Marriott & Leinenkugel's Craft Beer Dinner

Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 
Friend and colleague, AB, has recently joined the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown property as a sales manager, and I was thrilled to hear from her last week.  She called not only to tell the news, but to also invite the hubs and I to an evening with the wonderful Marriott staff.  Little did I know that this "beer dinner" would feature my home state love, Leinies!

Yes, I know.  Miller (I'm sorry, MillerCoors, that will take a while to get used to) now owns the Leinenkugel Brewing Company and you can get their product from all over.  However, my love for these beverages is true to the Chippewa Falls, WI nature.  From my first HoneyBear (combo of the Honey Weiss & Berry Weiss) at the Bar East to my parents delivering me cases in Massachusetts when I was in college (because at that point, you couldn't get it anywhere outside of Wisco, Illinois and maybe Minnesota), I've always enjoyed it.  So yes, I was excited for this dinner and the wonderful pairing of Marriott food and liquid refreshments.

After a bit of mingling, we sat down and began a walk through on the creation of beer.  Basic lessons ranging from the four main ingredients (barley, hops, water and wheat) to the history of Leinies. We were all anxious to begin, and just like that, the first appetizer came out and the pouring began.

We began with the Summer Shandy, which is an American specialty lager.  Great summer beer because of the lemony flavor and carbonation.  This refreshing beverage is currently only available in the summer (love the seasonals) and goes great with a light pairing.  For instance, how about tuna? (*Excuse the lack of photo, I don't know how I missed it, but if you try hard, you can see it in the upper left hand corner of the menu photo.  But thank you Leinenkugel website for allowing me to utilize your photo.)
The paired food was tuna tsoi, served over thinly sliced cucumber and topped with herbs and crisp lotus root.  The dressing of soy and honey were also included to complete the Asian taste of the dish.  I love tuna, so I was ecstatic with this combo.  I had never had lotus root and was excited to try something new.  The slight crunch was great as it added something to the tuna's texture, which was of a ground consistency.

The second course began with a pouring of my go-to Leinie's beverage - Honey Weiss.  Also a palette pleaser, you can taste the honey through this wheat lager.  It is available all year (which I don't believe was the case always...) and is my favorite when mixed with the Berry Weiss, which we'll get to later.  I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of Leinie's biggest sellers, it really is a refreshing beer.

The words "quesadilla" and "cheese" explain why the second course was the hubs favorite.  A uniquely presented steak quesadilla served with tomato jalapeno pico set the tone for the Mexican dish.  There was a drizzle of cayenne oil, which didn't have much spice to it, and a dollop of avocado mayo. Lots of cheese, I didn't really taste too much of the other quesadilla fillings, but the pico was perfectly seasoned.  The coolness of the avocado mayo was a great accompaniment to the final bites. 

The third pairing was one of my favorites, the Sunset Wheat.  The herb and spice wheat was, once again, I believe only available as a seasonal American Wheat at one point, but now you can purchase it all year long.  It is a perfect beer to match with a light but earthy dish as it cleanses your mouth with a spicey finish.  I really do enjoy it sitting by the lake on a fine Wisconsin (or any state) evening.  You can see the sampling pictured with the paired salad.

To compliment the Sunset Wheat, the chefs presented us with our salad course.  There was a Mediterranean theme going on as we were presented with a crispy flatbread wrap, stuffed with Spring greens.  This was a drop of goat cheese (you know how much I love goat cheese?!) and accompanied by blueberries, mandarin oranges, beets and pecans.  There was also a basil oil with citrus accompaniments which worked well to bring out all the fruit flavors.  The fried flatbread wasn't heavy at all and gave a perfect crunch (with the pecans) to the salad.  And of course, the goat cheese's smooth creamy finish perfectly cut the citrus.  This was my favorite - it was a great combination.

For the entree, we were served the vienna style lager, Classic Amber.  I normally do not drink this, and after tasting it again, I found myself asking 'why not?'  Its name says it all - a classic red lager that you could easily drink more than one of, with or without your all American meal.  But in this case, we were served the all American meal, and this lager really shined through to compliment the dish..

We were served a glazed pork chop with broccolini and baby yukon potatoes.  The rustic apple compote was a lifesaver, because unfortunately, the pork chop was quite dry.  The apples offered a sweet bite to compliment the bourbon glaze, but it still fell a little short.  There was something about the broccolini that really stood out, a spice that gave it a slightly sweet but rustic taste which would have been a perfect match if all the components were brought together.

Duo was the theme for the final course - dessert!  To showcase how beer can really compliment any dish, we were encouraged to really play with two Leinie's beers.  First, the Creamy Dark - dark lager (and my father's favorite) is smooth and not too heavy.  It was the perfect beer to match with something heavy (like chocolate cake) as the two tastes match really well.  The second, which is my second favorite (after the Honey Weiss) and other half to my HoneyBear, the Berry Weiss.  This fruity wheat is that - fruity.  Made from trio of WI berries (logan, elder and blackberry) it is now available all year long (so you can enjoy HoneyBear's every day!)

The food accompaniment was a duo of chocolate terrine and vanilla bean cheesecake.  The wafer included wasn't necessary, and it didn't have too much flavor. If anything, it just broke up the creamy texture of the two desserts. The raspberry puree was fantastic with the terrine adding a fruit companion to the deep chocolate.  There was a sort of ganache on one side, and it was luscious (but once again, those two beers made it that much better!)  I wasn't a huge fan of the cheesecake, and I think it was because I was disappointed in the vanilla bean flavor that wasn't standing out.  But vanilla and berries - a great combo for sure!

It was a great evening to enjoy some of my favorite beers, great food and even more fantastic company.  Much thank you to Chef Jennifer, as this was her first event as a chef!  She did a great job with the menu, and I look forward to seeing all the great things she does at the Marriott. 

A great big thank you to AB for inviting us, I look forward to seeing you more in the future!