Saturday, April 17, 2010

BEERflections ~ Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Dinner @ Town Crier Pub

Staying out late, getting up early, and repeating said process for days on end was something I could do when I was younger (and dumber as I like to joke). Now, not so much, but darned if I don’t try sometimes. And so it came to be that the very weekend of/before the Brooklyn Brewmaster Dinner, I hooked up with the maestro of magical carpet rides, Eric, and off to Dunedin we flew. Sliding in right around midnight Sunday night ala Monday morning, we got our beer on at the Dunedin House of Beer and much later, the hotel room. Have cooler full of beery goodness, will travel, I always say. Monday later in the morning and into early afternoon we got our relaxation on throughout the slow back roads of Florida with a brief trek through the Highland Hammocks in Sebring.

Suffice to say it was just the escape we needed from the trappings of our daily life. Of course, in the back of our mind was the Brooklyn dinner at 6:30pm, a date with destiny we had no intentions of missing. With a cooler slightly less full of beers thanks to Sunday night/Monday morning, we lazed, lollygagged, and wasted time all the way home. Beautifully so. Righteously so.

I eventually succumbed to a short nap during the final stretch along SR60 back to Vero Beach, thus proving that sleep can be had even with a 5 Hour Energy Drink surging through one’s veins. Once more Kristyn Lier proves her sleepy adage true: anytime anywhere. The nap along with a shower at home was just what I needed to refresh my weary yet sated bones. Ready and raring, destiny called and I heartily answered.

Having been to Town Crier Pub multiple times, I can honestly say there hasn’t been a bad meal yet. I don’t foresee such a culinary travesty anywhere in the future near, but it’s not impossible either. For now though, impressed I am.

Showered and refreshed, I made my way on down to Town Crier Pub (TCP). Along the way I picked up Paula and escorted her along with myself to dinner. Her hubby, Mike, was heading to TCP directly from work so there was no need to lug two cars down and two cars back up to the Sadlon abode. As with all supreme beer events, I go head-over-heels promoting, pimping, raving, and gushing about it to anyone and everyone who will listen and even those who won’t. My local beer peeps are always top of the list, but a beer dinner isn’t just for beer drinkers of a passionate persuasion. Women and men of varying prose are more than capable of and welcome to enjoy the burgundian pleasures of good food and good beer. All it takes is an open mind, a penchant for fun, and adventurous tastebuds. Now that doesn’t sound all that bad does it? Treat yourself to some beer dinner fun. You deserve it.

Arriving early for such a highly anticipated event will always be top priority. Beer events aside, I’m usually right on time or running a wee bit late, but I had a wonderful teacher when it comes to fashionable lateness: Mom. Not this time around, though. I also made sure to have camera in hand with a freshly charged battery on the ready and plenty of gigabyte space on my memory card. Throughout the night flash flashed, patrons laughed, and if only for just those few hours, time stood still.

As everyone trickled in, hugs were exchanged because I really and truly did know the large majority of beer geeks, beer newbs, and foodie aficionados in attendance. JW was styling and profiling as he graciously sat everyone at their chosen tables while Chris and the gang welcomed all with open arms. Yours truly was seated with her new friends Roger and Jessi along with old friend Marc Boland who once more shall chair the now 3rd Annual Treasure Coast Beer Fest of 2010.

But I digress.

Mike and Paula were just one table away while seated behind us were Jason and his lovely lady friend, Sujey. To my left were Eric, Allyson, and the fashionably late Randall who had also just enjoyed a weekend of gallivanting about Tampa generally and Cigar City Brewing specifically. Sitting at a round table inside was Tim, Chris, Jason (of Mickey Finns fame), and Rich Nowak of Brooklyn Brewery who in personable magnificence introduced the brewery and the beers throughout the evening. Love ya, Rich. You always rock like a star. Hugs and Kisses.

Where was I…oh yes, the lucky burgundians who shared our tasteful adventure of brews and food.

