Wine pairing dinner events have been around for ages, but a fantastic new growing trend is beer pairing dinners. With the explosion of craft breweries all around Minnesota (and the nation), more and more chefs are exploring the vast variety of flavors available and finding those perfect dishes to pair with the latest IPA's, stouts, and saisons in the market.
The first course was a seasonal citrus salad with blood oranges, paired with Badger Hill's amazing Blood Orange Traitor IPA. It was a perfect combination to get the meal going.
The second course was called Drunken Scallops. Seared scallops with an incredible roasted fennel puree. This course was paired with Badger Hill's MinneAle (which was also used in the puree). MinneAle is a light, Kolsch-style ale, similar to an American style lager but with a strong German malt flavor. It worked perfectly to highlight the light flavor of seared scallops and brighten the amazing fennel puree.
For the meat course, we had a seared & smoked beef tenderloin with a chimichurri sauce and polenta cake, paired with the limited release Tripel Abbey Ale. The tenderloin literally came apart with a fork, it was so tender. It was served cold and the smoky flavor worked incredibly well with the bold chimichurri sauce. The Tripe Abbey Ale is a very traditional Belgian style ale - typically not my favorite style, but with this pairing, the yeast driven earthy flavors and mild spices really complimented the flavors in the tenderloin and polenta cake.
The pasta course was probably my favorite of the night. It was a gnochetti (mini-gnocchi) in a Carbonara sauce, with spring peas and something I'd never had before: duck bacon (that's the duck bacon that kind of looks like a moth on the bottom of the pic). I loved the gnochetti - the smaller size really helped the overall texture of the dish - but the duck bacon was absolutely the star. Perfect flavor, not too crispy, and cut through the rich Carbonara sauce. This was paired with my go-to Badger Hill beer - High Road Everyday Ale. High Road is a 'sessionable' ale - meaning it's on the lower end of Alcohol By Volume (5.0% ABV) - and it's a very well balanced drink that has a little something for everyone. Nice hop profile, but not overly hop-heavy, and lots of tropical/citrus notes. Growlers of High Road are my favorite for tailgating or warm afternoons out on the deck.
The final course - the dessert - was a coffee chocolate cookie with salted caramel, and ice cream and chocolate sauce made with Foundation Stout. Yeah, it was as good as it sounds (and looks). Foundation Stout already features notes of coffee, chocolate, and caramel, so pairing it with these flavors just accentuated and highlighted all those notes. The sea salt crumbles on the cookie were an absolute treat. If you're a fan of the darker, maltier beers, you need to go grab a 6-pack of Foundation this weekend.
All in all, Chef Tina did an amazing job of matching up Badger Hill's incredible brews with innovative and unique dishes.
If you haven't been to a beer pairing dinner - keep an eye out for opportunities in your area, and for more on Minnesota's booming craft beer scene, listen to my other show, The Minnesota Beercast.