Literally two of my FAVORITE things on the planet. Who wouldn't love that combo? Ok beer folks, announcement! I am excited to tell you that today "starts" an ongoing series of reviews centered around the Master Pairings series at Stone Brewery with Certified Cicerone Dr. Bill Sysak and Executive Chef Alex Carballo. These two experts are "on a mission to enlighten the masses and elevate beer to its rightful place as the ultimate pairing beverage." Sounds like a plan to me.
Now why did I put "starts" in quotation marks? Because I have been fortunate enough to attend a Master Pairings before, Beer & Chocolate, and reviewed the glorious evening. CLICK HERE to see pics and highlights of this "evening of decadent delight."
Before the delicious festivities, I decided not a Belgian at the bar to rev up my palate and appetite:
Trappist Achel 8° Blond, 8% ABV: At first, not alot of aromatic profile. Gentle, subdued notes of yeast and hay. As it warmed, ripe tree fruit, mild spice, and the yeastiness emerge. This is why it is SO important to let beer warm a bit before tasting and reviewing. It is truly when you get the character and quality of a beer. When cold, delicate notes are lost and complexity is muted. Try drinking a Miller Light at room temperature and you'll get the idea. Yikes.
This is an easy drinker, perfect for the summer or as beer afternoon starter. Also a nice crossover to share with friends who are reluctant to try Belgian beers. I have a few of those...
Now, let the Master Pairings begin:
Uni Pepper Sake Shot (Sea Urchin, chilled sake, toasted pepper flakes)
Incredible! Wonderfully rich and decadent. The Uni is creamy and pairs beautifully with the smoothness of the sake. The pepper flakes provide a punch to the palate. And the finish? A wonderful seawater-sake-pepper combo.
Chilled Tako & Green Tea Soba Noodles (Poached octopus, miso vinaigrette, green onion, snap peas, blazei mushrooms) paired with Thiriez XXtra
The pairing: As an octopus lover, I was thrilled to see this on the menu. This course was a delightful array of textures. The crunch of the carrots, green onions, and peas contrasted the softness of the soba noodles and the chewiness of the octopus. What a brilliant gastronomic equation. The octopus, which arrived that day, was incredibly fresh and had a wonderful peppery coating, that complemented the pepper notes in the beer perfectly. And a refreshing Saison with day-fresh octopus? Yes please!
Ahi Tuna with ponzu and wakame salad, Wild King Salmon with cucumber, cilantro, and wasabi tobiko, Hiramasa (Yellowtail) with avocado chili oil, fried ginger, and marinated daikon paired with t'Smisje Wostyntje
Brouwerij de Regenboog t'Smisje Wostyntje (Belgian Wild Card) 7% ABV: Brewed with mustard seeds, this unusual beer is fantastic. What a rich, glorious nose! Wonderful honey and ripe fruit notes mingled with a bit of grassiness.
The pairing: A truly incredible trio of sashimi, each of them highlighting different aspects of the beer. THIS is what food and beer pairing is all about. The salty and sweet juxtaposition of the tuna with ponzu and seaweed salad perfectly drew the sweet notes of the t'Smisje.
The salmon might have been the freshest my lips have ever touched. It literally melted in my mouth like butter. Its rich fattiness beautifully draws out the honey notes in the beer, while the cucumber brings forth the brew's grassiness, not as evident with the tuna.
The yellowtail is absolutely amazing. Creamy and buttery, it actually makes the beer seem more vibrant! An amazing course.
Ebi (shrimp, cucumber, sriracha aioli, daikon sprouts) paired with Alpine Duet
The beer: Always a favorite of mine from Alpine Brewing. A veritable bouquet of fresh herbs and flowers. A refreshing jolt of citrus mingles with tree fruit to create a wonderfully inviting nose. Balanced and beautifully done, Alpine.
The pairing: The sweetness of the shrimp brings out the floral notes, with the citrus and hoppiness of the beer cutting through the heat and sweetness of the aioli.
Caterpillar Roll (BBQ eel, avocado, cucumber, and carrots in eel sauce) paired with Dieu du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps
The beer: Mmm. Dark honey, dried fig, caramel, spice, sausage with syrup. I swear! What a wonderfully rich nose. It reminds me of Vin Santo, one of my favorite dessert wines.
The pairing: This might be my favorite pairing of the evening. They are absolutely GORGEOUS together. Just imagine the sweetness of the eel and sauce playing off of the rich profile of the beer. The creaminess of the avocado made all the more smooth by the honey notes in the Printemps. I could go on and on...Brilliant!
BJ's Grand Cru (Strong Pale) 8% ABV: BJ's Restaurants Annual Grand Cru. Notes of sweet yeast, white pepper, bark, herbs, tropical fruit, and sweet spice.
The pairing: A deliciously exotic dessert! The Asian pear spiced with anise complements the gentle spices in the beer. The herbal notes of the brew are magnified with each delightful bite, and the fried dough draws out the yeasty, bready qualities of the Grand Cru. A wonderful ending to an INCREDIBLE Master Pairings.
Stay tuned for more Master Pairings in the future. And if you live in the San Diego area, please come out and join me!