11/4: A beer dinner at Monk's Cafe again. Darn. HA!
I did have the pleasure of joining Tom Peters and Fergus Carey for a
delightful dinner featuring the beers of Elysian Brewpub, GABF's Brewpub
of the Year in 2001 (Small Brewpub) and 2003 (Large Brewpub; they grew).
What was kind of fun is that Elysian partner Dave Buhler is from
around here, and much of his family showed up, including Rogue rep
Sebbie Buhler, Dave's sister.
It was a fun evening, made more so by Dave's
revelation on Sebbie's name. "It's Susan Elizabeth Buhler,"
Dave said, as if we were idiots not to have guessed it. I guess we were,
no one I know of ever asked her. So...what do we do with this kernel?
Keep calling her Sebbie, I guess.
Cathy and I sat with George Hummel and Nancy
Rigberg of Home Sweet
Homebrew, and the ever-present, ever-pleasant Jack Curtin, of Jack
Curtin. Jack had made a late entrance with Beer
Yard potentate Matt Guyer.
We chatted while enjoying the pre-dinner beer, Golden
Gorgon. Elysian does mostly West coast-style ales and Belgian styles;
"We leave the real experimental stuff to people like Dogfish Head and
Pizza Port," Dave said. Jack asked him how he preferred to have
"Elysian" pronounced. "Well, I don't like 'uh-LEE-zhun,'"
said the big guy, because it sounds like 'a lesion.' I guess I prefer the
French 'eh-lee-zee-EN.'" Fair enough.
Golden Gorgon is the little sister of Elysian's
tripel, Bęte Blanche, with the same yeast, different hops (Saaz),
and a big helping of malted wheat, coming in at 5.2% ABV. I liked this one
a lot, a nicely drinkable beer with just a bit of sweetness and a
little bit of "Belgian" character.
Chow arrived, in the form of six beautiful roasted
oysters in a creamy saison sauce. One oyster was topped with a spoonful of
roe. "Tennessee sturgeon," Tom said when I asked. Caviar was
about four times as expensive, and (to be honest) the difference would
have been wasted on me. We all slurped and munched, as we accompanied the
ersters with the afore-mentioned Bęte Blanche (if you were
wondering, yes, it is a play on bęte noir).
It was good, a tasty thing, with the orange-candy
character of a tripel. Dave told us that when his partner, brewer Dick
Cantwell, first had the Blanche he drank off a whole pint of it quite
quickly, then realized he had pounded a pint of 7% beer. "You lying
bitch!" he exclaimed, speaking of the beer's deceptive strength. The
name stuck...at least around the brewery.
Dave poured us some samples of Elysian's Pumpkin Ale.
This is where our table disagreed a bit. I got definite pumpkin meat aroma
and flavor -- "I got gourd in the nose, here!" -- whereas Jack
and George only smelled the spices. I thought the spices were pretty
restrained, given how these things are usually done. Jack said he was
smelling pumpkin by the third sip. Not bad, as pumpkin beers go.
Next came Saison Elysée with smoked duck breast
with pomegranate sauce. The duck was delicious, smoked with alderwood
("Alderwood is Adam (Glickman)'s latest thing," Tom told us, and
it's fine by me), rare, and with a nice juicy ribbon of browned fat. The
pomegranate sauce perked up the duck, and it all went pretty well with the
saison, which is brewed with an addition of cumin. The saison was okay,
but I thought it was a bit over-hopped. I liked the cumin edge, and the
yeastiness was well-done.
Main course: Wild Boak Carbonnade! Wow. Jack was
dumbfounded. "Where's the big honking piece of meat?" he
exclaimed. "I've got those words on my computer as a macro for Monk's
dinners!" It was a lot of stew, an interesting blend of boar (not
like pork, to our surprise), potatoes, carrots, and taro root. My only
complaint was that Cathy's boar (which I finished up for lunch today)
could have been a bit better trimmed. Otherwise, a delicious hearty stew
that I sopped up with bread.
The beers were the hoppy boogers Dave had been
hiding on us: The Wise ESB and BiFröst Winter Ale.
"The Wise" is a reference to Athena, "BiFröst" is the
rainbow bridge between the worlds of mortals and gods in Norse mythology.
