Beer dinners are an amazing part of the craft beer community. Not only are you served a delicious multi-course meal that was created for that special night, but you also get to drink a different beer with each course that was expertly chosen to complement the dish.
Some craft beer drinkers tend have a casual attitude towards beer dinners because they’re pretty common, but as a vegetarian, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day a brewery and a restaurant team up to host a beer dinner for the other 7.3 million of us. So when Saint Arnold Brewing Company hosted a vegetarian beer dinner at Swoop House last week, there was no way I’d miss it.
As people arrived for the dinner and mingled in the beautifully decorated Swoop house, they satisfied their rumbling bellies with some passed hors de’oeuvres, which included Achiote Jack Fruit and Black Bean Tostadas with Queso Fresco and Wild Mushroom Ajillo Empanadas with Cilantro Crema. Both appetizers were tasty but not too filling, and the jack fruit and mushrooms gave each food item a thicker texture that was a good substitute for meat. But the best hors de’oeuvres was the Corn and Tortilla Soup Shooter. Topped with an avocado sauce, the soup was silky with a touch of spice that was offset well by the avocado and easy to drink down. It took everything in me not to lick the glass clean.
When everyone settled into their seating, course one, a Hearts of Palm & Melon Ceviche Salad, was served. Paired with Saint Arnold’s Weedwacker, the salad was a perfectly light and refreshing dish to start the meal. The little cubes of honeydew, cantaloupe and hearts of palm were soaked in a sweet and spicy melon juice, which was balanced nicely by the sweet, fruitiness of the hefeweizen. The meal was topped with a seasoned tortilla chip, which gave the dish that extra crunch.
As everyone finished spooning up the last drops of that sweet ‘n spicy melon juice, course two was served. The dish consisted of Calabacitas Tamales with Black Bean Sauce, Salsa Verde & Mayan Onion with a glass of Saint Arnold’s flagship beer, the Amber Ale. Sitting on a creamy bean sauce and spicy verde sauce, the moist tamales were filled with corn, onions, and zucchini, and rather than crumbling on the plate, they melted in your mouth. Combined with the caramelly Amber, the dish covered all flavor bases.
Course four rocked my world. I’ve never been a fan of chile rellenos, but the Butternut Stuffed Chile Relleno with Pepita Cream Sauce was unlike anything I’ve tasted before. Even though the pepita sauce brought a little more spice than some could handle, it was balanced perfectly with the creamy butternut squash inside the chile. The hoppy Elissa IPA was also a great heat diminisher.
Course five – Adobo Eggplant Enchiladas with Blistered Cherry Tomato Salsa, Peppery Arugula & Rainbow Carrot Slaw – came out of the kitchen hot, smelling like heaven and served with Saint Arnold’s Oktoberfest, which was just released this month. The eggplant filling had the perfect texture – not too mushy and not too crunchy – and the spicy tomato salsa with the sweet cherry tomatoes was phenomenal, which is a lot coming from a person who despises tomatoes. Paired with the cooling slaw and malty Oktoberfest, the dish was perfectly balanced.
The meal concluded with the only non-alcohol dish: a root beer float with Saint Arnold’s Root Beer and fresh made coconut ice cream. I had already been sinking into a food coma at this point, but the dessert sealed the deal. The ice cream was silky and the perfect base for the float.
Overall the dinner was unforgettable. Vegetarians rarely get treated to such extravagant meals because it’s hard to craft a meal that contains no meat and still leaves you feeling satisfied. Every dish was creative, flavorful and perfectly paired with a great craft beer. The one and only complaint from the whole night was my wish that Saint Arnold had brought out the big guns with some of their Icon beers.
With the success of this dinner, the brewery has expressed interest doing more of these veggie-friendly meals, so hopefully Icon will make an appearance next time. Fingers crossed!
CAUTION: Photo gallery below may induce drooling.