The beer may not have been local but the food certainly was, born from the palette and creativity of Chef Kevin Barnette. The truth is we were drawn to this event by the beer. Lagunitas is one of Sarah’s favorite craft breweries. She is happy to report she will be returning for future beer dinners at JoJo’s Restaurant and Tap House anticipating a delicious meal too.
Our Lagunitas host for the evening, Bernie, was off and running even before the first beer hit the table. The evening started with the New Dogtown Pale Ale, one of the brewery’s first offerings. The chef paired this beer with some crawfish and saffron rice croquettes with cajun brown sauce. The beer was very hoppy and rather assertive, it cut through the spiciness of the dish nicely. The croquettes were a great start to our meal, very rich and flavorful.
Our next course was on the lighter side, a very good counter to the heavy croquettes. Before us appeared a piece of lemon ginger glazed salmon on top of a seaweed salad. The chef paired this with the Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale. The beer, Bernie called it, a “pretty hoppy American strong ale” had a sweet initial sip which quickly disappeared to make way for a flavorful bitter finish. The salmon was perfectly baked and the lemon ginger glaze was slightly sweet which went very well with the sweetness of the malt flavor in the beer. There was a pretty incredible story behind the name of this beer and Lagunitas owner recently penned a book with all sorts of stories that make up history of the brewery.
Next we made room for a plate of aged hanger steak with avocado horseradish mousse, butter poached radishes and spicy potato gratin. This was paired with the Lagunitas IPA. When the beer was released in 1995, it was actually considered “homicidally hopped.” Now not so much. This course was another very nice pairing of spicy (potatoes and horseradish mousse) and hops. If we learned anything that evening it was this pairing note, hops and spice go well together. The radishes were a perfect light, palette cleanser between the delicious meat & potatoes.
Yet another savory course followed. Chef Kevin paired one of our favorite beers, the Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale, with some parmesan crusted bison meatballs which were luxuriously covered in a fontina mornay sauce. Chef Kevin also added a little bit of chorizo to these meatballs for a little extra flavor. This beer was our introduction to the Lagunitas brewery and is a really hoppy wheat beer. It played particularly nicely with the rich, creamy sauce as it’s a somewhat creamy beer, and together allowed for some of the subtle grapefruit flavor in the beer to come out.
Finally time for dessert, we were treated to two fresh fig and peach turnovers with a pomegranate gastrique swirl and a glass of the Wilco Tango Foxtrot Imperial Brown Ale. (If they were being traditional in their use of the military alphabet it would be “whiskey, tango, foxtrot” but the brewery didn’t want there to be any confusion.) The band Wilco did contact the brewery about the name, they loved it. Chef Kevin intended the flavors in the turnovers and the beer to compliment each other. After such a savory meal, we appreciated that dessert wasn’t overly sweet. It did have a nice tart finish from the pomegranate gastrique that was very pleasant too. Bernie described the beer as a dark roasted beer made with some special malts with nutty, chocolately undertones that still has that signature Lagunitas hoppy finish. It was really a great conclusion to our delicious meal. We left happily stuffed and a little tipsy (there was no skimping on the food or beer potions.)
The other cool takeaway from this evening, to heighten our home beer-drinking experiences, Bernie suggested growing our own hop plant and adding some of the fresh hops to the bottom of your glass before pouring the beer. We’re adding it to the list of things to test our green thumb on because that sounds awesome.