Friday, January 27, 2012

The Commons Brewery: A Beer Dinner

I've been to my fair share of beer pairing dinners but the one at The Commons Brewery was the first time I've been to one where the brewery was transformed into the dining space. What didn't change was that the food and the pairings were superb. The liquid works from Mike and Sean were accompanied by food stylings from Ben Meyer of Grain & Gristle.

Pork Belly with Winter Slaw paired with Urban Farmhouse Ale: Farmhouse ales are not a preferred style of mine however The Commons' version, as with Lift Bridge's Farm Girl, is very drinkable. When paired with this salad it was an amazing compliment to the rich deliciousness of the pork belly. In addition to the cabbage, local apples made their first appearance of the evening. And do you see the pile of crunchy bits atop the salad? Those delicious bits came from all areas of the pig and were fried to perfection.

Gathered Greens with Rosehip Vinaigrette paired with Fleur de Ferme: While the salad may not look particularily interesting, the variety of greens provided multiple textures and the vinaigrette, made with tarragon-infused vinegar and honey from Ben's wife, among other things, provided multiple layers of flavor. Fleur de Ferme is one of my favorites from The Commons and although dark in color, stays light from the hibiscus, lavender and chamomile used.

Braised Short-Rib with Heady Wheatberry Risotto paired with Sticke: The meat was fall apart tender and perfectly seasoned, complimented by the al dente wheatberries, a current favorite grain of mine. Although the portion size was generous and by the end I was filling up, had another serving been set in front of me I don't think I could have resisted eating it, too. It was that good. The Sticke, a German special style alt, is generally a little too sweet for me but here stood up very well to the flavorful meat.

Steve's Choice Cheese with Select Accompaniments paired with Little Brother and Aged Little Brother: Serving me cheese is a guaranteed win and this sheep-cow blend from award winning Cheesemonger Steve Jones, went wonderfully with both versions of Little Brother. The aged version, which spent two months in Heaven Hill barrels, was absolutely heavenly. I was secretly hoping one of my dining companions would prefer the non-aged version so I could offer a trade. Alas, at our end of the table the aged version was the hands down winner. The "select accompaniments" brought a return of apples, prepared two ways: the first was pickled, which may sound odd but was surprisingly delicious, and the second was combined with some lovely bacon.

A delightful evening all around and one I'm hoping to repeat. So The Commons, please plan another feast soon!

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