Originally, this dinner was slated to take place during Houston Beer Week in November, but with so many events going on Ziggy’s Grill decided it would be best to wait a few weeks to let the dust settle. There were a few reasons I wanted to attend this dinner; I want to support one of our local breweries, No Label, out of Katy, Texas, and for $50 you got 6 courses with 6 beers (2 of them exclusive, small batch, unreleased beers), a mug and taster glass to go, and I finally got to try a new, local cider- Leprechaun.
Brian and Jennifer Royo, the owners of No Label, were in attendance to talk to everyone about their brews and gave us a nice bit of information, No Label is acquiring more warehouse space soon. While this will probably push back their timeline for getting a bottling line installed, it will free up space for more beer! I feel like I have been watching No Label since their inception and entrance into the Houston craft beer scene and it has been great to see them be so successful; they have continued growing, brought on their assistant brewer, John, full-time, signed with a local craft distributor, and are venturing into new styles of beer.
The pre-dinner aperitif was a mug of warm Leprechaun cider, that was infused with cinnamon and nutmeg, and a warm gingerbread cookie by Bread & Batter, a local Houston bakery. The warm, spicy and just a touch of sweetness in the cider was a great pair for the soft gingerbread cookie. I have not ventured much into cider (the same goes for mead), except for the occasional snakebite, so I liked trying it warm, perfect for the chilly night we had in Houston.
Savory Fritter | No Label’s experimental sour (!)
We started the dinner with a wonderful savory fritter that had olives inside and topped with an herb-cream sauce. Though, when Brian said the beer was their first attempt at a sour, I couldn’t have cared less about the fritter. The pairing was fine, it’s difficult to pair foods with tart beers, but the cream sauce and saltiness of the fritter paired quite well with the beer. They did not use a traditional sour mash or any bacteria, Brian did not want to run the risk of contaminating their new system, but it was a great experiment. They used cherries and some lactic acid on top of their Ridgeback Amber ale. I would love to see them delve into this style more, and I have a feeling Jennifer may be able to convince Brian and John!
Almond crostini, prosciutto, caramelized apple | No Label El Hefe Hefeweizen
I have had No Label’s hefeweizen many, many times, and after working out the bugs in their new system, it has stayed very consistent. Bananas. Lots of bananas. The bananas went very well with the caramelized apples and almond bread. The spice and banana flavors mixed well with the slightly sweet bread and caramelized apples, and what doesn’t go well with a little cured ham? The almond crostini was made by Bread & Batter, and while I don’t like nuts (yes, even almonds) I didn’t get the chalky aftertaste that gives me an aversion to nuts in the first place.
Potato and Bacon Puree | No Label Ridgeback Amber Ale
I love potato soup, especially in the winter. The potato puree was warm and filling and had a nice contrast in texture and flavors from the bacon and onions. It paired very well with the Ridgeback amber ale, named after their Rhodesian, that has a great caramel and hop balance.
Marinated beet, carrot, cucumber and pickled cabbage salad | No Label Black Wit-o
I’m not against beets, they are just not something I seek out while dining. That said, they were great. There was a definite spiciness to the marinade that was calmed down by the beer, though it would have been nice to have more marinade, as there were a lot of vegetables on the plate. The crunch of the vegetables was nice and went well with the crispy sweet potato straws. The heirloom tomatoes needed a touch of salt, but otherwise I was pleased with the mix of flavors and textures on the plate, though it felt a bit disjointed. No Label’s seasonal, Black Wit-O (a black wheat beer, if you want to categorize it somehow) was a good pairing for the spicy marinade. I love their seasonal, it is 7% ABV, but you would never know it. A great beer to teach people that a dark beer doesn’t necessarily equate to heavy or thick.
Slow roasted beef short ribs with spaghetti squash, tomato, figs and onions | No Label Pale Horse Pale Ale
As soon as I put my fork to the short rib, it fell right off the bone. It was tender, but could have used a little more salt (maybe this is me?). The spaghetti squash was cut to look like pasta and had the figs, onions and roasted tomatoes mixed in. The juices from the beef rib were great on top of the “pasta” and gave the meat the salt that I wanted. I was most surprised by how much I liked No Label’s Pale Horse. Previously it was a tad too bitter for my tastes, but we learned that Brian and John tweaked the recipe where the malts were concerned. They replaced the previous 2-row malt bill with Marris Otter, giving it a lovely, rich caramel and nutty flavor that balances out the hops nicely. I don’t generally gravitate toward pale ales ever, but this I will be drinking more of. It’s especially nice to have this style be so drinkable from a local brewery.
House made ice cream beer float | No Label Chocolate El Hefe Hefeweizen
I was very excited to try No Label’s Chocolate El Hefe, a chocolate version of their hefeweizen. Brian and John used chocolate nibs in the brewing process and I think the end result is excellent. The aroma was like a roasted banana split with definite chocolate notes. The beer had the spice from their hefeweizen, but was balanced by the chocolate. The chocolate seemed to make the beer much creamier than the regular El Hefe as well. The house made ice cream melted into the beer before I got to try a solid bite of it, but the float was great. Spices, chocolate, with the effervescence from the beer and creamy ice cream made for a great dessert.
I was very impressed with the dinner, especially such an affordable one. I hope Ziggy’s continues to do dinners like this with No Label (and any other Houston brewery, for that matter) because it is a great to see local, available craft beers paired with great, comforting dishes. Thanks to Brian and Jennifer of No Label and Kevin and Chef Samantha Bryan of Ziggy’s for a great beer dinner, keep us posted on the next one!