Friday, September 14, 2012

Blackbird Brewmaster's Dinner 2012

Every year in the week prior to the Autumn Brew Review beer festival, there is a Brewmaster's Dinner that is not easy to get into.  My lovely wife got us in this year and it was an amazing time!  We were joined by our usual suspects from the Happy Gnome beer dinners, Chris, Hassan, Carol and Kevin, as well as Bryce and his wife Elise. We saw some other familiar faces from the local foodie beer scene too, but didn't have enough room at our table for all of them! 

The restaurant is small and has a surprising amount of deer heads and antlers on the walls for a place called The Blackbird.  The feel is rural and homey despite its location right in Minneapolis.  Sj and I arrived early and stood outside for a short while until they let us teeming massing into the restaurant.  Upon entering we nabbed a big table and started in on the huge spread of charcuterie, house-made pickles and kim-chi, deep fried olives and almonds.  We had the Dave's Brew Farm Matacabras to pair with this mass of great food and it was difficult not to fill up on both before the dinner had even begun!

Before each course the brewmasters or distributors would say a few words about the beer, the brewery and the pairing, then the real fun would begin!  One of the best things about this particular dinner is getting to learn about several breweries and meet the folks who make your favorite beers in person.  It is also cool to see those people interact and talk with each just adds a whole new level of excitement to the event.  Dave from Dave's Brew farm talked about his strong ale.

Second course was a nice chestnut crab (my favorite apple!) salad paired with a wacky Brett Pomegranate Halcyon beer from Tallgrass.  The brewer basically told us how he made a 5 gallon batch of this with a carboy and heat belt, just like homebrewing!  The beer was interesting, lots of citra hop, but dry and somewhat sour.  The pairing was very nice, but I can't drink too much wheat beer or risk migraines...

Third course was my favorite of the night!  Todd Haug from Surly talked about the Surly Hell (a light crisp German style lager,) that they used chili peppers and Mesquite wood to magically turn into Fiery Hell!  This beer was freaking amazing, crisp and malty followed by a slow burn and dry finish.  The pairing was with a cold cream and corn soup with rock shrimp.  Unlike most pairings, where you taste the food and then take a sip of beer, this one worked in the opposite way.  The cool creamy soup cut the burn from the beer and was pure heaven. 

Surly Fiery Hell with amazing soup!
Fourth course was a deep fried maki and tuna that was also quite good.  That dish was paired with the Indeed Day Tripper, a fantastic hoppy pale ale with a ton of late addition hops from this new MN brewery.  I have now had two beers from them and am impressed!  Two of the people we were with thought this beer tasted a bit different from when they had it at Indeed's opening.

Our 5th dish was a pork tenderloin and pork belly atop a vegetable gratin.  That dish was great, but I was rapidly running out of space in my gullet and had to leave some behind.  The beer to go with the dish was Fulton's Libertine, a very deep red malty monster of an English old ale.  This is the best beer I've had from them and I'll seek it out from now on.  I don't think this is just the beer accumulating on me...

Final course was a chocolate cheese cake with a habanero cherry topping that blew me away!  Again I had to leave some behind, but made sure to scrape up all those spicy cherries.  Founder's Dirty Bastard was a nice pairing to end on.

We all received a pint glass filled with brewery stickers as a door prize.  I have hundreds of these things, but have to keep taking them.  It is a disease.  They also had stickers on the bottom of certain desert plates for a special prize of signed copies of the cool poster for the event.  That was my idea that I suggested on their facebook site, so I'll take credit.  Luckily Sj won us a copy!  Overall, this was an amazing evening of gluttony and sweet sweet sin.  The chef and staff are awesome and we will be watching this place like hawks from now on!  If only we didn't live an hour away!

Todd captivates his audience!

Bonus Material:

Not to let people think I've been falling down on the job with my Octoberfest tastings for the month, I will give a very brief recap of the last few!

1) Spaten (Take Two)--I retried this one with a donated bottle from Dave that had been stored correctly.  Much better than the skunk-bomb I had earlier, but still a slight hint of that.  Not as complex and malty as I expected, but good.  3 of 5.

2) Ayinger--A very nice beer.  This is really a classic Octoberfest with that layered malty/toasty flavor I'm looking for.  And it is slightly bigger than most!  Lighter in color than some, but I can tell this has been decocted.  4 of 5.
3) Brooklyn Octoberfest--This is certainly on a par with the Germans and seems very complex and malty.  Perhaps a tinge too much caramel malt?  4 of 5

No comments: