On Monday, February 8, the third annual Brewer's Dinner was held at the Vine Street Pub in Denver. The gastronomically glorious affair took place in a smaller room away from the main pub, and the inspiration for this year's Brewer's Dinner was stout pairings (February being Stout Month, of course). The ambiance was delightful, with plenty of space for guests to mingle, a cozy feel to the dining area and brewers behind the bar serving guests delicious pre-dinner pours.
As dinner commenced, Kevin Daly, Brian "Hutch" Hutchinson and Rob Green (Sun Pubs' Proprietor, Head Brewer and Head Chef, respectively) gave a brief tour of the menu, including why they chose to pair stouts, of all the possibilities of pair-able ales in the world, for this dinner. As it turns out, these brewers and chefs love a challenge, and really, what could be more challenging than a four-course stout-pairing dinner?
The first course presented poached black mission figs stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in hardwood smoked bacon, servied on a bed of mixed greens with a port wine reduction. Now really, how else do you serve heaven on a plate? The warm figs oozed with their seedy sweetness, the gorgonzola rounded out the creamy fig filling, and the bacon provided a perfect crunchy-earthy-salty contrast. Paired brilliantly with the Stoked Oak Stout, whose flavor profile invokes roasty, woody tastes and a rich finish, the first course made an excellent debut for a dinner that was sure to be memorable.
The second course paired a classic Mexican posole soup loaded with hominy and cilantro, as well as a sizable dollop of rich sour cream, with Drop Kick Stout. The trick was to get a little bit of each ingredient, as well as a slurpful of juicy chicken stock, in each spoonful. The Drop Kick Stout gave a phenomenal contrast and enhanced the flavors, especially of the hominy and chicken stock, beautifully. Its characteristic undertone of hops rounded out the soup's citrus notes perfectly, too, bringing out flavors that might otherwise be lost to the gastronomes in attendance.
Course Three paired Addiction Coffee Imperial Stout with seared beef rubbed with coffee, brown sugar, salt and pepper, served with a parsnip puree and stout gastrique. This course could have only been better if first heralded by a trio of buglers or some similar musical element. That, and steak knives. The knives I've been raised to think of as "butter" knives were a bit rough in cutting the steak, but otherwise...WOW!!! The steak was perfectly seared and the rub used was heavenly, especially paired with the Addiction Stout, which would probably have made everyone groggy with epicurean bliss if not for its considerable caffeine content. This full-flavored galaxy of steak and stout might have overwhelmed those dining entirely, if not for the light, airy parsnip puree, which provided a perfect foil to the hearty meat and roasty, malty, caffeine-loaded stout.
The last course was a banana coconut bread pudding paired with a perennial Stout Month favorite: Boggs' Coconut Cream Stout. The bread pudding was moist with a beautiful crust on top, drizzled with a vanilla sauce that the ever-present wait staff was happy to pour to each diner's specifications. It was hard to believe that this pudding came out of a commercial kitchen and not Grandma's oven; all the essential requirements were there: sizable chunks of fruit, precisely-melding textures of crisp and moist, and a soul-nourishing sensation that only got better when paired with the stout. Boulder brewer Adam Boggs' Coconut Cream Stout tied for first in the first homebrew contest and remains the best-selling stout during this year's stout month at all three pubs. Its toasty, rich flavor and memorable coconut finish made for the perfect pairing for the dessert course.
So if you happen to be in Boulder, or Denver, or the Western half of the United States during the next Brewer's Dinner, you'll want to make it a priority. Not only does it showcase the passion and confidence that goes into the creation of this one-night-only affair, it demonstrates further the care and commitment the Suns' and Vine Street Pubs' brewing, cooking, serving and crafting team put into all of the delicious food and beer they pour. In a world full of restaurants who've yet to master the graceful dance between host and guest, the Mountain, Southern, and Vine Street Pubs' have captured it perfectly. This Brewer's Dinner represented the culmination of that dance, and accomplished it exquisitely.
For more info: www.mountainsunpub.com