What's this, a Beer Dinner?

Yes, a beer dinner. I had decided to attend this particular at the last minute, but as I sat at our table at del Alma Restaurant perusing the menu for the Block 15 Beer Dinner, I was sure glad I did. I was prepared to enjoy the evening with friends as simply a consumer of fine beer and cuisine free of any responsibility for taking "notes" or "photos" as a blogger, then Nick Arzner stopped by. The owner of Block 15 Restaurant and Brewery in Corvallis, OR, and a good friend, Nick said "Hey, this would be a great opportunity to compare a beer dinner to some of the wine dinners you have written about." As with most ideas that come from the brain of a brewer, it was a great one so I broke out the trusty pen and iPhone camera and got ready to eat.

Located on the Corvallis waterfront, del Alma is a New Latin restaurant inspired by the flavors and cuisines of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Spain. Chef Mitch Rosenbaum (previously of Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas) brings a passion for the fresh, vibrant flavors of Latin America and pairs it with the offerings of the Northwest to create an exciting and unique menu. Followers of the Blog have certainly read of Block 15 previously. As a refresher, Block 15 specializes in locally sourced casual food and premium, from the source, craft brews. The food is good...and the beer is unreal.

Background out of the way, it's time for the food and beer.  The format of this particular dinner was one that was reminiscent of a wine dinner:  four courses and an intermezzo, all paired with a different craft brew selected by the the chef to complement his food.

First Course

"Nu IPA" paired with Moule Frites Exotique
Red curry coconut mussels and yucca fries and green plantain tostones with lemongrass aioli.
NuIPA is brewed with Citrah, Sorachi Ace, and Simcoe hops deviating from the traditional IPA hops. Aromas of mango, lemon, and jam. Full hop flavor with a nice bitter finish. 6.5% ABV, 65 IBUs

After a wonderful appetizer of sweet potato bread with a bourbon honey jalepeno cherry butter, the red curry coconut sauce complementing the mussels was quite delicious. The star of this course, though, were the yucca fries dipped in aioli, followed immediately by a sip of beer. The crisp yet light characteristics of the NuIPA were perfect.

Second Course

"La Ferme de Demon" paired with Five Spice Pork Belly and Diver Scallop
Pan seared served with papaya slaw and sesame sweet soy vinaigrette.

La Ferme de Demon is a black farmhouse ale brewed with Belgian Pilsner malt, French malted wheat, Candi Sugar, roast malt, and farmhouse yeast. Aged for over 8 months in three barrel types: Pinot Noir, Oregon Oak, and Bourbon with Brettanomyces. After barrel aging and blending, this dark ruby black ale is further matured wiht a touch of Oregon Tart Cherry. 8.75% ABV, 31 IBUs.

The immediate consensus from our table was that the beer was "so good", like "drinking scotch without the bad parts" according to friend Matt. I don't know what he's talking about as I can't identify a bad part of scotch, but I digress. The dish was like a deconstructed bacon-wrapped scallop with some succulunt pork belly and a nice spicy slaw. Nom nom nom.

Third Course

"Figgy Pudding" paired with Galantine of Duck
Sundried bing cherries, pecans, and andouille sausage accompanied by Congnac fig jam and Aboriginal Ale mustard.

Figgy Pudding is brewed with English Pale and specialty malts and molasses. Matured in freshly empties brandy barrels and conditioned with mission figs. Gently spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and nutmeg. Complex aromas and flavors of port, figs, spice, brandy, oak and vanilla with a velvety warm finish. 11% ABV, 43 IBUs

So the velvety warm finish on this definitely has a little something to do with the 11% alcohol content, pushing that of wine, and after the 8.75% La Ferme we were definitely feeling good by the third course. The Figgy Pudding is definitely an amazing beer; count yourself lucky if you picked up a bottle before they sold out. The course was somewhat of a menagerie of different things on the plate, the fig jam being the shining star when paired with the beer.


"Wonka's Wit" with a Prickly Pear Sorbet

Wonka's Wit is a Belgian style white ale spiced with orange peel and coriander. Matured in Pinot Noir barrels for 7-14 months with wild yeast and Pedicoccus and Lactobacillus. Refreshingly sour with citrus, tropical fruit, and farmhouse notes. 5% ABV, 20 IBUs

The beer was tart and sour, the sorbet was super sweet - a perfect combination. The sorbet. Wow. And, another beer aged in Pinot Noir barrels, it's almost like wine! In reviewing my notes, I found a poorly drawn heart next to this course without much else. It was that good.

Fourth Course

"Super Nebula" paired with Braised Lamb Shank
Dark chocolate mole and orange basil risotto.

Super Nebula is 100% aged in freshly emptied bourbon barrels and additionally aged on house roasted Cocoa nibs. Deep black brew with a brown creamy head. Heavy bodied with complex flavors and notes of molasses, vanilla, bourbon, coffee, roast fig and wood. Huge depth with a warming balanced finish. 11% ABV, 58 IBUs

Another 11% brew. Heh. The lamb was wonderfully prepared and fell off the bone. The mole was mild and complemented the coffee and cocoa notes on the beer. Unfortunately, the risotto was woefully undercooked; Chef Ramsay would have sent it back with some colorful euphemisms. After the final course, we got a little surprise to enjoy while we finished the Super Nebula - a house made stout truffle with bitter cocoa powder. The truffle hit a homerun in a major way.

So...how did it compare to a wine dinner? In many respects, a perfect pairing so to speak. Both events feature local craft beverage producers showing their wares with local gourmet cuisine. Food and wine...food and beer...they go together like Bert and Ernie. So, if you get a chance, hit up a beer dinner for a change in pace, and next time you are in Corvallis, del Ami and Block 15 are musts.


Clive said...

Very nice indeed.

Scott said...

Wow, Nick Arzner? I swear we were office aides together in the 7th grade. Sounds like he knows his craft beers, and sounds like a great meal.

Josh Gana said...

Hey Scott, thanks for the comment - and nice blog!