Sunday, September 25, 2016

Half Acre Beer Dinner at Bread & Wine

Even though I don't go there often, Bread & Wine is one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants.  The farm-to-table neighborhood restaurant that was a former laundromat in Albany Park had a beer dinner featuring Half Acre Brewery, one of my favorite local breweries, so it was a given that I was going to go.  The space has a large front window and off street parking, with a bike rack next to the entrance, which makes it really convenient to me.  The dining room is L-shaped, with the wide part at the front.  There are tables and a market which sells wine, beer, and some gourmet snacks at the front, behind the host station at the entrance.  The bar wraps around the inside corner of the Land this is where I usually sit (and where I sat tonight).  The rest of the dining room is filled with tables and a counter looking into the open kitchen.  When I arrived, I was seated at the bar and was quickly brought my first beer, Half Acre's Pony Pilsner.  I also saw, as in the past, I had my own placecard.  The beer was like a much better version of what AB InBev and Miller-Coors brews, which it is what it is.  It was crisp and bitter with a nice head and was a good way to start things.  Paired with the beer was something that makes sense for a German-style beer, House Sausage and Cheese, Sauerkraut with Rye Seeds, House Mustard, and a great loaf of house made bread and butter.

For our first actual course (the charcuterie and cheese with bread and a pilsner was a starter course), we started out with a Half Acre Beer I had never actually had, Sunday in Saigon Saison.  It was a nice saison with a good head that dissipated quickly that did not have the overt funk that some saisons do.  While it did have a saison funk, it also had flavors of lemongrass and basil with a little citrus.  It was paired with a Hamachi Crudo with Yuzu, Thai Basil (which went very well with the beer), and Radish.  The hamachi was very fresh with a good texture and the yuzu, basil, and radishes added sweet and herbal flavors that, as I said, went very well with the beer.

They turned the course progression a little from standard by putting the vegetable course after the fish course, but it still kind of made sense because the fish was raw and the vegetables were fried.  We were first served Half Acre's most popular beer, the Daisy Cutter Pale Ale (which could easily pass for an IPA).  As the picture indicates, I like it and it went quickly.  The vegetables, Green Beans, Onions, and Zucchini were tempuraed and served with a Daisy Cutter Miso Butter Dipping Sauce.  The Tempura batter was very light and crisp which allowed the freshness and flavor of the vegetables to come through.  This was my favorite course yet served.

The standard course progression returned for the next course with red meat, or in this case, pork.  For pairing with red meat, you will want a big beer, which they chose in spades with Half Acre Navaja Double IPA, another beer that I had never had, but was happy to try.  It clocked in at 10.00% ABV and around 100 IBUs.  It is sweet with flavors of pineapple, orange and grapefruit, with some breadiness and is very easily drinkable which is kind of dangerous considering how big it is.  The pork that it was paired with was a very tender pork tenderloin with whipped sweetness, braised kale, and pear compote.  The pork was tender, juicy, and flavorful and the sweetness from the sweet potatoes and pear paired very well with the beer.  While the vegetable tempura was probably my favorite course, this was my favorite pairing.

Beers paired with desserts are generally stouts or porters.  This makes sense because stouts and porters frequently have flavors of chocolate and coffee, frequent key components with dessert.  The heavy flavor of dessert also needs a heavier beer to pair with it.  While the beer in this case was neither stout nor porter, it did fall in the same ballpark.  Half Acre Heavy Feather is a Black Ale that poured with a great tan head.  It had flavors of coffee and caramel, but finished quickly and paired well with our dessert, a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Candied Black Walnuts and Whipped Cream on the side.  It was sweet, dense, and slightly bitter with earthy flavors from the walnuts which were moderated somewhat with the light vanilla flavors in the whipped cream.

As I said before, I like Bread & Wine and I like Half Acre Beer Company.  They worked together very well in their pairings and I really enjoyed this dinner.  I will continue to return to Bread & Wine and drink Half Acre Beer, and if either does a beer dinner elsewhere, I will try that as well.   

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