Beer at a Wine Bar - Tastings & Sun King Brewing

Friday, October 15, 2010 - 
This past Wednesday, Tastings did something a little different.  Rather than have a wine experience, we were treated to a local experience of beer.  I've blogged about Sun King Brewing before - a few times really.  Hubs and I had our first Sun King experience at Scotty's, Hoosier Beer Geek had their anniversary there, and not to mention our many adventures to the tasting room on Friday's to fill our growlers.  They are the reason the hubby wanted a kegerator for his birthday - now we always have Sun King on tap.  So when this passion of ours teamed up with Tastings for our Wednesday night out, we were really excited.
Dave, one of the co-owners of the establishment, joined Steven (Tastings chef) to bring us great beer to be matched with great food.  To all of you who were unable to attend, you missed out on an experience.  Beer was flowing with generous pours and delectable food was noshed on - it was an indeed great evening had by all.


First Course - Homemade Pickles & Sunlight Cream Ale
I heart pickles, but I had no idea what I was about to enjoy.  There were five pickled items done five different ways.  A carrot with curry and honey was subtly sweet with a crunchy bite, cauliflower with dill and garlic was earthy in flavor with a touch of spice from chili pepper, cucumber with mint and sweet chili had the perfect acidic balance, turnip with caraway and cardamom was thinly slice and subtle in flavor, and an English breakfast radish with sesame and cilantro was a pleasant surprise as I never had this type of radish before.  All were so different in flavoring, but the main element of pickling was dominant making it a great treat.  And of course, goat cheese spread took this dish up one notch.  I slathered the spread (which was intensely creamy because of added mascarpone) not only on the pickled items but on the slice of rye bread we were given - and I don't normally like rye, but I ate this up.  It could have been the goat cheese - I do love the stuff.  Talk about a great food to drink beer with...speaking of...

Sunlight Cream Ale is not your standard cream ale.  Rather than having a "corny" meal taste to it, it is extremely smooth and very drinkable.  This is the kind of beer where you make those non beer drinkers sip, because you never know, they may change their minds.  This 'accidental' beer was made to be a seasonal, but because of the demand (from people like me) they just couldn't take it off the tap and kept producing it.  This is in our keg at home right now and continues to make me happy.

Second Course - Mushroom Gnocchi with Fall Flavors & Wee Mac Scottish Ale
I love fall, so any mention of fall flavors puts me into instant happiness.  The earthy and thick flavors of Steven's gnocchi delivered happiness because of a few things.  These weren't your standard gnocchi's as they were overflowing with flavors of ricotta, porcini mushrooms and hazelnut pesto in their free formed shapes.  I loved the crunch from the hazelnuts because I normally see gnocchi as something I get "bored" of rather quickly - but not with these texture elements.  Basil and parmesan were apparent, but not in the normal pesto way, keeping the dish to an earthy edge.  Roasted butternut squash cream sauce gave a sweeter and buttery finish to the dish.  I immediately wanted to remember that taste, because that cream sauce would be amazing on any pasta dish.  Hubs was chatting it up with Dave, and I was tempted to steal some of his, but alas, RN told me no. 

To match this earthy dish, we were poured glasses of Wee Mac Scottish Ale.  This variation of a brown ale is subtly hoppy in taste with undertones of a brown ale, like hazelnut, which is why it was so perfect with the gnocchi. It was great in cleansing the buttery and sweet gnocchi, making you want to keep switching back and forth with the taste combination.  I always have appreciated Wee Mac, but after the pairing, I see myself drinking a bit more.  Always on tap, this ale is perfect for any fall meal.

Third Course - Portuguese Poached Seafood & Bitter Druid ESB
The smell of this dish encompasses all of the flavors within in - a spiced broth.  The broth came from steaming littleneck clams in the ESB with some citrus and paprika.  I could taste the paprika, but Steven had to clue me in because I had a hard time concentrating on a single element of this dish.  It was fantastic to dip the sourdough croutons in as they soaked in the liquid.  The seafood consisted of the clams and some shrimp and though both were overcooked for me, they had great flavor and a subtle spiciness that was taken from the broth.  Crispy chorizo was a great element of surprise because of the addition of texture.  Spicy in flavor, there was also a sweetness, which helped balance the bitterness of the beer.

The smooth Bitter Druid ESB was our pairing, and Dave informed us that that smooth flavor is because there isn't the normal caramel, but a combination of two other hops (I believe he said toasted biscuit and glacier, but I can't be certain.)  I'm not a huge bitter beer drinker, and I have no reason why.  But this variation of hops is an education into the world of hops and I look forward to drinking more of this.

Fourth Course - Blood Orange Sticky Beef & Osiris Pale Ale
For those who do not like cold noodles, this dish is a reason why you should.  Noodles that are spicy and topped with a blood orange and sweet chili braised steak?  Even better reason.  The steak tasted of sweet citrus but spicy at the same time, contradicting the cold noodle  temperature.  Toasted sesame oil can be used sparingly to create a great impact, which is exactly what it did when combined with the citrus and cilantro combination of the noodles.  Quick Kim chi was on top making this dish complete (want to know more about kim chi, you should read Fun & Fearless, she is amazing with Korean food!)

Matched was the Osiris Pale Ale - my dad's favorite.  Hoppy with a hint of rye, this is a West Coast version that Dave said was "made for me, by me."  Three different hops are used to give this pale ale that hoppy edge that it has, and it stood up to the great dish Steven prepared.  Go try this one out at the tasting room for sure - if you like hops, you won't be disappointed.

Dessert Course - Indiana Bananas Foster & "Big H" Hefeweizen
Bananas and chocolate.  Delicious.  But when you throw in a "Big H' battered banana fritter, you get a deliciously fried piece of dough.  Crispy, bursting with flavors of spiced bananas.  Coated with a sugar flavored with orange zest, the fritter was then topped with a caramel-triple sec whipped cream and abuelita chocolate sauce.  Subtle in heat, cayenne added a layer of flavor to the chocolate sauce that was seasoned with cloves.  Banana and cloves flavors - this dish screamed to be paired with the beer of choice...

The "Big H."  One of the best hef's I've ever tasted.  My favorite beer type for sure, Hef's are my default brew when I'm just not sure what kind of beer I want.  And I would hands down make Sun King's Hefeweizen one of my default hef's.  This Bavarian style wheat was strong in clove and banana flavors and had the distinct look of an orange cloud in a glass.  Fantastic brew. As our stomachs were full and our cheeks were pinked, we were then given a surprise.  Tastings is adding a tap of one of Sun King's fantastic brews! As a group, we were able to vote on which one we wanted.  My vote?  The Big H.  Yes, this seasonal brew will only be out for a few more weeks, so I'm assuming that would mean we get all the seasonal treats from Sun King, correct?  Either way, I'd be happy to get a pint of any of these beers.

Sun King Brewing has many great events planned at their brewery in the upcoming weeks.  Their Tasting Room is always a good time, where you are able to get samples of brews, fill up your growler (purchase one if you don't have one, then fill it for a nominal fee, enjoy and then repeat) and meet some great people who are passionate about their product.  And remember - local is good.

Tastings has a great line up as well - make your reservations before they sell out!
  • 10/27 - Quoth Ravenswood: "Nevermore" 
  • 11/3 - Regional Series: The Wines of Oregon
  • 11/10 - Winemaker Series: An Evening with Morgan Winery
  • 11/17 - Blind Tasting
  • 11/24 - Progressive Series: Turkey Day  *If you are planning on staying in town for the Turkey holiday weekend - hubs & I would love to have friends join us for this evening!*