Thursday, July 26, 2012

Smiley’s Public House Beer Drinker’s Dinner with Sierra Nevada

My husband Kelly and I enjoy attending longtables to experience new beers and to see how the chefs pair the various styles of beer to food. Thus, when I heard that one of my lunch haunts, Smiley’s Public House, was hosting a beer drinker’s dinner with Sierra Nevada, we decided to check it out.

We’ve had the classic Pale Ale and the Torpedo IPA before, but the other three beers listed on the menu were new to us: Summerfest (pilsner-style lager), Kellerweis (American hefeweizen) and Bigfoot Ale (barleywine). Chris from Sierra Nevada stopped at Elizabeth Station in Bellingham on his way up and picked up some Southern Hemisphere (which we tried in NYC recently). Too bad Chris didn’t grab a few Hoptimum Double IPA – at 100 IBU, this beer should give you a good punch in the taste buds. We’ll have to source that one next time we’re in the USA.

Throughout the evening, Chris came around to the tables to describe the beers and provide more history on Sierra Nevada. We spent a considerable amount of time chatting with him and it was great to hear some of his stories as he’s been in the industry for quite some time.

On to the dinner and pairings…

Upon arrival, we were served the Summerfest and an amuse bouche – a fresh herb crusted prawn fried in meyer lemon butter. I found the meyer lemon to be an excellent choice as it gave a nice citrus tang to the prawn. It paired well with the Summerfest (5%) which was crisp and had a clean finish. The lager has a bit of a grassy aroma and subtle citrus hops.

First Course
Smoked Duck Breast & Watercress Salad – roasted shallots, sorrel, blood orange.
Kellerweis Hefeweizen (4.8%)

The duck was flavourful and as the chef had just picked up the watercress from the market that morning, the salad was exceptionally fresh. With a subtle amount of citrus dressing drizzled on top, this was a light salad and an excellent pairing to the Kellerweis. The Hefeweizen had strong banana odours, spices and maybe a hint of honey. The flavour of banana was even more prominent on the palate with a hint of cloves, but I didn’t experience the spice until the finish.

Second Course
Locally Made Charcuterie & Cheese
Pale Ale (5.6%)

A well-endowed platter of four cheeses, green olives, cherries, paté and cold cuts was shared amongst four people. The cheeses were beautiful! They oozed of flavour and the strong cheeses paired well with the Pale Ale. The same can be said for the meats – all had different flavours and textures and the spiciness of the cold cuts was a welcome addition. The Pale Ale is one that most of us have probably had, and it will likely always remain a classic beer for Sierra Nevada. With aromas of piney hops and caramel notes, these flavours carry through to the palate, along with citrus hops and slight bitterness. A fine representation of an American Pale Ale.

Main Course
Slow Roasted Organic Pork Loin, swiss chard, kale, cauliflower puree, carmelized apple jus
Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2%)

This little piggy came home - all juicy and succulent and now, in my belly. The pork was appropriately cooked to release the juices and enhance this well prepared meat. The cauliflower puree was a superb side dish and a pleasant substitute for potatoes. But considering I heard chef Alvin comment that there may be a bit of butter in the dish (maybe a lot?), perhaps it wasn’t intended to be a healthier substitute. As my Dad would attest, it’s always better with butter. The Torpedo Extra IPA is a bold IPA and offers complex citrus, grapefruit, pine and herbal notes. The expected malt is evident, as are caramel flavours, and this brew leaves nice lacing. This is one of our favourite Sierra Nevada beers.

Palate Cleanser?
Thanks to Chris’ detour to Elizabeth Station, we had another beer unexpectedly added to the menu. The Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale (6.7%). This beer is made with New Zealand fresh hops and has an essence of earthy hops, citrus and pepper. On the palate, it leaves with prominent bitterness. A well balanced beer.

Local Cherry & Nectarine Cobbler
Bigfoot Ale Barleywine (9.6%)

The cobbler had just the right amount of sweetness to it as you wouldn’t want to pair a very sweet dessert with the barleywine. We’ve tried various barleywines but hadn’t experienced Bigfoot until now. And by experienced, I mean a tasting, not an encounter in the woods with Bigfoot… This ale has a dense malty aroma, caramel, toasted grains and hops. Although this is a big beer at 9.6%, somehow the usual alcohol taste was less evident in this barleywine. A very nice example of a barleywine indeed!

The evening concluded with a draw for prizes and as the last number was drawn, bingo! My ticket. I scored the last prize and luckily it was a women’s t-shirt – all the other winners were guys (the dinner crowd had only a handful of women, sadly).

I believe this was Smiley’s first beer dinner and they did a great job serving about forty people in a timely fashion. The chef did a fabulous job appropriately pairing the beers to the food and we found the food portions were generous, served alongside a 4 oz pour. The dinner and pairing cost $40, including tax and tip, and was a good value. If Smiley’s continues with their beer dinners, check one out as this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

(apologies for the crappy pictures – iPhone and too much crowding on the table makes for poor food/beer pictures)

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