A Southern-style menu by Chef Alessandro Vianello paired with beers from arguably the best two breweries in BC! Five courses and 10 beers for a very reasonable $69 (plus tax and 18% gratuity). There are actually a lot of these kinds of beer-pairing dinners going on if you know where to look, but I usually pass on them because I’d end up poor! But this one I couldn’t refuse.
I didn’t take any notes, so my writeup isn’t as detailed as usual. I was more into just enjoying the food, beer, and company that night. Actually, I’m lying. I took two little notes, which I’ll bury in this post.
I got there early so I had time for a pre-dinner drink from their draught menu…
Birrificio Del Ducato Chrysopolis Lambic (5%) – $9. Yes, it’s one of those rare Italian breweries that are actually quite good and are semi-available here now. Moderate sourness and little-to-no funkiness. One for the sour beer lovers.
Really cool that they introduced each course using a microphone so the whole restaurant could hear. Wildebeest’s bar manager-slash-manager Nick Miller on the left and Chef Alessandro Vianello on the right. They got the brewers from Brassneck and Four Winds to talk about each beer as well:
Conrad Gmoser from Brassneck.
Brent Mills from Four Winds.
First course beers (L-R): Four Winds La Maison Wild Saison (4.5%) and Brassneck Multiweizen Five-Grain Hefeweizen (5.5%). La Maison is a great lower-abv saison that packs a lot of flavour and aroma. As much as I love Brassneck, Multiweizen is one of their beers that just doesn’t jive with me, and I’ve never got a growler of it ever. But, that’s why they make different styles of beer, right? Diff’rent strokes…
First course: Skillet Cornbread with whipped butter containing sorghum syrup and drippings (and flake salt on top). I didn’t know this until I googled it, but sorghum is grown in the South, so its use here makes sense. The cornbread was VERY moist, slightly sweet, and had a great crust. Fantastic.
Pairing-wise, I’d have to give this one to Four Winds La Maison over Brassneck Multiweizen. I liked the way the mosaic hops in the La Maison played with the slight sweetness of the cornbread.
Four Winds: 1 — Brassneck: 0
Second course beers: Four Winds Elementary Lager (4.5%) and Brassneck No Brainer Corn Lager (4.5%). These are both great lagers, if you’re into lagers meant for smashing back into your throat. Both beers actually use corn, which gives the beer a lot of lightness. In these cases, the corn is used on purpose, not as a cost-cutting measure.
Sidenote: Four Winds and Brassneck’s collaboration beer from this year, Honeymoon Baby Tropical Saison (5.3%), used rice which is another brewing “adjunct” used to lighten beers. A lot of Japanese beers use rice. But in the case of Honeymoon Baby, the rice was used to great effect and made for a killer early summer beer. I’m sad that they only made a small batch and that it sold out quickly 🙁
Second course: Shrimp & Grits with seaweed butter, huitlacoche, popcorn powder, and sea beans (aka sea asparagus). Huitlacoche (aka corn smut, lol) is a fungus that infects corn and is a Mexican delicacy. If you google pictures of it, it looks revolting. Therefore, I had to try it. This was my first time, and I’m still trying to figure out what I ate. It’s like bloated corn kernels with a bit of the sweetness replaced with a certain meatiness. I’d love to try it again. The most interesting “grits” ever. The shrimp part of the dish was tiny salad shrimp.
I think the “seaweed butter” part of the dish reminded me of a Japanese product called “Gohan Desuyo“, which is a dark seaweed paste which is commonly eaten with rice. It’s got this salty savouriness with a touch of the sea, and thinking about this makes me wanna buy a jar at Fujiya, now!
