When Ben Fullelove, owner of Petrol Station and Brash Brewing, announced that he would be hosting a beer dinner at Petrol Station for the first time in forever, I was a little hesitant. I’ve now been to four of Ben’s beer dinners and three of them were home runs, while the most recent was not even in the same league. But, Ben and his chefs have a great track record, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Boy howdy, as John says, was I glad that we did.
Have you ever walked into Petrol Station and seen Mark, Jimmy and the rest of the guys dressed up? Like coats and ties and white shirts and slacks? Yeah me either, until the night of the beer dinner. It was the most adorable thing of all time. Beards and hair combed, excellent and attentive service throughout the night. Shout out to them for their hard work, it was both fun to see and really “classed the place up”, in the eloquent words of Ben.
First Course: 2012 Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout paired with Venison Carpaccio, hazelnuts, balsamic reduction, and smoked mushroom panna cota.
I like to call this course, “Go big or go home”. Not to say starting the dinner with an almost 18% ABV beer wasn’t expected knowing Ben. Uncle Jacob’s stout is so luscious, the chocolate richness and creamy mouthfeel balanced out the booze nicely and it paired perfectly with the venison. The hazelnuts gave the dish a balance in textures, while the smoked mushroom pana cotta gave everything a mellow earthy note. With all of the rich flavors going on, the balsamic reduction was the perfect accompaniment.
Second Course: Scallops, Thai eggplant, basil, coconut milk, Thai chilies, and butternut squash paired with Dogfish Head My Antonia
Any light, unobtrusive beer would have paired well with this spicy, Thai-style green curry with scallops. It was just divine. The scallops were tender and not overcooked and the spice from the basil and the curry sauce balanced the sweetness of the coconut milk and the scallops. The eggplant and squash were a nice bonus, but definitely an afterthought for me. My Antonia is an imperial pilsner that is very benign, not something I would normally pick up at the store though I have tried it before. The beer didn’t do much for me, but it was a good pairing for the spice and seafood.
Third Course: Coconut curry sorbet with lemongrass and basil paired with New Belgium Lips of Faith Coconut Curry Hefeweizen
Ben called this the palate cleanser course, or like I tried to tell him, “intermezzo”. When they announced the course and pairing I was a little hesitant. Two curry courses in a row? Paired with a curry beer? They must be crazy, I thought. However, it was lovely to have a cold scoop of sorbet after the heat from the last curry dish. The coconut and curry flavor worked so well in this medium, and the curry wasn’t hot, only a hint of spice came through. I have heard mixed reviews of the coconut curry hefeweizen, but I think it worked quite well as a pairing and the beer by itself was very interesting.
Fourth Course: Poached pears with seared duck prosciutto and fontina paired with 2013 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
To my surprise, at the beginning of the dinner Ben told me there would only be one hoppy beer. The 2013 Sierra Nevada Barleywine came out and I was pleased to see an old favorite, though I prefer it with a year or more on it. I love barleywines, especially with more muted bitter/hop tones. The sweet pear and salty prosciutto paired excellent with the malty, caramel goodness of Bigfoot. [Sentimental moment coming right up] In the beginning stages of my full-blown conversion to craft beer the first Bigfoot I had changed what I thought about beer. It was so different for me, hoppy and alcoholic but sweet and rich, AT THE SAME TIME. That’s when I stopped only buying Shiner and started experimenting with different beers, going out to the Saucer and Petrol, and meeting various beer nerds at events. Five+ years later and I can say that is was my best decision ever. Next year, I get to marry my best friend and favorite beer nerd!
Fifth Course: Pork belly with Madagascar vanilla and a butternut squash chip paired with Victory Red Thunder
Ok, back to the beer dinnner… For the fifth course, we had a crispy but tender piece of pork belly, accompanied by a butternut squash crisp. The vanilla seemed a little out of place, but the dish was still delicious and paired well with the rich and fruity beer. Red Thunder is a red wine barrel aged version of their Baltic porter, Baltic Thunder. It is actually Victory’s first ever barrel-aged beer. I tried the base beer last year at Victory, on a metal and beercation to Philly, Atlantic City and Rehoboth Beach. I loved the balance of the oak and red wine notes from the barrels with the cocoa-maltiness of the Baltic porter.
Sixth Course: Dogfish Head Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew paired with potted cream, bitches brew caramel, and smoked salt.
This beer is an always-buy, cellar beer; it ages well and tastes great fresh. Plus, Miles Davis. Bitches Brew is rich, smoky, smooth, boozy but balanced and paired very well with the potted cream. Potted cream is a great base for just about anything- berries and citrus, caramel and chocolate, etc. This potted cream was more flan-like and topped with a sticky, sweet caramel made with Bitches Brew and a dash of smoked salt to tie it all in to a beautiful, boozy dessert.
Final Course: Chocolate mascarpone cheesecake with a raspberry reduction and a chocolate tulip paired with Avery Odio Equum
The final course, an extra dessert course, wrapped up the dinner nicely for me. With chocolate cheesecake and a lovely sour from Avery, you really can’t go wrong. Odio Equum is a sour ale brewed with raspberries, bottled in 2012 after aging 12 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. Avery sours do not disappoint and this was no exception. A nice pucker, oak and tannic red wine notes, fruity but not too sweet with perfect carbonation and balance for almost 8% ABV. The beer paired well with the sweet and rich cheesecake, tangy raspberry reduction and the chocolate tulip shell provided both a texture element and a balancing act between sweet and creamy cheesecake and the sour beer.
I am so pleased that Ben hosted another beer dinner, after saying only about a million times he wouldn’t do another one. The backyard of Petrol was the perfect setting for a small beer dinner, a cozy space on a nice night with almost-romantic lighting. Perfection. Here’s hoping for another comeback beer dinner.