Monday, April 21, 2008

Winner's Dinner

Victory Brewing Company from out in Downingtown enjoys success in the craft beer industry on two levels – on one hand they have a line of award winning beers with recognition worldwide as witnessed by judges from Los Angeles to London. On the other hand they treat their hometown crowd to a host of exciting beers on cask and in smaller release. Their lineup leans towards Germanic influence, but certainly doesn’t stop there; two of their most popular beers would be flung far from the Hofbräuhaus. So how do you really get a feel for what Victory is all about without bar hopping for a Boisterous here and a Victorious there?

Well, you go to a Victory beer dinner of course. Master of Ceremonies himself, Bill Covaleski gave a nice preview to Grain Bill here, in case you missed it. Armed with his master of marketing and a very boisterous restaurant manager the Victory show rolled into Wayne, PA on April 14th and set about pairing five of their beers with five plates from the kitchen of chef Andy Dickerson and company.

The evening kicked off with the customary Welcome Beer (one of my favorite beers in the whole beer game) and for this the delicious Moonglow, Victory’s weizenbock was chosen. It’s not every beer dinner you go to that offers up an 8.7 % welcome beer, but hey, this wasn’t every beer dinner. Seating was arranged ahead of time, as were all ticket sales, and for the sold out gathering of 25 or so, the whole thing was rather communal. Each table got to know each other as Teresa’s deft staff poured a bit more welcome into everyone’s glass. This would be the trend through the night and i don’t think i saw a glass empty for more than a second or two as pitchers and bottles came as if from a well. As the chats and introductions died down Bill Covaleski took to the floor with a few words about the brewery, the beer, and how much he enjoys beer dinners. From there it was all business in a dinner kind of way as each course followed right on the heels of the one it was trying to catch. Covaleski worked the room and the conversation at my table never seemed to cease.

The menu had the Teresa’s Next Door fingerprint all the way. As i have come to expect from Wayne’s first Belgicana gastro-pub, a lot of amazing things happen when you close the menu and open your ears up a bit. Sure, i’ve got a ton of favorites in the book, but between specials and their weekly pairing menu, a lot goes on there that people just seem to miss. Not to mention the late night staff meal. This being a case as such, the menu put together to pair with Victory’s offerings was a very good fit.

Moonglow Weizenbock
Welcome Beer

St. Boisterous
Victory’s Hellerbock paired with a seared day boat Scallop, preserved meyer lemon Boisterous butter and baby watercress.

St. Victorious
Dopplebock paired with an aged goat cheese puff pastry with French morel mushrooms on top.

Baltic Thunder
Baltic Porter with Grilled kangaroo loin, salt crusted fingerlings, baby leeks, asparagus, and porter reduction.

Old Horizontal
Barleywine with Colston-Basset stilton balls in a honey and grain cradle.

Homemade bourbon vanilla ice cream with V-Twelve soaked apricots, candied almonds, and a V-12 syrup.

Little known fact coming to light: i don’t think i have had a scallop in at least 15 years. No exaggeration. It might even be more. Certain things just don’t have an appeal to me and scallops are one of them. In my mind i just associate them as the rubber of the sea, little white pucks of chewiness that are basically an excuse to eat bacon. I don’t need excuses when bacon is around.

But I’ll be darned if i didn’t dive right into the scallop and Hellerbock pairing. The more i read about food and the more i read about beer, i really see that i have some opening up to do. So many fine pairings come recommended or by way of the reading i do and i am closed to them because i think i don’t like something i wasn’t into during the wise ages of my early teen years. So many chances to eat a beautifully cut piece of salmon or tuna have just passed me by. I read about their delicate flavors and i have just tuned them all out. Bad joel, you need to stop that. And so i will. I got 99 problems, but a fish ain’t one.

One thing is absolutely certain though. i will never eat yogurt again as long as i have a breath in my body and full function of my hands. Long story, one you certainly do not want to hear.

At the conclusion of the meal Dickerson’s kitchen staff was brought out for a well deserved round of applause which they seemed to enjoy. That is of course until a few insensitive individuals had to show their impressive understanding of the Spanish language. I could feel my skin tighten after a half heartfelt, “Gracias amigos” was followed by a few more ridiculous phrases bounced naturally off of well lubed tongues. Kind of a shame.

In all, the night seemed to be a hit. A lot of good conversation about Victory, about the beer industry, about the food sitting in front of us. It’s nice to experience beer on this level when you can. At the least it’s just not something you get to do everyday, at the most it’s a chance to see that beer is the almighty punctuation; capable of stealing the show, providing a foundation, or singing harmony.

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