The grand finale of Houston Beer Week was the North Coast beer dinner put on by Vic & Anthony’s, which is fitting because they have this whole beer dinner down to an art. [Check out previous V&A dinners I've attended: Real Ale and Midsummer Dinner]
Point aux Pins Oyster with Finger Chile, Apple and Tarragon | Le Merle
After the news of red tide and no more gulf oysters this season, I was definitely excited to see the first course include Point aux Pins from Alabama. The slaw had a nice balance of heat and sweet between the apple and chile and the tarragon rounded it out with a nice herb note. The Le Merle is a Belgian farmhouse ale and was a great pairing for the oyster. It is light, slightly sweet from the familiar Belgian yeast, and has a nice effervescence. It allowed the oyster to shine and even seemed to enhance the flavors of the dish by adding some brightness.
Head on Shrimp, braised greens in a smoky creole broth | Scrimshaw Pilsner
The smoky flavors from the shrimp and the broth paired very well with North Coast’s classic pilsner. The shrimp were large, cooked perfectly, and had absorbed great flavors from the broth. The braised greens needed a bit of salt in my opinion, but they were a nice complement to the smoky and slightly spicy broth.
Rabbit sausage, dates, Foie Gras, Citrus Relish | Ruedrich’s Red Seal Amber Ale
Finally we started getting into the meat (literally) of the menu with the cured loin wrapped in a rabbit sausage/foie gras/date forcemeat, topped with a citrus relish. They paired this with the Red Seal Amber Ale, which does have a nice hop bite. Luckily, the citrus relish and the richness from the sausage and foie gras balanced out any hop bitterness. This was definitely my favorite dish of the evening.
Brazos Valley Blue Cheese Tart with Sorrel and pumpkin vinaigrette | PranQster Belgian Style Golden Ale
Next up was a blue cheese tart with cheese from a local producer, sort of like an intermission dish between the big rich meat dishes that round out the rest of the dinner. The stinky, tangy cheese tart paired very well with the light, sweet PranQster. The typical Belgian yeast characteristics complemented the cheese very well. The sorrel greens with pumpkin vinaigrette and pumpkin seeds on top was a nice contrast of flavors to the rich, creamy tart by providing some acidity and a touch of nutty sweetness that paired very well with the golden ale.
Bacon wrapped boar loin with pearl onions, new potatoes, mushrooms | Brother Thelonius Belgian Style Abbey Ale
For the most part, if you put bacon-wrapped anything in front of me, I will be a happy camper. This was definitely not an exception. The boar was surprisingly tender and the in-house made bacon gave it a nice smoky, maple taste. The pearl onions, chanterelle, and oyster mushrooms were lovely, having soaked up some of the rich sauce and flavors from the loin. This dish needed a big beer to hold up to the rich flavors, and “Bro-T”, as my favorite bar calls it, fit the bill well. Tom Allen, the founder of North Coast attended the dinner as well, and explained the story of Brother Thelonious (and the other beers too). Not only is this a great beer, but it supports the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz that benefits young musicians. I love drinking for charity.
Venison and Kidney Pie, root vegetables, pastry lattice | Old Stock Ale 2011
Old Stock ale is one of my favorite beers, it was one of the first non-Shiner craft beers I ever had and have loved it ever since. I was hoping to see a vertical of this, but I’ve been told I’m a dreamer more than once. The idea of lamb kidneys in a “pie” was a little much for some people at the dinner, but I loved the richness the organs brought to the dish. There was also some mashed rutabaga hidden under the venison and lamb kidney that helped balance the richness. Old Stock ale is actually pretty hoppy when it is fresh, but has a nice malt profile to back up the hops. This dish also needed a big beer to stand up to the luscious flavors of the pie.
Spiced Chocolate Strudel, brown butter phyllo, cardamom, cinnamon, gingerbread sauce | Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
And finally, dessert. The only way I usually enjoy Old Rasputin is on a nitro tap, since it makes it more creamy and seems to help with the combined hop and roasted malt bitterness that I’m not a fan of. Luckily right after serving the dessert, they pulled out a special little surprise to end the night with, North Coast’s Grand Cru/ Twentieth Anniversary Ale. I thought this beer paired much nicer with the very chocolatey dessert. The beer is brewed with agave nectar and a special Belgian yeast strain that give it some citrus notes. This combination seemed to help cut through the rich strudel, and enhance the cardamom and cinnamon spices.
Overall, another great beer dinner in the V&A books. The culinary team has a knack for pairing flavors well together and they do so with locally available beers. While I love going to beer dinners where we get to try rare, new beers, being able to pair an upscale menu with beers they have on tap, or that you can find locally really showcases their abilities. In my opinion, North Coast beers are very delicate, well-balanced beers and the dishes paired with them highlighted this and neither one overpowered the other.