When I first heard that there would be a beer dinner, or as JJ from Beavers called it a “beer party”, I jumped on it. When I called there were only 3 spots left and it sold out fast. For Houston Beer Week there’s a beer dinner every night so I chose carefully, they aren’t cheap! I definitely think know I made the right choice.
At around 6 the drinks started with three on-the-house choices dubbed “Beertails” by the fabulous Claire:
The Bombshell ’75: Gin, ginger, lemon and Bombshell Blonde (Southern Star)
Brewer’s Manhattan: Bourbon, Left Hand Milk Stout syrup, sweet vermouth, bitters
Beltstrap: Cruzan blackstrap rum, lemon, Pinebelt Pale Ale (more Southern Star)
Every drink was fantastic, I haven’t really tried many beer-cocktails. My favorite was the bombshell ’75, obviously, since I love gin. Here’s the pictures, in order from the list above:
To go along with the “beertails” JJ prepared pigskins and spicy pickles for everyone. The pigskins were seriously like crack and the pickles were almost as addicting. I want bags and jars of those in my house, NOW. The dinner started at around 7:30 and all I can say is wow! The beers were excellent and JJ’s creations to match those beers were awesome, as usual!
“Beet, Wasabi, Bacon”
Paired with: Laguniats Sumpin Wild; 7% ABV, IBU 60′s
Roast beet, raw beet, raw radish, wasabi and Jay’s line caught wild Alaska “bacon-cured” salmon
I rarely eat radishes and beets, mainly because I don’t cook with them (or really know how) but damn, the bitter tastes matched so well with what Ben from Petrol Station called a “shitty” beer. I have had the Litle Sumpin’ Wild Ale at Petrol before, but never its predecessor the Sumpin Wild. The bacon-cured Salmon that Jay brought JJ personally from a fishing trip in Alaska (how badass is that?) was amazing, the salty, smokey bacon flavor matched well with the beets and radishes as well as the beer.Please note in my photo below, I got so excited I started to eat, then realized I wanted a picture, so that is definitely not the original plating. haha.
“Persimmon, Corned Beef, Munster, Cabbage”
Paired with: Victory Wild Devil Belgian IPA; 6.7% ABV, IBU 60-70
Local persimmon mustard, Briggs Ranch Texas Wagyu corned beef, Brazos Valley (Waco, Texas) Munster cheese fonduta, sauerkraut.
So JJ is known for using local ingredients and this dish is a perfect example. The beef, that was brined for a week, was from a ranch in Texas that specializes in Wagyu cattle from Japan, bred here of course. The corned beef was excellent, and the persimmon mustard (that I learned grows wild around here) was tangy and sweet and paired perfectly with the corned beef and the beer. I am not big on sauerkraut, but I gave it a shot since I wanted to have the full experience of everything on all the plates, and I will say, it was subtle and seemed to go so well with the beef and mustard. Lastly, my favorite part. Anyone who knows me knows my favorite cheese is Munster hands down. The melted fonduta of Munster was perfect; creamy, stinky, delicious. I told JJ I wanted this as a sandwich on the menu and we’re all in luck- it’s there!! (*edit- JJ let me know the Munster is on the sandwich, originally I thought he had said it wasn’t! woo!) I apparently forgot a picture of the beer, wooops!
“Beef Ribs, Grits, BBQ”
Paired with: Real Ale ’08 Sisyphus Barley Wine; 11% ABV, IBU 77
Niman Ranch All-natural beef ribs, Homestead Gristmill Texas blue corn grits, bbq froth.
JJ’s specialty- barbecue. When I saw the menu I couldn’t wait for this dish, especially when I saw the word “froth”. Seriously. bbq “froth”. Let that soak in.
The beef rib was cooked to perfection and the grits were simple and tasty and were well matched with the barbecue froth sauce, and the beer was perfect as well. I have never had one of the Real Ale Sisyphus barley wines, but Ben was telling the group that 9 times out of 10, most barley wines suck when they are new, and should definitely be aged. The beer was perfectly balanced between hops and malts with a toffee taste, that just matched so well with barbecue.
“Pork, Mole, Pozole”
Paired with: Jester King Oaked English Style Mild (Cask) (AKA Commercial Suicide); 3.3% ABV, IBU 17 [check out Jester King's blog here about Commercial Suicide]
Revival Meats (Yokum, Texas) Mule Foot pork, mole negro, smoked pozole, cabbage, radish, sesame
JJ tweeted about how lucky the group was to be getting our hands on the Mule Foot pork, and man, he was right. The pork was tender and seasoned well, and the mole! I think even my boyfriend, the pickiest Mexican food eater ever (I guess he reserves the right- being a beaner himself) would have liked this mole; creamy, spicy, sweet, dark, just delicious and went so well with the pork and the hominy. The beer was flat, a risk of transport, and with it being in the cask, BUT the flavor was big. It tasted like a dark-light beer (if that even makes any sense) the beer was dark in color but went down smooth, very drinkable, with not much mouthfeel, as they say, which some didn’t like, but was refreshing after a big barley wine like the Sisyphus.
“Sweet Potato, Bacon, Orange”
Paired with: an infusion of Creme Brulee coffee and Southern Star’s Buried Hatchet Stout; 8.25% ABV, IBU 50
Sweet potato pie, candied bacon bits, bacon caramel popcorn, orange-clove gelato
When I thought it couldn’t get any better, here it was, dessert and the last beer. I had the opportunity to sit with Dave, a brewer from Southern Star, the entire meal, and this by far was the best part of that experience, he was telling us about his beer, how much he liked Ben’s infusion of the coffee and JJ’s food pairing. He was beaming! Ben got up to talk about the infusion and had by far, the best comment of the night about the food “It’s like Jesus shit in your mouth”. So true- the sweet potato pie was creamy and the candied bacon bits on top were such a perfect addition, along with the orange-clove gelato that gave it a sweet, but earthy extra flavor. The bacon caramel popcorn was also a nice pair with the pie, and all of the dessert paired so well with the beer. The beer smelled of coffee immediately and tasted that way as well, it didn’t drown out the buried hatchet either, which was impressive to me. I’m pretty sure my purse smells like this coffee beer infusion, and I hope it never goes away (why it smells like that, I cannot recall ;) ).
Overall I was so impressed. The food was excellent, the beer pairings, even better and the company was one-of-a-kind. I am glad to have started off my Houston Beer Week this way, and lucky to have nabbed a spot. Thanks to Jay and Cathy for letting me sit with them! It was also really cool to sit with Dave from Southern Star, and get a brewer’s opinion on the pairings, the food, the beer, etc. I had a great time, and hopefully JJ will have us all back again!
*for better pictures See 29-95′s gallery!