Photo by Adam Ryan Morris
Your plate holds a shellfish chorizo with grilled octopus, leeks and candied orange. Note the aroma before taking your first taste of the accompanying Belgian ale. Upon sipping this delicate brew, turn your attention to the “mouthfeel”...
The age of beer dinners is here. It’s actually been here for some time – national trend-watchers called it the next big thing in 2008 – and chefs will still tell you complexity and finesse are not exclusive to wine. Roots, Tess, Sanford. These and other local upper-end joints were early adopters, offering at least a couple each year, whereas venues like Cafe Hollander and The Rumpus Room were crafted around their bar menus, making the occasional beer-dinner fete an absolute given.
Fermented feasts have also drawn the attention of locals outside the dining industry. North Shore electronics consultant and craft beer devotee John Lavelle started a dinner series earlier this year with the goal, he says, of “showcasing how unbelievably well beer pairs with food.” Five chefs – Roots’ Dan Jacobs and Sanford’s Justin Aprahamian among them – prepare courses tailored to local or regional beers. Seats at the $95 Sanford dinner back in February sold out in a few hours. Once the final meal of the Best of Milwaukee Beer Dinner series ends in October, Lavelle will go full-throttle into planning more iterations.
Events on the Horizon
Remarkably, WATER STREET BREWERY is doing its first beer dinner ever, with an event toasting the brewpub’s 25th anniversary. Six courses, with WSB beer pairings, will be available at the three locations (Aug. 7, 14 and 21). Cost: $50 per person or $90 per couple.
TESS, which hosts as many as 10 beer dinners each year, has scheduled its next pairing events for July 11 and Aug. 15 (the latter with Central Waters Brewing Co. from Amherst, Wis.). Four courses, $46 per person. (2499 N. Bartlett Ave., 414-964-8377)
The New Belgium Bier Dinner, held July 12 at CAFE HOLLANDER, features four courses, including mustard/pistachio-crusted seared lamb, washed down with Abbey Ale. $50 per person. (2608 N. Downer Ave., 414-963-6366)
Home of Crispin cider-braised pork belly, STUBBY’S PUB & GRUB teams with O’so Brewery (Plover, Wis.) for a five-course dinner July 18. $50 per person. (2060 N. Humboldt Ave., 414-763-6324)
Don’t be thrown by a convergence of beer and chocolate. Julie Waterman, owner of Waukesha’s INDULGENCE CHOCOLATIERS, hosted a tasting of her luxe chocolates with Chippewa Falls brewer Dick Leinenkugel last year. Waterman, who hopes to open her Shorewood retail store later this summer, helped tasters identify the notes of affinity in her confections and Leinie’s Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout. Expect more Indulgence beer tastings later this summer.
HINTERLAND ERIE STREET GASTROPUB’S six-course Nose to Tail Dinner is an heirloom pig-a-palooza. Each course, washed down with a Hinterland beer, highlights a different part of the animal. July 26. $65 per person. (222 E. Erie St., Suite 100, 414-727-9300)