After attending the Texas Beer Brunch at Rockwell Tavern out in Cypress, then the Night After Monsters event in the early evening, Sunday shaped up to be a day full of excellent beer and food. Quite an awesome start to Houston Beer Week! Then there was the Karbach Beer Dinner at Down House in the Heights on Sunday evening. Down House Head Chef Benjy Mason put together a 5 course meal plus an apertif paired with 5 Karbach Brewing beers and a beer cocktail.
Pagliacci cocktail and grapefruit dusted pork cracklins
After much Googling, we still couldn’t figure out what a Pagliacci is made with, but the waiter let us know it is: Gin, lemon, honey, bitters, and to make it a beer cocktail, they added Karbach’s Rodeo Clown Double IPA. I love gin and the lemon and honey helped to subdue the hop bitterness, so I really enjoyed this cocktail. The Pork cracklins were hot and salty, but I didn’t taste much grapefruit. I’m also used to more meaty cracklins with a harder outer shell, which these weren’t, but who doesn’t like fried pork?
Deviled wings, fennel salad | Sympathy for the Lager
We started the dinner with deviled chicken wings on top of a raw fennel and apple salad with a healthy dose of a house blue cheese dip. The wings were so crispy, and there was a little bit of heat from the devil sauce. The blue cheese and apples were a perfect complement, but that’s pretty standard. The fennel had a strong licorice flavor in its raw state, which doesn’t do much for me. The Sympathy for the Lager is Karbach’s attempt at showing people that a light lager doesn’t have to be 55 calories and flavorless. Though the aggressive hop profile in this beer is too much for me alone, with the spice of the wings it was great.
Kale salad, mint vinaigrette | Hopadillo IPA
My first response to this pairing was, “this is bold”. Pairing a vinegar dressing with Karbach’s very hop forward IPA may enhance the vinegar which wouldn’t be the most desirable as it is already a very strong flavor. I think this worked with the peppery kale greens, though. There were also house pickled red onions and croutons that gave the salad another dimension of flavor. Most people know I am not a fan of the IPA style, with the exception of a few, and I feel that way about Hopadillo with it’s six varietals and a dry hopping for that extra hop punch. The beer combined with the vinaigrette was almost too much for my poor palate, but on it’s own, the salad was delicious.
Moules Frites | Weisse Versa Wheat
They brought out the house made garlic aioli first, and after trying that I knew the frites part of this dish would be all I cared about. I love mussels, though the first round we had seemed a bit overdone and bland. They were poached in Weisse Versa and orange juice. The frites were twice fried to perfection, crunchy and salty, excellent vehicles to get the garlic aioli to my mouth. Moules Frites is classically paired with Belgian ales, so Karbach’s light wheat beer was an obvious choice. The bright citrus bite helped cut the richness of the aioli and frites. I was told the second round of mussels was much better, but I was too busy devouring the frites.
Pork Cheek Carbonnade, green salad | Rodeo Clown DIPA
For this course, they braised the pork cheek in Yule Shoot Your Eye Out, the beer pairing for the next course. The oh-so-tender pork was placed on top of what I believe was a baguette, which was perfect to sop up the carbonnade juices. The meat absorbed the elements of the carbonnade so well, it was very rich, so it paired well with the Rodeo Clown DIPA. Rodeo Clown is a 9.5% double IPA, some double IPAs are a bit more malty due to their ABV, but somehow Karbach just made an even hoppier, stronger IPA than their Hopadillo. The IPA was actually a good complement to the pork, it provided a nice contrast to the richness.
Croissant bread pudding | Yule Shoot Your Eye Out
When I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anymore, they bring out bread pudding. They make the pudding with leftover croissants and plenty of butter. My picture sucks, but this was, by far, the best dish of the night. Some plates, like mine, also got a Makers Mark soaked prune that was sweet and boozy. The pudding was topped with a crunchy topping, maybe some sort of granola. I was too busy drooling over the perfect caramel sauce and flaky, buttery croissants to bother asking. It was paired with Karbach’s newest beer, Yule Shoot Your Eye Out, a winter ale brewed with fresh ginger, orange peel, cocoa nibs and spices: nutmeg, cardamom, allspice and cinnamon. The spices and chocolate malts in the winter ale played very well with the rich, creamy textures and flavors of the pudding. Simply divine.
Overall, this was a great dinner to showcase Karbach’s line-up and the variety of parings possible with their beers. It also gave me a better appreciation for IPAs paired with food, I don’t ever go that route. I had already been to Down House a few times before this dinner, and have always enjoyed the menu as well as growing beer selection, plus their decor and Darwin theme is irresistible!