Since Mikkel is in town for various Houston Beer Week events, of course there had to be a dinner with Jester King! Jester King collaborated with gypsy brewer Mikkel earlier this year for Drink’in in the Sunbelt, based off of Mikkeller’s Drink’in in the Sun. During Houston Beer Week Jester King is hosting an “open brew day” out at the brewery where they will brew their second collaboration– “Ale”/“Malt Liquor” in TX Geek Brunch. This is another one of the beer geek breakfast/brunch series and the name pokes fun at Texas beverage labeling laws.
The dinner was at Haven, due to construction issues with Underbelly/Hay Merchant (as in they aren’t done yet). The menu was prepared by 4 (!) chefs: Randy Evans of Haven, Chris Shepard of upcoming Underbelly, Chef Jakob Mielcke of Mielcke & Hurtigkarl in Copenhagen, and Jean Philippe Gaston of Haven. Kevin Floyd, of Anvil and Hay Merchant, was there to explain beer pairings, aided by Ron Extract of Jester King and Mikkel of Mikkeller.
We started with some passed appetizers of steamed brioche with caviar, pretzel battered shrimp on a stick with beer cheese sauce dip, fish ribs, and one we didn’t get to try, trotter fritters. We washed those down with Draft Bear, Mikkeller’s Imperial Pilsner. I quite enjoyed this beer, it definitely wasn’t as hop-aggressive as some of Mikkeller’s beers tend to be.
Animal Farms Root Veggies with Louisiana Oyster Tartare | Mikkeller/Three Floyds BooGoop
I had a chance to try BooGoop at the Night After Monsters event and I liked it once it has a chance to warm up. This dish was prepared by Jakob Mielcke, and he explained that even though this was a beer dinner in Texas, he would leave the steak to the locals, and went with a light, green first dish. The root vegetable were radishes and something else, and the oyster tartare was hidden under the arugula and creme. Usually if I am eating oysters, they are whole and come straight from the shell, so this was a little different for me. I didn’t get much of the actual oyster flavor, more of the meyer lemon that was added in mixed with the spice from the arugula.
Crudo of Queen Snapper, Meyer Lemon Crème fraîche, Melon Crudo | Jester King/Mikkeller Drink’in in the Sunbelt & Mikkeller Drink’in in the Sun
I was excited to try the Mikkeller Drink’in in the Sun, since I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it here on tap or on the shelves. The Mikkeller beer was grassier and a bit more bitter than the Sunbelt collaboration which was a bit more fruity. Both of the beers paired very nicely with the snapper, melon crudo and meyer lemon crème fraîche, in different ways. The melon crudo’s sweetness enhanced the grassy and fruit flavors in each of the beers, while helping to cut the bitterness as well.
This is where our group got more excited about the food. Seafood is nice and all, but alligator sauce piquante? Yes, please. It was spicy and rich, and the alligator meat stood up very well in the big stew. They paired the piquante with Mikkeller’s 10, which is the culmination of his Single Hop series (he used the same base beer and made it 10 times, adding a different hop each brew) that is brewed with 10 varieties of hops. Since it had some age on it, the bitterness had mellowed out a bit and was drinkable for me. It was also paired with Jester King’s Farmhouse Wytchmaker, their usual rye IPA but using their home grown yeast strain that gives it a funky characteristic. The funk helps to balance the hops and once it warmed up, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Both of the beers were a good pairing for the very spicy and rich sauce piquante, it was nice to have something crisp and bright to cut through the heavy stew.
Venison Sausage, Veal Brat, fresh kraut | Jester King Berliner Weisse
Chef Chris Shepard prepared this course and described it as similar to dishes he will serve at Underbelly. They butchered the whole deer and cow in the process of preparation for this dish, exactly what he’ll be doing at his new restaurant soon. The venison sausage and veal brat were excellent. I thought the kraut could have used more of the sour element that kraut is famous for, though it was a nice contrast to the meat. Then there was the Berliner Weisse! I could have sat at Haven and finished off whatever was leftover of this beer. I love this style, a great intro to sours, as the tartness is very mild in this style. Ron Extract, of Jester King, spoke a bit about this beer, that while they brewed a Berliner, it was different, more yeasty and yogurt-y than the traditional style and hovers around 3% ABV. I had seconds of this beer and would have drank more for sure. I love Dogfish Head’s pseudo-Berliner, Festina Peche, and am very happy to see a Texas brewery taking on this style.
Akaushi Steak, sweet potato mash, mole | Jester King Farmhouse Black Metal & Mikkeller (Texas Ranger) Chipotle Porter
Finally a steak! Maybe I am spoiled from Vic & Anthony beer dinners where a full Kansas City Strip is par for the course, but I was definitely excited to see some steak. It was over a bed of creamy sweet potato mash and topped with a spicy mole sauce. The steak was medium-rare to medium, a little too cooked for my taste, but not everyone likes practically raw meat. The mole was spicy and rich and made a nice contrast to the sweet potatoes. They paired this dish with Jester King’s Farmhouse Black Metal imperial stout and Mikkeller’s Chipotle Porter. I like the Chipotle porter on it’s own, but with the spice of the mole it was a bit overwhelming. The Farmhouse Black Metal, however was a delightful pairing. It was dry, effervescent and a nice complement to the rich steak, sweet potatoes, and mole. Farmhouse Black Metal is brewed with their version of a French saison yeast, giving it a subtle funkiness.
Pork Liver Pho | Jester King Das Wunderkind
You couldn’t have paid me to care any less about the food on this course, not because it wasn’t good, but I was entirely too focused on the beer- Jester King’s “farmhouse table beer” that is aged in French Oak wine barrels with wild yeast and bacteria, at 4.5% ABV. This beer is tied for my favorite of the evening with the Berliner, but this one has a slight advantage because it is more sour. The sourness wasn’t mouth-puckering (which I am fine with) that turns some people off from sours. It is very approachable and I couldn’t be more excited to see a Texas production brewery making a beer like this. As soon as it’s in bottles, I will be drinking it frequently. Oh, yeah, the pho. Well I tried a bite of the liver and it seemed off to me, though I haven’t had a pork liver prepared in this manner. I consider myself an adventurous eater and will try anything once, but this liver just didn’t taste good to me. Luckily, I had the Das Wunderkind to take my mind off of the pho.
Fig Tart with sorghum ice cream and syrup | Mikkeller It’s Alive
At this point, I was completely obsessed with the Das Wunderkind and trying to score more of that and the Berliner, that this dish sort of escaped me. The fig tart was delicious, for sure, but I wasn’t overly interested in it. It was sweet, but not cloyingly so. The sorghum ice cream and syrup were also good, they provided a nice contrast to the fig tart. They paired the tart with Mikkeller’s It’s Alive, a Belgian wild ale brewed with Brettanomyces, that is funky but not the point of straight-up barnyard. I wouldn’t have thought to put this beer with dessert, but it actually paired well with the tart as it wasn’t very sweet.
This dinner was especially fun, having Mikkel and his crew plus some of the guys from Jester King sitting at a nearby table eating all of the courses with us. I also felt like the 4 chefs each showed us something different with their dishes while still making the pairings work. The beers for me were the stars of the show; I am excited to taste firsthand the farmhouse direction that Jester King is moving toward and hopeful for more collaborations between the two brewers.