Say what you will about Europe and their crazy economic woes (and the eventual demise of the Euro), but this is still a great place to visit. The astounding amount of history and the beautiful, varied geography are only two reasons to travel the birthplace of western civilization. As a young college student I took on this challenge, spending a month backpacking through the continent with my brother. Hitting a few hotspots (London, Amsterdam, Paris, the French Riviera) and a few less celebrated ones (Innsbruck, Carcassonne, Tours), we made our way on the Eurrail and on foot, soaking in the local culture as best we could.
However, as young and broke as I was, I did not get to truly experience the greatest cultural achievement to be found in Europe: beer. Sure we took pictures at the Heineken brewery and stayed in a hostel in Innsbruck that brewed its own in the basement, but we completely missed out on icons like the Biergartens of Munich and the Trappist breweries in Belgium... facts that I regret to this day. So when Punk's Backyard Grill in Annapolis announced their latest beer-pairing dinner entitled "European Backpacking Adventure", I was immediately intrigued. And after attending the festivities this past Thursday, June 14th, I have to admit the experience did not disappoint!
Featuring a six-course meal paired with beers from six different European countries, this event more than satisfied my culinary curiosity. And with the selection of fine brews, the talented trio at Punk's (with the assistance of the knowledgeable staff from Dawson's Liquor) nailed the pairings. My highlights included a surprisingly moist jerk chicken served over fontina-sage polenta, matched with the always inventive Evil Twin brewery's Yang Imperial IPA, and an absolutely phenomenal smoked trout with a horseradish sauce that paired perfectly with the Oak Smoke doppelbock from Germany's Aecht Schlenkerla. Probably could have eaten 5 more courses of that and been completely happy!
What I'm saying is that this is what a beer dinner done right should be. Even with a salmon/pink IPA combination in the middle that didn't impress, you can still see the consideration that went into each selection. And when you throw in the beyond-friendly service and casually welcoming atmosphere of Punk's and their staff, it all added up to an incredibly enjoyable evening. Definitely keep your eyes open for future offerings from this little gem. Even if it's not exactly Europe, it's a nice little gastro "Adventutre in Annapolis" for us Baltimore folks.
Oh, and check out the rest of the lineup below to see what you missed!
EUROPEAN BACKPACKING ADVENTURE
- Passed Small Bites
Tomato-basil bruschetta - Grilled flatbread with avocado salad - Mini potato soufflé - Punk's grilled spicy peanut chicken satay - Steak tartare on toast
Featuring: Brewdog 5am Saint - American Amber - 5.0% - Scotland
- First Course
Warm roasted and grilled beets with goat cheese, arugula and tangerine dressing
Featuring: Nøgne Ø Tiger Tripel - Belgian Tripel - 9.0% - Norway
- Second Course
Punk's house smoked trout, horseradish crème fraîche, granny smith apple, potato crisps
Featuring: Aecht Schlenkerla Oak Smoke - Doppelbock - 8.0% - Germany
- Third Course
Spicy grilled salmon, panzanella salad, green goddess dressing
Featuring: Almond 22 Pink IPA - Pink Peppercorn IPA - 6.2% - Italy
- Fourth Course
Jerk grilled chicken, soft fontina-sage polenta
Featuring: Evil Twin Yang - Imperial IPA - 10.0% - Denmark
Coupe Ellery, whipped white chocolate mousse, rhubarb compote, salted almonds
Featuring: BFM Cuvée Alex le Rouge - Dark Sour Imperial Stout - 10.2% - Switzerland