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September Beer Dinner

carrot cake and IPA
Carrot cake and India Pale Ale

 Both of my kids have worked for a caterer at the Missouri Yacht Club (at Lake Lotawana).  Janet Frazier happens to be a friend from church, and also caters monthly meetings of the Lake Lotawana Optimist Club.  Besides that, Janet has her own café, The Bean Counter, in the Garden City Bank building on 7 Highway in south Blue Springs.  Having shared my knowledge of beer at the August Optimist meeting (on pontoon boats), I was asked to present a program—with a beer dinner. So, Janet and I have put our heads together to plan a beer dinner

Last April, I attended the Craft Brewers’ Conference in Boston.  On the final day, there was a panel discussion about beer dinners, led by three speakers.  Kevin Davies spoke about the beer pairings presented at his Iron Hill restaurants in Philadelphia.  He said that their customers range in age from 20 to 75 years; their servers are trained to offer suggestions on matching dishes with beers and are given a 150 question test of their beer knowledge.  Another speaker was Alec Lopez, and said each of his menu items suggests a beer selection.  The most notable speaker was Garrett Oliver, the head brewer at Brooklyn Brewing Co.  He has written a book, “The Brewmaster’s Table—Discovering the pleasures of real beer with real food.”  This is a very comprehensive book on preparing menus with beer; I would recommend it to any restaurateur wanting to incorporate beer into the menu.  Garrett Oliver is a consultant to some of the best restaurants in Manhattan; he cited some impressive beer pairings—and mentioned beer’s superiority to wine in pairing with a wider variety of foods (he also referenced the book “He said beer, She said wine”). Garrett has a broadcasting background, and has become somewhat of a celebrity in the brewing industry.  I also heard him speak last year at the Great American Beer Festival. 

Like most trends, Kansas City is usually a few years behind in catching on to something new.  Grand Street Café has had an annual beer dinner for some time; Boulevard Brewing Co. began monthly beer luncheons this summer.  There are others occasionally offered around town—that aren’t usually well-publicized (I heard that I just missed a beer dinner at EBT featuring Sam Adams beers).  I know of one restaurant in St. Louis that offers weekly beer dinners.  What I like most about beer dinners is that it introduces people to styles of beer that they may have never tried—and usually surprises beer novices to learn the complexity of beer styles.  Often, women become more interested in learning about beer—having only tried Bud, Miller, and Coors in their college years.  So, I am especially excited to be invited to offer this beer dinner to friends in my community.

In July, I spent five days in Durango, CO attending a course on advanced homebrewing.  After our first day of class, we all enjoyed a wonderful beer dinner on the deck of Steamworks Brewing Co.  The chef, Sean Clark, was most gracious in providing me with a copy of the menu.  Working with my friend the caterer, we have modified that menu to locally available ingredients and will be presenting four courses with matching beers this Tuesday evening (9/8/09), at the Community Club—just up the hill from the dam at Lake Lotawana (and near the Marina Grog and Galley).  The first course will be a green salad, paired with Schlafly’s Kölsch.  The second course will be an appetizer of empanadas with mango salsa, paired with Dundee’s Honey Brown Lager (a recipe from Lucy Saunders’ book, Beer & Food).  The entrée will be an apple/chicken sausage with polenta, paired with Sierra Nevada’s Kellerweiss (a hefeweizen).  For dessert, we will serve carrot cake along with Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (an India Pale Ale).  I had heard of this favorite combination; in Durango I sat next to Randy Mosher—and had read his description of this wonderful match (in his book, Tasting Beer); I was truly amazed by the flavor created by the mixture in my palate!  I will look forward to hearing the comments at the dinner!