired with grilled monkfish and citrus risotto

Why it Worked:
The creamy risotto had a light, smoky flavor with a citrus back that balanced the rich, malty bitterness of the ESB. The creaminess of the monkfish also lent itself well to the richness of the ESB.

Third Course: Osiris Pale Ale paired with a spiced rubbed Indiana pork tenderloin along side locally grown vegetables drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar

Why it Worked:
The savory tenderloin balances the super-hoppy Pale Ale, while the naturally sweet grilled vegetables enhance that citrusy hop flavor. The tenderloin was spiced perfectly, allowing the beer to shine without having to rely on it to reduce heat.

Fourth course: Imperial IPA (Alpha King entry) served with a slow cooked prime rib, roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh horseradish, and smoked creamy sauce

Why it Worked:
Both beer and food have big flavors, so one is not dominant over the other. The nose of the IPA is of orange rinds and rye and has a floral, citrus flavor (think tons of Centennial hops). This big flavor complements the spicy horseradish sauce that accompanies the cherrywood-smoked, maple-rubbed ribeye. Add an egg, and this would be the best breakfast ever.

Fifth Course: Tipping Point Belgian Strong Ale paired with a double chocolate bread pudding topped with a Rainier cherry reduction

The Beer: Why it Worked: The Tipping Point is reminiscent of a beer from Unibroue. It has a cherry, yeast, and fruit rind nose with a punchy, Belgian flavor. The double chocolate bread pudding is full of cinnamon, chocolate, and wine. There was something remarkable about this pairing, a rollercoaster of sensations. The dessert was comforting, lulling you to a peaceful state, then you take a drink a you are suddenly awake, exploring how the Rainier cherry reduction mixes with the cherry flavor in the beer, the chocolate sauce, and the bread pudding.

* * * * *

If this is the sort of thing that looks good to you, you can check out both Chef JJ's Backyard (1040 Broad Ripple Ave. - behind the McDonald's/Applebee's and just east of Brugge Brasserie in the former hair salon space) and Sun King's latest - Tipping Point Belgian Strong Ale - at a 6:30 tapping Wednesday, 09/23/09 at 6:30p.m. No reservations are required, and Chef JJ will be grilling snacks to compliment the beers.


  1. "Tipping Point Belgian Strong Ale - at a 6:30 tapping Wednesday, 09/22/09 at 6:30p.m."

    Wednesday would be the 23rd.

  2. Forgot to mention, ty for the post and everything looks fantastic! Gonna have to check out Chef JJ's and keep supporting Sun King's fantastic selection.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I gotta say, the ESB with the risotto/monk fish was my favorite. The food/beer pairings were incredible across the board.

  5. Mike - I agree that the pairings were all delicious, making it hard for me to pick a favorite. I think I'd pick the dessert with the ribeye a very close second.

  6. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Tipping Point. I had some at HBG3 and loved it.