Back last Sunday (10/19) at UpStairs on the Square over in Harvard Square BeerAdvocate sponsored a 4 course brunch of “southern-style soul food w/ a twist” where each course was paired up with a beer specially chosen for the dish. Amazingly, this was the first official beer/food pairing I’d ever attended. Man, was it a good start.
1st Course: Cheesy grits and bacon paired with Avery 14’er ESB
I’ve never had grits before and if this is what I’ve been missing I’ll be moving down south tomorrow. Sadly, I’m guessing traditional grits are not dosed with shredded cheese and smoked bacon so looks like another Boston winter for me. Avery’s ESB was a great pairing with it’s easy going hop bitterness to cut the richness of the grits. It had a decent malt backbone with kept the hops from over powering everything.
2nd Course: Shrimp étouffée egg dish with a side of collard greens and corn bread paired with Neumarketer Lammsbrau Pilsner
This was a curious little dish. Sort of a creole take on eggs Benedict. A poached egg and collard greens were set atop of a big square of cornbread with all of it doused in a spicy, shrimp-laden sauce. As tasty as the dish was the Lammsbrau Pilsner that accompanied it wowed me more which was surprising given that pilsners aren’t usually the type of beer that bowls me over. This organic German pilsner was flavorful in an almost floral way with a crisp finish and a bright feel. Apparently it’s not all to easy to get a hold of around Boston, but I’ll be in search of it.
3rd Course: Chicken and waffles with a side of mac’n’cheese paired with Southampton Pumpkin Ale
Finally, the much talked about chicken and waffles, which according to some discussion around the room this version was a bit different in that it was served with gravy. Apparently, it’s more common with syrup. I can understand why you would use syrup, but really I think that would have been too much especially with the Southampton Pumpkin Ale. Given that the beer is on the malty and sweet side I think syrup would have made the whole thing a bit cloying. But the savory gravy and the chicken balanced out the sweetness in the waffle and the beer. All the ingredients were playing nicely in this dish. The mac’n’cheese was simple and tasty, but was almost an after thought for me. I think the little custard dish it came in would have been better served filled with a side of gravy because even though the chicken was moist and juicy the waffle was on the dry side, tasty though it was.
4th Course: Bourbon pecan pie with vanilla ice cream paired with Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout
In all honesty I could have cared less about the pecan pie only because it’s never been a favorite of mine. All I really wanted was Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée. The pie was rich and buttery; plenty tasty with a dollop of vanilla ice cream that tasted like it might have had a bit of spice in it. They had nothing on the Southern Tier. And to answer your question: Yes, it does taste like crème brûlée. It was like having a second desert. The conversation around the table wondered how exactly the beer came about. Was it a case of someone at the brewery having the idea of specifically brewing a crème brûlée beer or was it simply an experiment to create an imperial milk stout and the end result just happened to taste like crème brûlée? We leaned towards the happy accident theory. Regardless, this is an amazing beer for those who can handle the sweetness. If you do pick up a bottle be sure to have a friend or two to share with as it only comes in 22oz. bombers and there’s no way one person should or could consume an entire bottle on their own.
All in all it was an amazing meal. Great food, great beers, and lots of great conversation. I would highly recommend attending any future beer events there if you have the chance. It looks like the next one is going to be a beer dinner November 19th themed: From Russia with Love. Take a guess on the food and beer to be served? If you go be sure to speak the entire time à la Sean Connery in Red October.
“One ping only.”