John Colontrelli and his brother Danny, their father John, Mark Matakaetis, Buddy Potter, and Todd Hampson were seated at a long table in the corner though still fully engaged in the festivities. Town Crier is a cozy pub so whether you are lounging on the patio, kicking back at the bar, or making social at a table, you always feel a part of the family. As the warmth of friendship and community fills your being, know you are home. There was ultimately only one table of patrons whom I did not know but hopefully another opportunity will arrive for us to get acquainted. Until then, cheers!

Anything worth waiting for has to be good. The dinner may have gotten off to an itsy-bitsy late start, but anticipation is the better part of satisfaction after all. Our culinary stars that night were Sandor Mattyi, Christine Dively, and George Cintron. Our beer expert extraordinaire was the affable Rich Nowak who conversed with gentility, enthusiasm, and friendly aplomb. Our publy host was Chris of the Mozaic group and the Town Crier Pub. With human introductions made, the beer and food introductions began.

For the very first dish and all dishes presented henceforth, I was extremely pleased to see all attendees eagerly hanging onto each word of introduction and explanation. I’ve been to beer dinners past where patrons rudely conversed amongst themselves while the chef and beer ambassador (not yours truly) explained the food lovingly prepared for our enjoyment and the beer purposefully chosen in complementary union. Such blatant rudeness and utter disrespect was wholly absent that evening for which I was extremely grateful. It says a lot for the fine ladies and gentleman sharing the evening with me. To all of you, thanks for walking the higher path.

Inbetween presentations was another matter altogether. Dinners of any sort should be as fun as they are informative. Beer and food and the tables around which they are enjoyed should be a place to relax, converse, and enjoy the social atmosphere of community. I know my table had zero trouble embracing and celebrating the mouth-watering, euphoria-inducing array of aromas, flavors, textures, and sights presented before us. I dare say and proudly so that we were the merriest table there. Not in raucous debauchery but in a constant flow of jovial banter and unabashed moans of orgasmic tastebud indulgence. Many a hot track of scintillating sounds escaped our eager lips from first dish to last and first beer to last. Even now, weeks later, just thinking about it is enough to send excitable shivers up and down my spine.

For those who lived through those tantalizing moments, this will be a heart-felt reminder. For those who did not attend, this will be your revelation of misfortune and the only encouragement you need to never again miss a Town Crier Pub Brewmaster Dinner.

Our start to the evening was the Amuse Bouche, a beer and cheese spread accompanied by toasted buttered pretzel bread. The beer used in the dish itself was also the beer paired with the meal: Brooklyner Weisse, a German-style hefeweizen. Not just the Amuse Bouche, but all courses were prepared with the its beer pairing. And now back to the course at hand. Served in a gentile crystal glass dish with two pretzel breads exquisitely toasted golden brown, our unanimous agreement was the need for more bread. Two slices were two slices too few; at the most four slices and at the least three slices would have been appropriate. Of course, that didn’t stop me and others from using our knives and forks to scoop up every last cheesy drop. I am proud to say at some point my index finger was involved in appropriately finger-licking lip-smacking satisfaction. Waste not want not, and I certainly wanted to not waste any of its spicy cheesy Brooklyner Weissey goodness. Fonduesque in texture, it was cheerfully puffy with mischievous cheddar richness ending in a dashing kiss of spicy heat while I would attribute an underlying breadiness to the Brooklyner Weisse within. Mighty tasty, the Amuse Bouche was just the stimulant our appetites needed to really get the party started.

As the waiters expertly weaved about tables picking up empty plates and glasses, new plates were graciously placed and new wine glasses lovingly filled in concert with each dish, but it was beer that graced her curvaceous designs and not wine. Yes ladies and gentleman, large bowled wine glasses were generously filled with five different beers throughout the evening. But why large wine glasses? That’s easy my dear. All the better to allow the beer to breathe freely, the chill to dissipate, and ultimately allowing the tastefully crafted beers of Brooklyn Brewery to flow unhindered into eager mouths waiting to savor the flavor. Pint glasses absolutely do not apply here and matter of factly should never apply at all. Good show TCP, and smartly done.

