Monday, August 4, 2014

New Belgium Beer Dinner at Whole Foods, Jacksonville


Last week, my wife and I attended the New Belgium beer pairing dinner at Whole Foods, Jacksonville. I received the tickets from Mike over at Floribrew. com, and was excited to attend my first beer pairing dinner. Coincidentally, this was also my first night out with the wife since we had Ezri three weeks ago. The two of us were due for an evening out, and this was the perfect event for us.

The dinner featured several beers from New Belgium that were paired with five different dishes prepared by the Whole Foods culinary staff.

Beer Ranger, Kirsten Kelley, kicks things off with an anecdote about New Belgium's flagship, Fat Tire
When we arrived, the tabled were set up with the evening's menu, a complimentary New Belgium pint glass, and a cold Fat Tire. Once everyone was seated, the event started with an introduction from Kirsten Kelley, the local New Belgium Beer Ranger.

Kelley did a superb job of sharing the beer story behind each brew that was paired throughout the night. Starting with Fat Tire, Kelley shared the story of how New Belgium's flagship was named after the co-founder's bike trip across Europe.


After we enjoyed our Fat Tire, we were served with our first course: Moroccan chicken meatballs with preserved lemon yogurt sauce, paired with Snapshot Wheat Beer. The meatballs were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The meatballs were heavily spiced and the yogurt sauce was a nice companion. Snapshot Wheat served as a delicious palate cleanser. The light wheat flavor of the beer helped to tame the exotic flavors of the meatballs. Snapshot also happened to be my wife's favorite beer of the night.


The second course was a fresh Arugula salad with crispy avocado, marcona almonds and smoked cherry vinaigrette. The salad paired with a 2012 Biere De Mars. While I am not really a salad guy, I loved the crispy avocado. Any time you can throw something fried on top of a salad, I'm a fan. The arugula provided a slightly bitter flavor, which paired well with the sour and slightly tart notes from the Biere De Mars.

In between courses, I took the opportunity to mingle and take some pictures. Sitting right next to me was Regina, of Jaxbrewbitch.com. Also, Mark Wisdom (The Jax Beer Guy) was on hand to give Regina bunny ears. Real mature, Mark. Real mature.

Big Smiles with Regina
Before long, the third course arrived. This course was the one I was most unsure of going into the dinner. It was a smoked duck spring roll with sweet and spicy Thai vinaigrette. The rolls were paired with Gratzer, another in the Lips of Faith series, which also happens to be brewed in collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing.


The duck was flavorful and gave off a nice smokiness. Duck isn't something I have consumed much, and to my surprise, I really enjoyed this. The Thai sauce brought a tangy/sweet touch to the duck that I enjoyed. Gratzer, which is an old Polish style of beer, provided an oaky, smoky, and but overall light beer to wash down the duck with. Gratzer was easily one of my favorite beers of the night!


Again, I found myself mingling in between courses. I grabbed Kirsten for a photo op. This was my first time meeting her, but hope to attend another New Belgium event again. Kirsten was a great host and created a wonderful night for all of us in attendance.

Photo with Kirsten Kelley, Beer Ranger for New Belgium Brewing Co.
For our second to last course, we were served Bison. This made me very happy (I am a born and bred Buffalonian after all). The Bison was a beautifully prepared espresso-rubbed tenderloin with dark cherry demi glaze, paired with 1554 Black Lager. This was the best dish of the night in my opinion.


The bison was tender, cooked medium, and full of flavor. The demi glaze cherry sauce offered a sweet and slightly tart combination to the meaty goodness. The dish included multi-colored potatoes, which was just fun. Have you ever had a blue potato? I didn't even know there was such a thing!

1554 Black Lager was a real treat here. Kirsten shared that this is a beer not currently distributed in Florida. We all savored the opportunity to taste this well-crafted black lager. 1554 is malt-forward with strong notes of roast and hints of smoke.


All good things end with dessert. On this night, that meant a spicy ginger carrot cake with cream cheese icing, paired with Rampant IPA. My wife said this was the best carrot cake she had ever had, and I agreed. The ginger was spicy without being intense. And the icy, OH THE ICING! So sweet and creamy! Rampant IPA is a hop-forward beer that offers sweet fruit and floral notes. This was a nice pairing with the overtly sweet cake.


With full bellies and happy palates, my wife and I looked at each other and shared about how fun this was. In addition to the food and beer, the company was great. We sat with a couple we hadn't met before and talked about their love for home brewing and local beer happenings like this.

Before leaving, Kirsten pulled out one more surprise and offered giveaways based on a tiny sticker on the bottom of your pint glass. My glass happened to have the only green sticker, which meant I received a nice and shiny stainless steel vacuum insulated New Belgium growler!
The growler appropriately says, "Pairs well with beer-loving friends."
Visit New Belgium on Twitter to check out more events like this, and be sure to follow @Floribrew too!

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