McCoy's Public House opened in St. Louis Park quite a while ago, before the big craft beer boom in this state. At first they were touting themselves as a brew pub and some good friends of ours invited us to go there (knowing I was a big beer geek.) I was disappointed to find out that the beer was not brewed there, but shipped from a facility in another state entirely--and I was disappointed in the quality of that beer as well. The food was fairly good at the time, but nothing to get me racing back there. I'll admit I left this place off my radar and forgot entirely about it until recently.
Just a few short weeks ago, my friend Nick Collins started working at McCoy's as the bar manager, and this prompted us to take a trip out there and get a baseline reading of how the place was doing. We were actually fairly impressed with the food and prices, getting there for brunch and having chicken and waffles that were spot-on. The beer list is extensive with a lot of taps and bottles to choose from. They have thankfully let go of the McCoy's beers. The beer menu was a little wacky, with some beers in the wrong category as well as a few unseasonal beers available. Based on my visit last night the beer menu is looking better already and some cool beers are popping up there! You can also get a four-drink sampler if you can't make up your mind...I am a sucker for these! It looks like the restaurant wants to expand their craft beer selection and do more beer-related events like firkins and beer dinners--certainly the right direction to go in my mind!
Just after arriving at McCoy's, Nick was thrown into the deep end and asked to help organize a beer dinner, and that was music to my ears! They managed to get Steel Toe Brewing on board, which makes sense since the brewery and their new tasting room is less than a mile away. You have probably heard me say it before, and you probably will again: Steel Toe is one of my favorite breweries and Jason Schoneman makes some incredibly, consistently tasty beers. This was actually Steel Toe's inaugural beer dinner and I feel excited and proud to have been a part of it. One day when Steel Toe is a giant regional brewing behemoth like Summit or Great Lakes, I'll be able to say that I got in at the ground floor...
Upon arrival we were escorted to a back room where they had assigned us seats at communal tables. I love this type of set-up for beer dinners because it encourages the diners to talk to their neighbors...something that Minnesotans are notoriously uncomfortable with! We ended up talking quite a bit to a young couple seated next to us and had a great time hanging out with them. We arrived slightly early and had a chance to talk a while with Jason, who is always entirely pleasant and laid-back. I guess there were some late additions to the dinner so the poor guy had to sit at his own small table... sort of like getting stuck at the kids' table at a wedding. Before the dinner began he gave a little talk about the history of his brewery and answered some questions. I always love hearing this info directly from the brewers and appreciate him coming to this event himself--especially since he is knee deep in electrical work and installation of new fermenters in the brewery right now!
We started the dinner with a glass of Provider: an unfiltered pilsner-esqe ale with a citrus character, notes of yeastiness and a pleasant malt backbone. This was paired with seared baramundi and crispy pork shoulder with a thai inspired rice noodle salad and pea shoots. I wanted more of that sriracha sauce! And more of the pork shoulder!
Between each course Jason was able to give us a bit of background on each beer and then Chef Peter Hoff talked briefly about each course before rushing back into the kitchen to finish preparing our food. My picture of the chef was blurry, (probably because he moves so fast,) so you will have to believe me that he really exists.
The second course was a flavorful take on chicken-fried steak, but using lamb instead of steak! Madras curry reduction, local honey, pears, and tart apples made this a complex dish with bursts of heat, sweet, and savory. The dish was paired with Size 7 IPA and apparently the lamb was braised in the beer as well. I'm a big fan of this IPA and could drink it every day if I lived just a little closer to the taproom. I should mention at this time that McCoy's did not skimp on the pours, bringing out a full pint of this beer, and usually topping up your glass if you so desired during the dinner. Good job guys!
Third course was an incredible smoked beef tenderloin with a risotto made partially from Steel Toe spent grain. The chef did some complex cheffery to get the flavor from the grain without leaving husks to get caught in our teeth. Caramelized fennel, wild mushrooms and a roasted onion/Rainmaker jus also populated the plate, adding intriguing earthy and liqourice notes to the overall dish. This was, of course, paired with the Rainmaker--probably my favorite of Steel Toe's regular line up. A bitter and malty Imperial Red ale, the beer ends dry enough that you can keep on drinking and paired very well with the food.
To wrap up the meal we were brought a snifter of Steel Toe Lunker. I have blogged about this beer before (and waiting in line for its release) and it is one of my favorite beers to come out in the last several years. A perfectly balanced barleywine aged in Templeton Rye whiskey barrels, it clocks in at a brawny 10.6% ABV. I would have gone to this dinner just for the glass of Lunker. The desert was a sticky toffee pudding with vanilla bean whipped cream and coconut candied cashews. The flavors in the desert played nicely with the beer, but my distended abdomen prompted me to focus my attention on the beer and leave behind some of the food. Priorities...
As a veteran of many-a-beer-dinner, I think this was a very successful example. For the price ($45 including tax and gratuity) it was a steal, giving us more than our money's worth in good beer, companionship and well-prepared cuisine. The service was quick, efficient, and friendly. About the only thing I would have changed would be having a meet and greet beer available before the first course for those who arrive early to sip on while making the acquantance of their neighbors. The lack of such a beer may actually have been due to the limited number of options Steel Toe had available, but I would highly recommend one for their next beer dinner. Speaking of which, McCoy's next foray into beer dinners will be Great Lakes 5/23/13, so keep your ear to the ground and sign up when it is posted. Many thanks to Jason, Chef Peter, Nick, and all the other McCoy's folks who put this on--keep 'em coming!