Collaboration beer dinner



Collaboration Beer Dinner  Forager, Surly, Fulton and Toppling Goliath

I just attended my first collaboration beer dinner at Forager Brewery’s pop up kitchen hidden in the back of their Kutzky Market venue. The event featured gourmet food from Forager chefs paired with beer from Forager, Surly, Fulton and Topping Goliath. Going into this, I figured I’d like the beer, but I was a little worried about the food. I’m not always so keen on gourmet cooking. And Forager’s thing is to go out and forage for ingredients for their food and beer. Yes, like go out into the woods and find things, or go knocking on farmers’ doors to see if they can collect things growing along the side of the road. But, there wasn’t anything they served that I wouldn’t eat. We had five courses, each plate perfectly paired with a beer. The Surly beer rep didn’t make it because it was raining – hmmmm, but there were reps from Fulton and Toppling Goliath there to talk about their beer and their breweries. Before I go further, I’m adding a disclaimer. I can’t remember even 1/10th of what I was told about the food and drink. Poetic descriptions were given for each course, but I wasn’t able to listen fast enough to remember every detail. I’m also not a flowery writer, so my descriptions are not going to really due justice to the experience. But, I’ll try, and if you want to hear a better version, find yourself a similar dinner to attend. I’d highly recommend it.

Course 1: Soup and Sour

We had a cold soup with some amazing pickled radishes in it. I didn’t think I liked radishes, but these were good. It had a asparagus and other things too. The soup was paired with a beer that Forager made with plums that they foraged from the woods. The plums had a yeast growing on their skins that helped naturally ferment this sour beer. I remember it had some sage in it too. For a sour beer, it was amazingly drinkable. I’ve tried some before that make you pucker and well, almost gag, but this had just the right level of sourness. It paired perfectly with the soup. Jordan Bell, the head chef and Austin Jevne, the head brewer gave much better descriptions that I can.

Course 2: Pork Belly and Coffee Bender

Jordan Bell outdid himself with the pork belly dish. It was paired with Surly’s Coffee Bender. “Oh why oh why do they need to put coffee in beer?” asks this non-coffee drinker. For this beer, Surly adds Guatemalan coffee, locally roasted, to its staple Bender oatmeal brown ale. Even for someone who isn’t fond of coffee, the Coffee Blender went well to offset the fattiness of the pork. The pork, by the way, was much more than just a hunk of pork. It was served over the top of some special vegetables that I’ve forgotten and drizzled with a homemade Worcestershire sauce. The Worcestershire sauce had its roots in the heads and other waste parts of fish that they used in other Forager dishes. Yes, I ate it, even though it had fish sauce made with fish heads. The pork really melted in your mouth. You didn’t need to use your knife.

Course 3: Burn Your Tongue Pasta and Mosaic IPA

Okay, this one almost did me in. It was homemade pasta served with locally grown greens. Okay so far. The pasta was marvelous. But, the chili sauce was way too spicy for this Minnesota gal. It had a great flavor, but this Minnesota tongue and throat really couldn’t tolerate it. The mustard sauce that was beneath the rest of the food, helped calm the spice a little, as did the greens, but my mouth was on fire to the point that I was uncomfortable. I was really wishing I’d been wearing a pretzel necklace, had saltines in my purse, or had a glass of milk. The lady next to me was originally from New Orleans. She had no problem whatsoever. The dish was paired with Fulton’s 300 Mosaic IPA. If you have read my previous beer posts, you’ll know that I am not a big fan of IPAs. And with an IBU of 74 (international bitterness  unit – 74 is pretty high) I was really worried that I would hate it, but instead I was wishing I had a bigger glass of it. Okay, part of that reason was that my mouth needed quenching, but I also found the 300 to be pretty good. If I try long enough, I may learn to like IPAs.

Course 4: Beef Sausage and Sherpa

Next came a beef sausage (sorry that I forgot to take a picture before I cut mine up, but picture a dark colored bratwurst). It was served over a sweet potato creation. Fantastic sausage. It was made with grass fed beef and coffee. Here we go with the coffee again. But I didn’t taste the coffee in the sausage. It was paired with Forager’s Sherpa’s Survival Kit which is an American Double Stout made with, you guessed it, coffee. I guess to be a real craft brew drinker, I’ll need to learn to like both coffee and IPAs. When I had the Sherpa previously, it was sans food. I really enjoyed it a lot more when it was complimenting the sausage. I guess it is true when they say that a particular beer pairs well with a particular kind of food. Maybe that isn’t just a marketing ploy. Further experimentation may be needed.

Course 5: Dessert and more Mosaic

I was so full by now, but the dessert was outstanding. The dessert chef gave us a sampling of sorbet, a flan-like custard, and marinated fruits, topped with a chocolate crumble. It was paired with Toppling Goliath’s Pompeii IPA. The citrus fruits in the dessert, for example pineapple, worked well with this mosaic hop IPA. Okay two mosaic hop beers in one night. What’s up with that? As should be expected, I guess, along with the boom in craft brewing comes a boom for supporting industries. The hop business is exploding. It seems that new varieties are being developed all the time to keep up with the growing demand for hops and the demand from consumers for variety in their beer. According to YCHHOPS, the Mosaic hop was developed by Hop Breeding Company and released in 2012. It has gotten good reviews from brewers for being versatile, working in several types of beer, and for having “a fruit forward character with a nice in your face aroma.” Anyway, mosaic hops seem to be trending right now.

And an after dinner drink…

To top off the very satisfying five-course dinner, Austin Jevne served up a special honey-barrel-aged beer. This had an extremely high alcohol content and is meant for sipping rather than guzzling. Because Forager is a brew pub and not making large quantities of beer for resale, they can mess around with things like this. They make it in small batches. The honey barrels they reuse only hold five gallons, so that means that there is a lot of surface area for the beer to be in contact with the wood and take on more of the honey flavor. He commented that most people wouldn’t want more than one six-ounce glass at a time, but I have to disagree. This is my favorite kind of beer. I kidded Austin (by this time in the evening, I was on a first name basis even though he has no clue who I am) asking if I could get a growler of the stuff to go and he laughed and said, “maybe in five years.” Well then, I think I’ll need to remember to check back on that in five years.

I’d go again

This was a very enjoyable 2 1/2 hour 5-course meal. Our friends were good dinner companions and the event was unique. It is a great experience to really stop and think about what you are eating and drinking… to really enjoy and savor the tastes. It was educational to hear the details of the food and the beer that we were ingesting. And it was nice getting to talk directly to the beer guys. The Toppling Goliath guys told me that they have a nice barrel-aged I can try sometime, but I’ll have to go to Decorah to get it. I think a spirits (barrel-aged beer) and spirits (Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum) field trip may need to be on the agenda. But that will be a story for another day. For now, I’ll end today saying that I’d definitely attend another collaboration dinner event like this if I had the chance.

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