Why they suddenly switched mythos on us is beyond me, but I liked it. I
liked the beers, too. The Wise was described by Dave as "a malt
monster with hops," but it seemed just pretty damned hoppy to me. We
talked afterwards and he said that the hops had come though a lot more in
this batch, maybe because it had traveled. Good, anyway, real good, but
not what I'd call an ESB. "It's a west coast ESB," Dave said
with a big grin, and there's more than a little truth to that.
BiFröst was the real 'lying bitch,' far as
I was concerned. I could not believe this hoppy refresher was 7.5%
ABV! Banged up with Centennial, Cascade, and Amarillos, you better believe
she was hoppy, and sparkly and light...impressive job of brewing, no
Dessert arrived, and with it porter. Perseus Porter,
to be precise. The dessert deserves top billing: a light cake, about the
size of two hockey pucks, and studded with bittersweet chocolate, topped
with a hard layer of toffee, drenched in a mirror-finish topping of more
bittersweet chocolate, topped with whipped cream and crushed
toffee-chocolate bars. The toffee was so tough that I flipped it on its
back like a turtle and ate the cake out from underneath.
The porter was a bit overwhelmed, which is too bad,
because this was a good porter (I got a sample or two after finishing the
cake). Quite dark, a bit roasty (good dose of chocolate malts), smartly
bitter, and, I imagine, quite a pounder.
We got a chance to chat with Tom and Fergie, meet
Fergie's (relatively) new wife, and talk to some fans of Pennsylvania
Breweries (God bless 'em). We admired the new taps at the front bar
(including a dedicated one for Monk's Flemish Sour), and heard Tom's tale
of woe over how just as he was putting in a new walk-in to have two, the
old one died. "It was scheduled to be replaced in two weeks, so I
couldn't see paying to have it repaired," he said, a move that made
him very unpopular with his staff. "Really unpopular," he said,
with a rueful grin.
Well, that was the evening. We thanked our hosts
and Dave, said goodnight to Curt Decker and Brandon Greenwood of Nodding
Head, the whole Buhler family, George and Nancy, and Jack, and
wandered out into the mist. Quite a night. And next week, it's the
"Exotic Meats" dinner with Stephen Beaumont. Should be
That Dinner With Beaumont...
11/11: Yes, I had to have dinner at Monk's again,
and yes, the meat was exotic. Tom and Fergy hooked up with beer writer
Stephen Beaumont again for an evening of exotic meats and drinks. I got
there in time for a pre-dinner drink at the bar: I had the tart, tasty Monk's
Flemish Ale, the house beer Tom has made under contract in Belgium.
I talked with acquaintances at the bar, including
fellow New Jersey Association of Beerwriters members Gary Monterosso and
Mark Haynie. Then I started swapping lies with Matt Guyer and Mark
Sauerbray of the Beer Yard, who told
me I was seated in the back room, with Jack Curtin, Curt Decker and
Brandon Greenwood of Nodding Head,
and Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, the beer columnist for the Daily
News. A manly table indeed. I went back, said hi to WhiskyFest and
Monk's regular Larry Blinebury, and joined them for the
opening beer, Fantome Pissenlit.
Stephen was good enough to tell us later, means 'pissing the bed.' How
nice. It's made with dandelions, and sure enough, it had a somewhat rough,
faintly mustardy herbal aroma. Good aperitif beer. Then it was the first
course, "Kangamaki," kangaroo meat with Japanese sticky rice,
wrapped sushi-maki-style in nori, with wasabi. This was really great,
chewy, meaty, really got the juices flowing. Stephen's choice for drink
with it was the ethnically appropriate sake (Morimoto Ginjo Sake),
which did nothing whatsoever for me: sweet, not much else. Bleh. Is it me,
or does the sake emperor wear no clothes? Dunno, but Jack took a picture
of his kangaroo rolls.
Next came a Gator Piccata,
two chunks of alligator tail sauteed with lemon and capers (with a nice
piece of grilled polenta and some very tart sauce). This was also
delicious, flavorful, good texture, and no, it didn't taste like any
chicken I've ever had. We got Allagash Triple with this; the
alliteration might have been too much for Stephen to pass up, but the
straight gator (sans sauce) with the Triple was delicious, best pairing of
the night for me.
