This has been long overdue for a write up. Thankfully I took mad notes during this dinner that even though it's a little over a month after the fact, I still feel like I just came back from this dinner.
It's taken me a little over a month to get this written for a couple of reasons. This beer dinner took place the week of our Belgian Beer Festival. So during the week I had zero time to sit down and write this out. The next week I was off to Las Vegas to celebrate my 30th Birthday. And right after that I was right back out to the west coast to San Francisco for the FoodBuzz Blogger Festival.
Now that I have settled down a bit, I can give this post it's proper dues.
Why was this beer dinner called Gallia Belgica (Gal-ee-ah Bel-gee-ka)?
I had a brave idea to ask one of our favorite restaurants Eastern Standard, to a beer dinner. Word on the street was, it would never happen. But I couldn't imagine why they wouldn't. They feature good beers for a high end restaurant. A slow moving trend for fine dinning is to serve good craft beer. Not only does Eastern Standard serve good beer, but also make mind blowing beer cocktails. Yes actual cocktails with beer as the base and high end bitters and liquors to enhance them. You have to be there to see it and try it.
I ran into a former waiter from Eastern Standard who overheard me talking about this grand plan for a dinner at Eastern Standard. I asked him if it could be done since there hadn't been beer dinner there before. He said "Yes Garrett will do it.... But only if the concept is so HOT." Oh great. The only super awesome concept I had come up with recently was for The American Psycho beer dinner. Yes, based on the movie. "It's a laugh riot." And totally would be a "laugh riot" with all the ideas we came up with for it. But I knew I couldn't bring the "laugh riot" to one of the hottest restaurants in Boston and expect this to fly. And then relaxed knowing that the Belgian Beer Fest was soon upon us and all the amazing brewers that would be in town to woo ES with.
When I approached Garrett Harker and Jackson Cannon of Eastern Standard (the owner and bar manager extraordinaire) to do a beer dinner with BeerAdvocate.com, I needed to make sure I had a good strong concept for the dinner. I almost always do a themed beer dinner or have a main concept that the dinner is following. Since we were going to have a big collection of brewers in town for the BBF, I decided a Belgian theme would be perfect. I did not however, want to do a traditional Belgian beer dinner. No Belgian waffles, or Moules et frites. I know how good they are, but it's so typical that the last thing I wanted for the first beer dinner Eastern Standard has ever had, was to be typical.
Garrett said yes and showed us a new private dining room they had acquired for the restaurant capable of seating up to 75 people. Perfect timing for us.
I came across the name Gallia Belgica while searching for traditional Belgian food. Looking for anything not mussels and waffles. I found a Wikipedia page talking about old Roman history and provinces. A quick passage from Wikipedia:
I loved the name and thought it sounded cool for this kind of format. It also freed us from rigid borders. We could go an old, rustic route with the food and and add some modern twists. This concept is exactly reflected in our menu for this dinner.
As for the beers, well that was easy. I immediately called Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey after Garrett said yes to the dinner. Then I called Patrick Rue from the Bruery, Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing Company, Rob Tod of Allagash, Duvel, and Dann Paquette of Pretty Things.
Picking Dann Paquette was an easy choice but I had to go back in and meet with Jackson and Garrett to discuss the beers and we had everyone on board but were still down one beer. Garrett had told me to run with the beer, and I had to call people ASAP to make sure they hadn't booked other dinners for the BBF. When I told the guys that we would have two locals, with Will and Rob Tod, and two well respected Cali brewers who specialize in Belgian beers, plus Duvel we had a well shaped dinner a head of us. But then I said I wanted to talk about bringing in a good friend of mine (Dann) who just came out with a new beer project called Pretty Things. Jackson immediately said "yes!" It was exactly what he was thinking and hoping we could bring to the table. I was very happy and exited that Dann's beers would be part of the dinner. The other brewers are some heavyweights in the industry and Dann deserved some credit for his long standing history. And for how amazing in such a short period of time his new beer project has received good word and accolades all over Boston and the New England area. Now we were ready to go.
Jackson and I hand picked the beers for the dinner. We carefully made sure that each beer was different in style from one and other but was a good representation of classic Belgian styles.
Duvel, Brouwerji Duvel Moortgat (Belgian Strong Pale)
Baby Tree, Pretty Things (Belgian Style Quad)
Curieux, Allagash (Bourbon Barrel-aged Tripel)
Sgt. Pepper, Cambridge Brewing Co. (Saison/ Farmhouse Ale)
Red Poppy, Lost Abbey (Flanders Oud Bruin)
Barrel-Aged Autumn Maple, The Bruery (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
Perfect bite size appetizers that worked really well with the Duvel. The light sweet taste, the sweet steel-y malts of the beer work well with fish and other sea food. The crisp, cold carbonation cut through the oils of the fried oysters, and the oils in the trout to let the sweet malts and hops play with the flavors of the oyster and trout.
At our tables, Duvel presented with Duvel bottle openers.
A quick look at the menu.
Jackson Cannon opened the dinner and welcomed out guests and brewers to the event. Then introduced Dann and Martha Paquette of Pretty Things.
Olive oil poached Arctic Char with Alyson's Apples and Curry Purée paired with Pretty Things Baby Tree.
This was a delicate pairing. The beer is a 8.7% abv Belgian style Quad made with dried plums. It's very fresh tasting and crisp for a quad. Most Belgian Quad's are big, alcoholic, and cloying on the palate with big malts. This beer does none of those things. It's one of the most enjoyable quads out there. The plums or prunes are present in the beer to add nice flavor without overpowering and making the beer a fruit beer.
