The making of a beer dinner at 101 Beer Kitchen

Written by on November 28, 2018 in Bars, Beer - No comments

I have to admit that I was once a bit of a skeptic when it came to beer dinners and the “art” of pairing beer and food. That changed quickly after my very first beer dinner which happened to be at the now defunct CBC Restaurant. It clearly piqued my interest in how beer dinners were pulled together, and recently I had the opportunity to listen in as the folks at 101 Beer Kitchen, perhaps the area’s premier purveyor of beer dinners, planned their next event.

The obvious first step is to select which brewery will provide the foundation for the event. In this case, the brewery was to be Brouwerij Huyghe, the renowned Belgian brewery located in Melle in East Flanders. Their flagship beer is the renowned Golden Ale Delirium Tremens. The planning session began with the three 101BK principles — co-owner Thad Kittrell, Head Chef Chris Hamilton, and General Manager Tod Spinosi — gathering around a table full of ten Huyghe beers.

Task one was to select six of the ten to be used in the beer dinner. Each of the beers was tasted, researched, evaluated and discussed in turn. Two of the ten were Delirium Tremens, one in a can and one that had been bottle conditioned. This led to a lively discussion amongst the three as they found the beers to be decidedly different and both worthy of a place on the menu. There were also two versions of the Christmas beer Delirium Noel, the standard and a Bourbon Barrel Aged variant. The rest of the lineup included La Guillotine, Delirium Red, Deliria, Delirium Nocturnum, Averbode and Delirium Argentum. With ten excellent beers to choose from, I inquired how the six to be served would be selected. First, they shared, it needs to be a quality, flavorful beer worthy of being presented to their clientele. Second, and equally important, is contrast — there needs to be distinct differences between the beers to provide for interesting food pairing opportunities. Third, the beers need to be current and seasonally appropriate. And finally, there needs to be a clear fit with the potential dinner menu.

Once the six beers are selected, the next step is to determine their sequence on the menu. There must be a certain flow, or logic, to the order in which the beers are served. Generally, this would mean building upwards from the first beer to the final beer in terms of strength, flavor, and body; something of a crescendo. With the beers and sequence properly mapped out, the most difficult task remained; determining the menu itself.

“Our beer dinners are an opportunity for the chefs to loose their creativity,” said Kittrell.

Kittrell and Hamilton began bouncing ideas back and forth. It should be noted that Kittrell is a trained chef, and an equal contributor to the determination of the final menu. He described the process of paired each beer with the appropriate food as “Sometimes complimentary, sometimes contrasting, and sometimes off the wall.” Over the ensuing 45 minutes, a roughed-out menu began to emerge. One of the sous chefs sat in for a few minutes to add his thoughts. The menu began to gel; what appetizer, what entrée, what protein, maybe a cheese, bread perhaps, could a salad fit in, what sort of dessert might provide the finale? Once the foundation was in place there was more discussion about preparation, spices, sauces, etc.

After nearly two hours the process was complete, at least for the day. In the next couple of days, Hamilton will prepare a rough draft of the proposed menu. This menu, however, is far from final. Over the next two weeks leading up to the dinner, the menu and recipes will continue to evolve. Each principle and each sous chef will have the opportunity to review the proposal and offer thoughts or suggestions. In fact, the menu and recipes might not be finalized until the day before the event. This answered one burning question for me — why the food portion of beer dinners is never announced in advance. The straightforward answer is that the menu sometimes isn’t finalized in advance. Kittrell offered a second reason that made sense as well; The final menu might include a course that certain individuals find unappealing. For example, people might elect not to attend because they do not like lamb if they knew that lamb was the main course.

“[They] may not care for an item on the menu, but are very often pleasantly surprised when it is served,” said Kittrell. He also knows that his regulars have learned to trust them to deliver great food, great beers, well paired.

The Huyghe Beer Dinner will be held at the Dublin location on December 4 at 6:30 with a limited number of tickets still available online for $75 including tax and tip. 101 Beer Kitchen Dublin is located at 7509 Sawmill Rd.

About the Author

Bill Babbitt is a retired engineer, beer lover, and freelance writer for Beer Advocate Magazine.

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