I’m rocking the suburbs, just like Ninkasi Brewing did…
For today’s edition of the Free Beer Review, let’s talk beer dinners. If you’re the type of drinker who goes to beer dinners in the Bay Area, you’d probably say that six paired courses for $65 is a relative bargain. Based on attendance I’ve seen at Ninkasi Brewing events, I’d say the Oregon-based brewery has a lot of local fans. So a six-course Ninkasi beer dinner for $65? BART accessible to boot so you can get sloppy if that’s how you roll? Why wasn’t this sold out?
Because it was in Walnut Creek, not the beer-soaked playgrounds of SF or Oakland.
Well, all the better for me, because at the last minute the nice people at Ninkasi treated me to one of the remaining spots. (I know, with friends like these, any suburb can achieve instant greatness). I’d been meaning to check out the site of the dinner, Corners Tavern, because several of their awesome staff drink down the street at my workplace Øl. What a fine excuse to finally go!
I was mostly just having a good time rather than taking legit notes, but in defense of The Other Side of The Tunnel, here’s (roughly) what you missed:
1) hors d’ouveres with Pravda Bohemian Pilsner: this was a new beer to me. Czech style pilsner isn’t a go-to style for me, but it was real nice to have one that hadn’t suffered from 6000 miles of shipping. The appetizers were of the fancy charcuterie and pickles variety, most if not all house-made. I am a fiend for pickles and cured meat but “Pace yourself,” went the self-talk. Five more courses (and beers) to go.
2) roasted asparagus and cabecou goat cheese, radish, pickled onion with Spring Reign Pale Ale: this was the first course that sent me to google (“cabecou?” Ok, I am not a cheese expert) and the first pairing that sounded wrong but totally worked. A west coast citrus-and-weed bomb of a pale ale wouldn’t make sense here, but the more gentle flavors of Spring Reign played surprisingly nicely with the asparagus. But really, you had me at “asparagus.”
3) lamb tartar, preserved lemon, olive, creme friache with Believer Double Red Ale: cowboy up, Walnut Creek, yer gittin’ some RAW LAMB! This is not your mother’s suburban restaurant. This course was hearty enough to punch Believer — which was tasting fantastic — right back in the face. Possibly the highlight of the meal for me. a) it was delicious beyond belief and b) I enjoy any meal that carries a credible threat of foodborne illness.
4) charred yellowtail in its own broth with gently cooked spring vegetables with Total Domination India Pale Ale: I like yellowtail, though I’ve most often experienced it in cheap sushi. I like vegetables. I like IPA. I like being four beers in and chatting with cool people. What were we talking about again?
5) veal short rib braised with Parmesan, black trumpets, and peas with Tricerahops Double India Pale Ale: focus! you’ve got two more courses and they’re going to be fucking insane. This course exemplifies why fancy restaurants give small portions: any bigger a serving of something this rich and your mouth might explode. Throwing an IPA down my gullet with it kept me from total palate collapse.
6) chocolate and vanilla stout tart, granola, stout anglaise with Oatis Oatmeal Stout: I am Thanksgiving full. I am tipsy. I cannot possibly eat or drink any more. Oh. Yes I can. While the previous few pairings were based on contrast (fat vs. hops), this one was based on sweet chocolately harmony. Oh man.
I’d forgotten that I do really enjoy beer dinners, especially the part where you’re geeking out on beer and food with like-minded people. But it was time for a week of simple home cooking after this. And yes, I’d love a ride back to BART, because I can barely walk.
If you’re not too cool to eat at a tablecloth restaurant down the street from a Maserati dealership, do yourself a favor and have yourself a meal and a beer at Corners sometime. They made magic with this beer dinner, including one pairing that won me over for a beer I previously hadn’t liked. (I ain’t tellin’.) And if you want to stop by Øl afterwards and tell me what a great beer blogger and all around delightful human being I am, hey, I won’t stop you.