Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fork - Founder's Beer Dinner

I like going to beer dinners for several reasons.  First, it usually allows the chef to get creative and work outside his normal menu.  Frequently, the brewery will bring in limited run special beers that are not widely distributed, so I can try something that I may not normally get to try, and finally, I get to see how well they pair the food with the beer.  I went to a beer dinner recently at Fork who worked with one of my favorite breweries, Founder's Brewing Co.  The dinner was four courses paired with four beers, three of which were limited release beers.  I like the beers that I have had from Founder's.  It's fun to see what they might do with small batches when they can be a little more creative.  We were seated in the same room we were seated when I came for brunch.  In fact, I may have been seated in the same place.  I think the art in the room had changed since I last dined there though.  We started things off with a Single Hop Pale Ale called Mosaic Promise (made with Mosaic Hops) which was paired with a Passion Fruit Poached Pork Loin Carpaccio with Pineapple Pearls (Pineapple Poached Cous-Cous), and a Pickled Onion Papaya Salad.  It was a great start, the beer had a bitter start, but it was actually kind of light and it paired well with the tropical flavors of the pork.  The presentation of the pork was very colorful, the pork was tender, and with the pineapple and papaya flavors, it was very light.

The next course and the beer that it was paired with paired amazingly well.  The beer was brewed for Grand Rapids Artprize, a very large regional art fair in held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Founders is from.  The beer was a Kolsch called Spectra Trifecta that was brewed with Ginger and Chamomile.  A Kolsch is generally a summer style with a light and bright flavor with a dry finish and I generally like them.  The chamomile added a floral flavor and the ginger added a spicy finish that was still pretty dry.  While it wasn't bad, I can honestly say that I couldn't really get into the floral flavor and I probably wouldn't buy it on my own.  While the beer didn't really excite me on its own, it worked amazingly well with the course that it was served with.  It was a Chamomile Braised Pork Belly served over Ramen Noodles in a Lemongrass Broth with Ginger Chips.  There were also the typical vegetables that you would find in a Ramen: Zucchini, Peppers, and Carrots.  The floral flavors were here as well, but didn't overwhelm the pork.  The lemon grass gave it a slight tart flavor and the ginger chips were crisp which added a counterpoint to the tender pork and noodles and provided a spicy endnote.

The first two courses and their corresponding beers were fairly light.  The third course and beer definitely went the other way and was much heavier.  While the first two courses were served in pilsener glasses, the next course was served in what was basically a rocks glass.  The beer was KBS - Founders Breakfast Stout aged in a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel (Heaven Hill).  It is a very heavy Imperial Stout with an ABV of 11.2%, an IBU of 100, and strong flavors of bitter chocolate and coffee as is relatively common in a good stout, and this is a good stout.  The food that it was paired with was a Coffee Rubbed Pork Shoulder with a KBS Mop (a barbecue glaze made from KBS and the juices from the pork shoulder) and Vanilla Roasted Root Vegetables including Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes.  The meat had a light crust from the coffee and the mop.  The meat itself was fork tender and was very flavorful.  The vanilla in the vegetables provided both a complement and a counterpoint to the bitter coffee flavor on the shoulder and the beer and it all worked together well.

And then came dessert.  As you may have noticed, all of the courses up until this point featured pork.  Using pork in a dessert dish does not seem intuitive, but it was done and done pretty well.  Dessert was a Caraway Creme Caramel, a very buttery flan, served with Guanciale (Pork Jowl Bacon) Toffee Cookies.  Bacon is basically the dessert of pork and Guanciale has a more intense bacon flavor as well as being pretty sweet, so using it in a toffee in dessert makes sense in afterthought.  The cookie went well with the buttery flan.  Red's Rye, an IPA, is not an intuitive choice for a dessert beer, but the hoppiness brought the sweetness out of the toffee and it all worked well together.

I really enjoyed my dinner here.  The food was good and creative and the beers paired together very well.  Fork is planning on doing a monthly beer dinner, I may have to attend, if I am available.        

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