Earlier this month Brewsters Brewing gave me a couple tickets to Caskapalooza at Craft Beer Market. With the offer to try a variety of new and one-time-only concoctions, I said “Yes please!” When I was there, in between the many samples, I saw ads for the monthly Brewmaster’s Dinner, a four-course meal with Belgian beer pairings to complement each course. How can you say no to that?
Arriving at Craft we were ushered upstairs, given an odd smelling drink in a coconut, and led to our table. We were sat with a man and his son, the son purchased their tickets for father’s day and they had been looking forward to this night for weeks, and a mother and daughter who won tickets just a couple hours before. Lucky, eh? We made small talk, discussed the drink before us, and took a swig. The beer in the coconut turned out to be a Mongozo Coconut, a Belgian beer that is inspired by an island lifestyle and is certified fair trade. It’s a very light beer with a noticeable coconut taste that I could see people drinking on a very hot day at the beach – not me, but other people. It felt like more of a cocktail than a beer. There are few beers that I won’t finish, but there are many that I wouldn’t ask for again; this beer definitely falls into the latter category. Everyone, except for the mother/daughter pair, at the table drank our beer but there was a definite consensus that this beer wasn’t one that people would be raving about. Small bonus: we got to take the cup/bowl/coconut home. I look forward to eating peanuts out of it in the future, while drinking a Tool Shed Flat Cap Stout.
After this, the dinner began. We were brought a small serving of soup (incredibly small – like a shot glass-sized serving) and a Mongozo Pilsner. This is a dangerous beer. Its %5 ABV is hidden behind the extreme drinkability of this beer. If this were on offer after mowing the lawn, or on a hike, I’d drink too many, too fast. This is a gluten-free beer that is lacking in taste. I wouldn’t order it again, although everyone else at the table seemed to enjoy theirs, even the mother/daughter pair. This is probably because of how drinkable this beer was, and the absence of anything that could be considered flavour. However, the shot of soup was great!
First course – Cast Iron Seared Duck Breast with Duchesse de Bourgogne:
This beer was a winner, at least for me. It’s a slightly sour beer that uses mixed fermentation of beers aged 8-18 months old. The beer is aged in oak casks that add to the complexity of flavours in this beer. The colour is a deep ruby red and there is a strong fruit fragrance, with sour notes. There is a cranberry flavour that drives the bus in this beer and it has a very nice finish that leaves you slightly puckered. I thought this beer was great, but this wasn’t the the case with everyone at the table. The father/son pair liked it but the mother/daughter pair took one sip and quickly pushed it to the side. The waitress accidentally gave our table an extra glass of this, and when telling her this mistake she told us to enjoy. After asking the table if it was ok, I greedily took the extra glass for myself and I have no regrets about that.
Second Course – Braised Lamb Meatballs with Affligem Blond
This is a beer that I have had before and it’s wonderful. It’s an Abbey Ale that uses mild bitterness to temper the fruit flavours that come through. This is a strong beer that is better taken is small mouthfuls than the big gulps that accompany the Mongoza Pilsner that was mentioned above. Affligem Blond has a cloudy appearance and when poured into a chalice it beckons you to take part in something holy. I feel it would be sacrilege to not savour the abbey’s work, so that’s why I jumped at the opportunity to finish the lady’s drink at our table who clearly didn’t like it. When she said she didn’t like this one, I was caught a little off guard. I asked her if she was a beer drinker and she told me she really likes Corona. Well there’s your problem. But, I was happy to give her portion a good home.
Third Course – Pressed Pork Shoulder with Delirium Tremens
Delirium Tremens is the flagship of Belgian beer. It is a phenomenal beer that is full of rich flavour and a big body. The beer is a nice golden colour and the head is substantial. It’s a strong ale that needs to be sipped rather than necked, but that’s ok because you want to spend as much time with this beer that you can. Take a step back, look at the lacing on the glass, breathe in the aromas, and enjoy what it means to spoil yourself. Even the mother of the mother/daughter combo liked spending time with this beer, so it has to be good. Oh, and the pork was nice, too.
Fourth Course – Strawberry Ice Box Cake with Fruli
The beer accompaniment for dessert was Fruli. This is a beer that is brewed with fresh strawberries, which provide a sweetness to the beer that comes very close to being saccharine. Again, this is a beer that I have had before and I remember thinking the same thing then. I like the idea of adding fruit directly to the brewing process (there are some really nice blueberry beers that are able brew with fruit without becoming sickly sweet), but this is so heavy-handed that it drinks more like a cooler than a truly balanced beer, and that’s not what I look for. If this beer is offered to me, I will drink it, but I will pass it over every single time in a beer fridge.
Craft Beer Market’s Best of Belgium Brewmaster Dinner was an absolute winner. They do these events monthly, but this was the first time that I was able to partake. At the end of the night there was a draw for a trip for two to go to Belgium and attend Belgium Beer Weekend. Can you think of anything better than that?! I can’t think of something I’d want more than to visit the epicentre of beer and partake in a celebration of the holy elixir that abbeys have been making for over 1000 years, but sadly I didn’t win. I guess I will have to come back to next year’s Best of Belgium night for another shot at it.