Monday nights are usually one of the nights I don’t drink anything. I typically will have to get a run in before a sand volleyball game and by the time I get home (anywhere from 8-11:00pm), I generally shower and head right for bed. Lately, I’ve been going to bed between 9:30-10 pm, therefore earning me the nickname of Grandpa from my wife. Sorry, the heat and running takes its toll on me. Well, a few days ago we decided to sign up for a beer dinner held by the NA (New Albany) Exchange and New Albanian Brewing Company. Somewhat of a special event because it was brewmaster Jared Williamson’s last beer dinner before he shot down I-64 West towards St. Louis to brew for Schlafly. Ashley and I looked over the menu/beer pairing and decided to sign up and head over to Indiana.
The great thing about the beer dinner being on a Monday night is that most restaurants are closed on Mondays. Therefore, there would be little crowd, allowing us to explore the new place and also carry on a conversation without having to yell over loud music (NA Exchange had a really good music selection by the way). There was actually a smaller crowd for the beer dinner (which I liked) with a majority of people there either knowing Jared or wanting to wish him luck (myself included) on his newest venture. For us, it was the chance to try out NA Exchange and also getting a taste of the newest NABC and De Struise Collaboration, Naughty Girl.
Greeting Glass: Strathpeffer
“Ale in the Scots Gaelic tradition, sans hops, with heather s the spice and honey to provide a mead-like sheen.”
My first gruit ale to date and I liked it (a gruit ale doesn’t use hops, rather uses spices). Typically this summer I have been avoiding beers of the yellow nature and sticking to the orange and the blacks, but this one left a nice sweet and spicy taste on my tongue. Great aromatic qualities as well. Good beer to get the salivary glands pumped up in anticipation of the next dish. Sorry, drank it too fast to get a picture.
Starter: NABC Community Dark paired with Bourbon Beer Cheese and Local Pretzel Bread.
Roger gave introductions for the first two beers and made note that Community Dark was one of the first beers ever produced by NABC. He also shared his love for sessions beers (typically less than 4% ABV), their recent resurgence and the skills it takes to make a low ABV beer with a good taste. Community Dark is just an easy drinking beer with great taste and simplicity. Great for those days when you want a few beers, but also have some activities to do after said beers. The starter was by far and away my favorite meal of the evening, they gave us two huge baguette style loves of pretzel bread with a heaping amount of bourbon beer cheese. Both Ashley and I said, and I quote “Let’s only eat half of this so we can save room for the main entre and dessert”. Fail. We pretty much put the two loaves down between the two of us after we received our salad. Hey, I needed something to soak up the beer with.
Speaking of beer, you will notice the beer in the glasses were in smaller sampling glasses and not pint glasses. I’ll be dead honest that I had a fear of 6 pint glasses of beer on a Monday night with a big day ahead of me tomorrow (not to mention a drive to Kentucky). We had a plan for how to get home from NA Exchange before we knew how we were going to be served, but luckily we didn’t have to choose that course of action. Just like the last bear before he devoured Goldilocks (that’s how it went right?) the amount of beer was just right.
Salad- Naughty Girl Blonde Ale and Fresh Fruit salad in a light walnut vinaigrette
Naughty Girl, an NABC and De Struise collaboration (i.e. Belgian yeast and American hops), had very citrusy notes in the aroma (there was a decent amount of head in my glass as well). Jared described all the hops that went into the beer and it seemed Cascade was in all three steps of the hopping process. The beer had a nice crisp taste up front with a little bit of fruity flavor, but ended on the dry hoppy finish. It paired very well with the sweet vinegar salad.
The salad was very fresh and seasonal with blueberries,strawberries, and feta cheese. Although I’m usually not a big fan of salads unless they are baby spinach or Caeser (oh, and have tons of croutons), it wasn’t bad at all. Very nice offering, just a tad heavy on the vinaigrette. It lasted two minutes on the plate.
Entree- Henna Black IPA paired with Grilled Pork Medallions with pineapple mango salsa, garlic smashed potatoes and a seasonal vegetable medley.
Henna is from the NABC Brewer’s Best Friend Series. A beer series dedicated to those canine companions of NABC brewers and workers alike. Brewers would research the dogs native land in conjunction with how they described their dog the best and created a recipe for the beer. As Jared put it (Henna is a Black Labrador and New Foundland mix), “my dog is from Canada and their beer selection isn’t that great so I went with a new up and coming style, a black IPA.” Henna has a nice roasty character with simple hop notes left on the tongue towards the end of the beer. Tasty.
The entree kicked ass. Both Ashley and I aren’t really big fans of pork (I grew up eating fried pork tenderloins all my life) when we go out to dinner but paired with the garlic smashed potatoes made it remind me of some back home cooking. The pork medallions were covered in a mango pineapple salsa. The salsa was more chunky than actually salsa texture and could have been a little more “salsa” like. I tend to overused condiments thought so it just wasn’t wet enough for me. The pork was cooked to perfection though, not too chewy and just came apart in your mouth. The seasonal vegetables were sauteed carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini. The potatoes were the best part, great combination of butter and garlic. I was sad I actually had to save half of them for leftovers. Overall, the entree was very good, but very big as well.
Dessert- Jasmine Sweet Stout with Pretzel bread pudding with toasted walnuts and fresh raspberries
Jasmine is a “full-bodied, silky, sweet stout with a solid roasted character, stopping just a shade shy of “imperial,” but a hearty mouthful just the same.” I actually had this once at Bank Street and wasn’t for sure if it was an imperial stout, a milk stout, or a combination of the two so I quickly shot the Director of Brewing Ops a message and soon learned it was a sweet stout. Jasmine has a little bit of spicy chocolate, nice balancing hops, and just a wee bit of lactose to add a little bit more sweet flavor to the beer. As I recalled from previous drinking, great mouthful with the beer that pair exceptionally (probably the best of the evening) with the dessert.
If I thought the entree reminded me of home, nothing compared to the dessert. It looked like bread pudding straight out of my Grandma Polly’s kitchen, one of her specialties. This pretzel bread pudding was filled with ooey goodness known as cinnamon, raisins, and craisins baked inside. The drizzled caramel and whip cream were a nice touch as well. I maybe ate half of it before calling it quits preventing a possible caloric coma.
Parting Glass- Hard Core Gore IPA
A beer dedicated to the memory of Jason Gore, an NABC employee who succumbed to cancer in September 2010. Jared talked about Jason a bit and then mentioned the beer was an inspiration of Jason’s two favorite styles: A Belgian Trippel and an Imperial IPA. As Jared said “remember that food you just tasted, well this IPA will wipe your palate clean”. He was right thanks to the Magnum, Saaz, Styrium Goldings, Cascade, and Sorachi Ace hops. A very complex beer which started out a little sweet and then a big bitterness on the backdrop. Luckily, this beer is going to make it into NABCs rotation and isn’t a one-time only beer.
On the car ride home, we talked about what we liked and didn’t like about the evening, luckily there wasn’t very much negative talk.The food was amazing. Everything tasted great. My only complaint/suggestion/thought would have been to have smaller portions of the food. For example, the starter was way to big for two people which left us only eating half of our entree and our dessert (our choice). Also, dessert could have been shared as well. By cutting these portions back, the cost price might decrease a bit which would either allow for a whole other portion of more beer offered with the same $55 charge (tip not included).
In reflection, it was well worth the $55 dollars a head. It gave us a chance to try a new place and drink great beer along with great food. No complaints about the beer…as usual.
In closing, best wishes to Jared in his brewing ventures at Schlafly!