The third course was, as Curt said,
the loss leader. A piece of seared Kobi beef (yes, Kobi: it was raised
in Australia, and Kobe is an appellation), touched with red miso-
and chervil-infused oils, sliced and just barely rare. I've heard a lot
about fork-tender beef, but this...I didn't even pick up my knife, it
easily divided under fork pressure, and the flavor and texture were just
wonderful. Imagine beef with the texture of veal, with a full beefy
flavor... "Put it on a roll with a slice of onion, tomato, and maybe some
salt and pepper," said Jack, and we all drooled a bit.
beer was Hopback Entire Stout, on cask. Kudos to Tom for getting this,
and though Stephen didn't think it went that well (he'd evidently wanted
one of Hopback's lighter, hoppier beers), our table was quite pleased with
it. It was my favorite beer of the night: elegant, smooth, medium-rich,
and just suave to the last drop.
What was going on
at the table with all those beer guys? Well, first off, we were nearly
deafened. Tom finally fixed the sound system. Did he ever: the speaker was
right by our table, and it sounded like George Hummel was shouting into
our ears through a megaphone. Someone draped two coats over the speaker,
which helped, until Beaumont took it into his head to jerk my chain by
loudly asking me to shut up, not that he could hear me. Couldn't handle
the competition, no doubt. The applause in our room was deafening...the
only thing louder was my own laughter. I can handle abuse, buddy, bring it
Otherwise...we were mostly saying a bunch of
things that don't bear repeating: some were legally actionable, some were
stupid, some were grist for stories I'm going to write and you'll see them
later. I won't repeat Jack's statement about getting home; I only wrote it
down to make him nervous.
Main course met mixed reviews:
Stephen had wanted to get horse (fine by me; I've never had horse and
would have liked to try it), but that's illegal in the U.S. for some
reason, even though we feed it to our pets. So instead we got eland. The
meat was flavorful, though overpowered somewhat by the truffled potatoes.
It was also a bit fatty, but I liked it so much that I picked up the bone
and gnawed it. Others at the table were more fastidious, but I figured a
rib was a rib was a rib, and I liked it. It was great with the beer: Southampton
Trappist Pale Ale, another work of genius from Phil Markowski. Real
Orval-ish flavor, dry, brett-laced, and well-paired with the
Dessert was another animal: chocolate
Moose. Tom's little joke, and Stephen had one as well: "You'll
notice that there is a tiny piece of meat in the center of the mousse.
That is moose." Silence, as people frantically pawed through their
desserts. "I'm kidding!" the mad Canadian admitted. The
"moose" did come with chocolate antlers, a cute touch.
Delicious, of course.
The final beers of the
evening were Unibroue Terrible and New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek.
The Terrible was good, rich but not overpowering, kind of like a larger
version of Maudite. The Transatlantique was a bit disappointing,
one-dimensional cherry with a sour wrapper, almost like a tart Lindemans. Beautiful
label, though, with an old-style ocean liner.
some witty repartee, I headed out front to talk to Stephen. I was
surprised to be introduced by him to New Belgium marketing head Greg
Owsley, who was in the bar completely by chance, in Philly for a meeting.
"Going to tell him the truth?" Jack murmured behind me,
referring to the Buzz that he thinks will be a
self-hung albatross about my neck. "If he asks," I replied. Of
course, the first thing Greg said was "How'd you like the
Transatlantique?" so I had to tell him I was
disappointed. He accepted that graciously, if not happily, and pointed out that the
beer had induced huge numbers of people to try kriek for the first time.
That's a good thing, for sure, but...I wish the beer was more complex. For
I was ready to leave, but Matt invited me back to
the back room to try a bottle of Alesmith Grand Cru. Thanks, Matt!
This stuff was delicious, funky, boozy, strong and characterful, an almost
sloppy beer. Great night cap. Now I finally did leave, made my way to the
car in the cool November rain, and drove home.
leave for Rome on Friday, so this will probably be my last entry for a
few weeks. Be well, and have a drink every now and then, will you? Have