It worked well with the pairing despite being a big quad with a fish pairing. However, it was a bit borderline. The beer was almost too big. But with this pairing, the apples, trout, and the curry purée all needed to be on the fork in one bite. You needed all the flavors to pull this pairing together. The only qualm was that there wasn't enough curry purée on the plate. As someone who isn't a fan of curry, this is one variation of it that I could handle. It was very delicate and light.
Berkshire Pork and Lamb Terrine paired with Allagash Curieux.
The terrine was served with pickled onions, whole grain mustard and sliced of a French baguette. Allagash Curieux is a 11% abv Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tripel.
This was an excellent contrast pairing. The beer is soft around the edges from being aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels. It has big wood notes on the nose and heavy vanilla. The pickled onions on the plate added a brillaint sharp contrast to the beer. This helped keep the beer at bay from dominating the palate with all the bourbon and vanilla flavors. The salty meats and tartness from the mustard also had this same effect of contrasting with the beer allowing all individual flavors to present themselves.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras Stuffed Vermont Rabbit paired with Cambridge Brewing Company's Sgt. Pepper.
Jackson introducing Will Meyers, Brewmaster of Cambridge Brewing Co.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras stuffed Vermont rabbit with wild mushroom ragout and sparrow arc potatoes paired with Sgt. Pepper. A 6% abv Saison-Style farmhouse ale with peppercorns.
Sgt. Pepper is quite a unique beer. I have had some beers made with pepper and it can be good or it can be bad. Pepper is hard to get right in beer because it has a tendency to completely overwhelm the beer and all other flavors it may have. This was not the case with the beer. The pepper was upfront in the nose and definitely present in as the first thing you taste, but not dominating. It has four different peppercorns in it. Pink, white, green, and black. It had a little bit of a heat kick to it from the peppercorns. It was lightly sweet an delicate underneath the peppercorns.
The rabbit was fantastic. To me this was one of the best pairings of the night. The salty meat and rich fatty foie gras was amazing. The meat was nice and soft. It was as though Sgt. Pepper was made for the meal. Instead adding pepper to season your food, the beer did that for you. The rabbit helped enunciate the sweet characters the beer had. The rich mushrooms and potatoes was more like a stew adding more depth for the plate. There was a lot of flavor going on for this course but mainly it was the game flavors of the rabbit highlighting he sweet flavors of the beer and being rounded out by the big pepper taste. Wonderful pairing!
Smoked Venison Saddle paired with Lost Abbey Red Poppy.
Jackson handing the room over to Tomme Arthur, Brewmaster of Lost Abbey.
When we first approached Eastern Standard with doing this beer dinner, I immediately went outside of the restaurant to call Tomme and ask him if he would be apart of the dinner. I had one thing on my mind, Red Poppy! I am not a huge fan of sour beers, but between Supplication from Russian River and Red Poppy from Lost Abbey, they are total conversion beers.
Smoked Venison Saddle with mustard spaetzel and winter greens paired with Red Poppy, a 5.5% Flanders Oud Bruin, a sour brown ale aged in barrels.
The venison was gorgeously smoked. The aroma dominated the table. Big smoke flavor and game taste from the venison. Nice and juicy portions of meat. The greens were earthy and vaguely tasted like beets. Their salty, buttery taste worked well with the beer. Again contrasting with the beer to bring out it's sweetness.
The beer had a big red cherry nose, and sour aroma. The metallic flavors of the meat allowed those big cherry notes to pop rather than subdue them. Soft wood flavors on the beer also help round out a sweet flavor on the beer. The sour character was very palate cleansing instead of cloying. Even for a sour brown ale, that's quite unique.
Another winning course, but very filling. This course nearly sent me over the edge and we still had dessert on the way
Pan Perdue paired with Barrel-Aged Autumn Maple.
That's my homie Patrick Rue, Brewmaster of The Bruery. He is fairly new to the world of brewing, but he has already made such a tremendous impact by way of American-Style Belgian beers.
French toast with pears and cinnamon-maple cream paired with Barrel-Aged Autumn Maple. A 10% abv fall seasonal brewed with yams, maple, autumnal spices.
Barrel-Aged Autumn Maple was brought out specially for this event. The only place you can regularly have this beer is at the brewery itself in California. The regular Autumn Maple is bottled and distributed during the time of it's release.
So we had a small emergency for this pairing. Initially it was going to be a waffle course. But 75 waffles without 75 waffle irons is a bit tricky. I am glad that it never happened that way either. Part of the reason for this dinner and it's name was for it not to be typical and what we know of today as traditional Belgian cuisine. Though no one probably would have cared if we did serve waffles, I am still glad it didn't end up being Belgian waffles.
The dessert sounds fairly delicate for this big 10% monster beer. This dessert was like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Look's pretty, and delicate, but wound up holding it's own next to this big beer.
The beer was aged for one year in rye barrels. The yams gave off big sweet, buttery and baked yam flavors including a burnt sugar taste. Big vanilla flavors giving a butterscotch like taste. The bread and pears acted like a cleanser for the palate leaving the cinnamon and maple to play with the maple and vanilla flavors of the beer, but wasn't overkill on those specific flavors. Warming esters from the beer were balanced by the cool whipped cream. This dessert and beer worked extremely well together.
Simple and delicious and the perfect way to end the meal. After that venison course, if we have presented a big chocolate dessert or anything like that, we would have all needed dolly's to wheel us out of the place.
For my first beer dinner with Eastern Standard, they really did an amazing job. Anyone who has been to Eastern Standard, knew that they would nail it. Garrett and Jackson get huge praise for my demanding emails, and anxious nature in making sure we were all on the same page. Though I slightly blame Garrett for putting the fear of god into me and making sure I could sell out their new 75 seat private dining room. As if that would be hard with their reputation.
Executive Chef Jeremy Sewall.
Tomme Arthur, Will Meyers, Dann Paquette, Patrick Rue, and Rob Tod.