Now for the beer pairing: while I prefer the Four Winds Elementary Lager over the Brassneck No Brainer when judged side-by-side as beers, I thought the No Brainer actually paired better with the food! The New Zealand hops in the Elementary Lager, while great on it’s own, seemed to march to their own beat when paired with the food. The No Brainer actually melded with the dish better. My friend Mark actually thought the opposite, and preferred the contrast of Elementary Lager. That’s what’s great about these head-to-head pairing dinners. Everyone’s got their own palate and preferences. And this blog is ALL about articulating preferences 😀
Four Winds: 1 — Brassneck: 1
Third course beers: Four Winds Vexillum Imperial IPA (9%) and Brassneck One Trick Pony Mosaic Strong IPA (9%). One Trick Pony is actually a SMASH beer (Single Malt And Single Hop), so it’s a real showcase for mosaic hops. I like both beers even though they’re quite different.
Third course: Louisiana Boudin with sauteed cabbage, crispy okra, and watermelon “chow chow” (relish). Boudin is a pork liver/heart/blood sausage. Going by the taste and colour, I don’t think there was blood but there was definitely liver:
Crumbly texture, somewhat moist, and very iron-forward. The watermelon provided a nice sweet cool counterpoint. The crispy okra slices were a great idea but softened quickly.
The pairing: now, you’d think that with the fruity watermelon in the dish, that the candy-like tropical fruit qualities of Brassneck One Trick Pony would work well with the dish. But I actually preferred the more balanced flavour of Four Winds Vexillum.
Four Winds: 2 — Brassneck: 1
I bought a beer off of Wildebeest’s great bottle list as a gift for some awesome people that I hadn’t seen in a while, and they surprised us all by buying me a bottle in return! And what a bottle! Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L’Ancienne (6.4%). Amazing gueuze, the benchmark gueuze! It’s got such a clarity of flavour and a bit of funk. Such a treat. THANK YOU SO MUCH! You know who you are…
…and in a move of brillant stupidity, I didn’t take a picture of the fourth course beers! I guess I was all excited from the Tilquin…
Fourth course beers: Four Winds Sovereign Super Saison (8.5%) and Brassneck Stockholm Syndrome Farmhouse Saison (6.5%). Love both beers. Sovereign is complex, fruity, spicy, dry, and uses Belma hops. Stockholm Syndrome is less dry but more funky.
Fourth course: Oxtail & Octopus with redeye gravy, Carolina gold rice, and smoke. Another first for me on this night: eating Carolina Gold rice! Tasted like it was prepared risotto-style, even though it didn’t have the typical creaminess of a risotto. A very fluffy kind of rice. Octopus noticeably smoky. The oxtail was prepared like croquettes:
Meaty (duh) and tender. The coating on the balls was a bit thick and dense, but not a dealbreaker.
The pairing: the funkiness of the Brassneck Stockholm Syndrome didn’t quite work with the dish as a whole. When eaten with just the oxtail, I think it worked, but not with the rice nor the smoked octopus. So the Four Winds Sovereign was the better match for me.
Four Winds: 3 — Brassneck: 1
Fifth course beers: Four Winds Pequeño Cabo Tequila Barrel Aged Berliner Weisse (4.2%) and Brassneck Inertia II Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout (11%). Very risky left-field choice from Four Winds, but I admire their balls.
Fifth course: Pecan Pie with vanilla bean panna cotta and brown butter powder. Really great end to the meal. That white-coloured brown butter powder was a headscratching mind-blower. Buttery, savoury, hint of caramelization, all in a white powder. The pie had three distinct layers of panna cotta, pecan pie filling, and crust. I swear I could taste dates, raisins, or some kind of dark stone fruit in the filling.
The pairing: the intense roasty, chocolate, coffee, leather, tobacco, and whisky barrel notes from Brassneck Inertia II were a natural pairing for the pecan pie. Amazing. The tartness in the Four Winds Pequeño Cabo didn’t work with the pecans, butter, nor panna cotta. Nice beer, but not for this dish.
Four Winds: 3 — Brassneck: 2
Brassneck won the last round but Four Winds wins the contest!
Big thanks to the team at Wildebeest, and the folks at Four Winds and Brassneck for putting on this fun and stimulating dinner.