A couple weeks ago I went to my first pairing dinner at Choice City Butcher and Deli, and it was fantastic. When the owner, Russ, invited me to join in on the Epic Brewingpairing dinner, there was no way I could say no. Especially when he started listing some of the menu items and beers that will be served. Epic Brewing out of Salt Lake City, Utah focuses on high alcohol content beers.
Which is odd considering where they are located. In Utah, the laws would not even allow the brewing of strong beer until 2008, and tasting at their “tap-less taproom” is only allowed with the purchase of food as anything over 4% ABV is considered a liquor or “heavy beer” by state law. Oh those crazy Mormons. Those of us in Colorado are more than happy to drink the 10% ABV beers such as Brainless on Cherries that is only available in “limited selection in state liquor stores” in Utah.
Having a beer dinner with 5 courses and such high alcohol beers can be tricky. Russ mentioned to me that he was having a hard time picking out beers under 8% for a couple of the pairings. I am sure he didn’t want to get everyone too drunk, but most likely no one would have minded. When I arrived at Choice City the night of the staff was moving quickly to set up glasses and get everyone seated. I was handed a Copper Cone Pale Ale, our first course, by server extraordinaire Colleen as soon as I walked in.
True to the name, it was copper in color and smooth. A few of my Beer Betty friends joined me, and as we were catching up Dan McQue walked in. Dan is planning on opening up Hoppy Dog Brewing Company in Fort Collins but has had issues finding a suitable space. He said he has a good lead on a space, but isn’t saying anything about it because he wants to wait until he is sure. So many other spaces have fallen through cracks in the past. This was a little deja vu of my nanny days and a mom waiting to tell people she was pregnant until they knew for sure. Breweries are the new babies.
We settled into our table and the second course came out quickly. A Berkshire pork cheek braised in root beer, topped with a grilled peach salsa on a tortilla round. By tortilla round they meant tortilla chip, but regardless it was delicious. A few of the ladies didn’t like the texture of the pork cheek as it is a fatty cut, but the salsa was bursting with fresh cilantro. The grilled peaches complemented the flavor of Brainless on Peaches. At 10.5%, this peach version of their golden belgian style ale has been one of my favorites since I discovered it last summer. Placed in white wine barrels with organic peach puree for the secondary fermentation, it creates a fun play on many different flavors.
Next, a small pour of Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout was set out. I didn’t even have to pick up the glass to smell the incredibly strong coffee aroma. It was like a fresh cup of coffee. I could barely find hints of malt, chocolate, or any other aromas. The taste was much more balanced. This big guy came with the biggest and most perfectly cooked steak I have ever eaten, a New York Strip cut rubbed in Harbinger coffee. The plate also had braubant potatoes and green beans. The beans were my favorite part of this dish, incredibly flavorful and crisp.
After the huge meat and potato dish, I was glad to see a cute little salad set in front of me. The mixed greens were topped with apples, walnuts, camembert croutons and a dressing that wasn’t listed on the menu. It was pretty generic, but still tasted good. I wasn’t a fan of the croutons, they were dry and had very little cheese for the size of the bread. Luckily, the Sour Apple Saison made this dish better. Fresh apple juice is added to the boil, which contributes to a dry cider like mouth feel to this 8% beer. This is the beer that made me fall in love with Epic Brewing. The tart taste of the apples and saison yeast was exactly like the fresh green apples in the salad.
Fifth and last course was a cute little cup of vanilla triffle, with a cinnamon and cardamon steeped orange on top. The spiced orange brought out the spice of the belgian yeast used in the Epic Wit, the beer for this pairing, while the vanilla cream mellowed it out. It was a beautiful contradiction. At the end of the meal I got a chance to talk with brewer Kevin Crompton about their brewery in Salt Lake City. Maybe my next road trip needs to be to Utah.
I was also able to sample Fermentation Without Representation, an imperial pumpkin porter and Elder Brett, a saison that uses brettanomyces yeast and is aged in Brainless on Peaches barrels. Both were delicious. It blows my mind that this
brewery can make so many vastly different beers and do them so well, while still being a young operation. I look forward to the things they will dream up in the future.
After the dinner we headed over to Pateros Creek Brewing Company with Cathy Jones, a Beer Betty and owner of PCBC, who had joined us for dinner. She showed us the new space that is under construction, right next to the current taproom. It will more than double the size of their tap room, and will still be private enough to rent out for events. You can contribute to their Community Funded campaign here to help get it done. Jason Harbinger, who provided the coffee for the third course and owns Harbinger Coffee also joined us at Pateros Creek. I keep hearing more and more about The Coffee Spot, his little shop in the lobby of 151 S. College, a few times before but rarely drink coffee. I will have to check it out the next time I have the urge for an iced mocha.
The next pairing event at Choice City will be August 28th featuring New Belgium Brewing Company.