It’s been a busy autumn for the staff at Hopmonk. In addition to keeping the Sebastopol location running, Dean Biersch and company opened the new Hopmonk Sonoma a couple weeks ago and business there has been keeping them on their toes. What better time to hold a beer dinner?
For this occasion, the Hopmonk invited local brewers from Lagunitas to bring beer and pair with a menu designed by Chef Billy Reid. In a new twist, Dean biersch would not be hosting the dinner, but instead handed the responsibility over to yours truly. Another new addition was musical entertainment provided by The Horse You Rode In On, a two-piece jazz ensemble featuring friends of the brewery (or an alternative rock band from New York, depending on who you talk to).
The evening started with the flagship IPA being poured in what is now the identifying Lagunitas trademark mason jar. Before the meal officially began, a pre-appetizer of lamb chops on curried turnips was handed out. With such a tall order in terms of beer, Chef Billy wanted to make sure everyone had enough to eat.
When we finally did sit down the meal started with a bit of Thanksgiving dinner, a turkey wing or drumstick served with a corn pudding. This was paired with Fusion 4 which played off the spices of the beer and the harvest flavors of the dish. Fusion 4 starts like as a Little Sumpin’ Wild but is finished with the pilsner yeast for a big, refreshing beer but with a lot of fruit and spice coming through thanks to the yeast. I particularly loved the corn stuffing and fought the urge to rip into my drumstick as if I were watching football at a sports bar.
The second course was an almond and spinach salad with strawberries and cider vinegar paired with the Czech Pils. Pilsner with a vinegar dressing on a salad is a nice place to start for any salad pairing, but the almonds and strawberries were something special in this dish. The almonds brought out nuttiness of the pilsner’s malt while the strawberries were a perfect contrast to everything else going on with the dish and provided a sweet and tart bite.
The entrée was what I had been looking forward to since the menu was announced and it’s only fitting the band was playing “My Favorite Things” as the plates were brought out. Stout braised pork belly with seared sea scallops and sweet potato risotto was served alongside the Imperial Stout. The pork belly fell apart and melted in the mouth, the sea scallop was salty with a wonder texture. When everything came together on the fork it was obvious that this was no healthy dish, but you weren’t leaving any. Pork Belly, Scallops and Imperial Stout, a few of my favorite things indeed.
Dessert finally came out served with 3 vintages of Brown Shugga, a fresh batch from 2010, a 2008 and a 2007. The differences were apparent immediately in the nose, with fresh hops jumping out of the 2010 but only a subtly grassiness left in the 2008 and almost no hops apparent in the 2007. In my opinion, the 2007 was the best, a soft, decadent barleywine with just enough oxidation to fill out the flavors but not so much to dominate the profile.
Served alongside these beers were a selection of three desserts: a whisky cheesecake, orange-ginger cookie and pumpkin fig cake. All were wonderful desserts but the best by far was the whisky cheesecake. Unfortunately, at this point, as tends to happen, the combination of big beers and a barleywine flight lead to more socialization than note taking on pairings. Regardless, the desserts were very tasty and provided a nice finish to a fun evening.
Plans for the next Hopmonk Brewmaster’s dinner are up in the air currently. With two locations, the plan will be to alternate where the dinner is held. For a dinner in Sonoma, there is talk of a party bus to drive Sebastopol locals out to Sonoma and bring them back after dinner. As soon as plans are made for the next dinner I will pass them along to all my readers.