|Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries|
Renewing a Favorite Relationship
You know how sometime it’s important to get away with family or the significant other to spend quality time together, to reaffirm what’s best about your relationship? Such was my experience on April 20, 2016 – but with a three-year-old Virginia brewery that, perhaps, I had been taking for granted.
On April 20, I attended a beer dinner at Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg, Virginia, pairing six beers with six courses from top Harrisonburg chefs.
So certainly I’m familiar with Brothers. I’ve enjoyed many of their beers since they opened as Three Brothers over three years ago, including The Great Outdoors, Hoptimization and Good Adweiss, not to mention popular beers such as Resolute, Atramentous and Daylight Cravings. I’ve enjoyed all, from the flagships to the limited-release beers.
At the dinner, however, I was reminded of the benefits of partaking of beers at a brewery – not just the freshness, but the range of choices that typically escape one at bars, restaurants and bottle shops. Add to that the food from two Harrisonburg farm-to-table restaurants and appreciation multiplied.
Lest you think of Harrisonburg as a little Podunk college town, you should know that its location in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley puts it close to amazing farms – that its population of Mennonite residents has supported a culture of peace, service and sustainability even before it was a thing – and that Harrisonburg’s downtown claims to be the first designated Arts & Cultural District and the first Culinary District in Virginia.
So the contributions from the restaurants undoubtedly added to the aura of the evening.
Chef Brian Bogan brought his culinary skills from Joshua Wilton House (also a classic, elegant and relaxing downtown Harrisonburg inn). Joshua Wilton House restaurant boasts a “unique Refined-Virginian menu – creatively contouring to seasonally fresh, local products.”
The April 20 menu put Chef Bogan’s Virginia blue crab salad slider (filler? What’s that?) with Brothers’ Dalliance tart saison – a nice contrast of mild fresh seafood taste with the tart spicy notes of the saison (see image above). Another Joshua Wilton House course presented the lamb BLT (twice-cooked lamb bacon with sweet potato brioche and Great Outdoors whole grain aioli) with Brothers Brown Out – the nuttiness of the beer toasted the roasty-fresh flavors of the lamb bacon. Another course paired Chef Bogan’s pork belly with cucumber kimchee on house-made steamed buns with Atramentous – the tart kimchee played quite nicely with the sour cherry, Brett and lactobacillus in the beer (see image below)!
The other three courses were prepared by Chef Jakob Napotnik of Local Chop and Grill House, which prepares “creative meals with locally sourced products from our neighbors.” The restaurant's web site continues, saying, “We are dedicated to supporting local artists, craftsmen, family farms and vendors—bringing you the best of what the Shenandoah Valley has to offer.” So, yeah, proof that Harrisonburg has locavore dining in the bag.
Chef Napotnik presented sauerbraten and hopped sauerkraut with Better Times Bock – the richness of the German-style meat with the smooth, clean and biscuity tastes of a classic German-style beer. The next Local course paired smoked sausage taco with Scarlet Empire imperial red ale – not only did the food and drink dance in step like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the tastes of caramel malts and Galena hop danced in perfect harmony as well.
The final course of the evening presented a Local dish with Resolute. As Virginia beer fans know, Resolute is one of the commonwealth’s favorite beers, pulling in long lines for its annual release. Chef Napotnik surprised me by not pairing the big bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout with a dessert but with a charred mushroom stuffed with roasted chilies and a Resolute mole sauce. The rich, sensuous, savory flavors were marvelously compatible with the Brothers beer.
At the dinner, menu descriptions promoted the local farm ingredients as well as the dish descriptions. All I can say is, be sure to visit these Harrisonburg restaurants to learn about and experience fresh foods of Shenandoah farms for yourself. And while you’re there, stop in at Brothers Craft Brewing, to appreciate the range of the craft brewery’s beers and to take home bottles of their limited-release brews.
You’ll come home renewed and reinvigorated – like the best of your family vacations.
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