Though I digress once more and rightly so, there is a second course awaiting my loving attentions. I am worthy, yes I am.

What awaited was my second favorite course of the entire evening: beer battered seabass beignets drizzled with malt vinegar aioli and accompanied by waffled parmesan gaufrettes. A bite…Oh! My! Gawd! Paired with the Brooklyn Lager, there was an orgy of epic flavor proportions like no other ravaging my tastebuds and I was ever the willing captive. Sublime. Seductive. Sensual. Never has seabass tasted so fanfreakingtastic as each bite literally melted in my mouth with heavenly finesse. Paper-thin waffled parmesan gaufrettes crunched in a toasty explosion of parmesan cheese delights. The malt vinegar aioli melted into the beignets which melted into each sublime quaff of Brooklyn Lager as toes curled in ecstatic indulgence long after my course and beer were finished. Wow.

I don’t remember the name of the other young gentleman who watched over our table, but I saw my JW more often than not tending to our dining needs. When at TCP, ask for JW and prepare to be delightfully entertained with professional aplomb and genuine good humor.

I felt no need to descend from my seabass beignets and Brooklyn Lager high, but headed my way was course number two. That’s ok. I have more than enough room in my tummy to savor the night away. Being the seafood whore that I am, the second course was equally anticipated: thyme and Local 1 steamed mussels with olive oil grilled crustini while JW expertly filled my freshly deposited wine glass with Brooklyn Local 1. I do love me some Local 1 so no need to be shy here…not that I am ever really shy when it comes to beer. Know it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. With each lavish quaff of Local 1, I attacked my mountain of steamed mussels while soaking the crustini in her puddle of tasty juices. Still riding equally high on my Gumballhead Steamed Mussels experience at the Three Floyds Brewpub, the TCP mussels had a high pedestal upon which they had to climb. Unfortunately they didn’t quite make it to the top. Of all the dishes that night, the mussels were the least personally impressive. Of course, that’s akin to saying the 5karat ruby is not as precious as the 5karat diamond. Neither is better; it’s a matter of personal perspective. The Local 1 steamed mussels were good, just not good enough to open the gates to mussel snarfing nirvana. Fear not though for none were left behind.

As for my tablemates, Marc had never before tasted steamed mussels. A pleasurable first, I gained another mussel convert that night. For Roger who has never really been a fan of Belgian(style) beers, the Local 1 was a tasteful breakthrough and I gained another Belgian fan, albeit still in training.

Props must be given once more to Rich for interweaving fun facts and tasty tidbits into his beery musings throughout the five course Brewmaster dinner. Taking turns at our attentions, the TCP chef extraordinaire also expertly lavished mouthwatering details on the dishes without ever overwhelming our simple burgundian desires: good food, good beer, and good times. Prosit!

I am also not shy when it comes to bathroom breaks. I was in no mind to sit floating on full when I had so much more to look forward to. Remember this ladies and gentleman the next time you are carousing with friends or savoring a dinner equally divine: don’t worry be happy. It’s just human nature, after all.

Speaking of human nature, so too is guiltless indulgement which is exactly what myself and everyone else did inbetween exclamations of praise while inhaling our intermezzo. Intermezzo? What’s that? Why it is none other than a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout infused granita. It was beer evolution revelation all over again, except this time instead of the Avery Brabant it was a frozen granita delight of tongue-tingling pleasure. Crunchy and icy on top, burnt espresso in the middle, and fudgy dark chocolates in the finish, she was finger-licking good. The rim of the shooter glass in which it was served enjoyed a crystallized dusting of brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder which I unabashedly sucked, licked, and fingered till there was nothing left but a contented smile of indulgement on my face.

A perfectly pleasing palate cleanser, I was refreshed and ready for the next course: petite shepard’s pie with scallions, gruyere gratin, and paired with the very beer it was infused with, the Brooklyn Brown Ale. Let’s take a moment and remind our attendees and readers of the meaning of petite: “small and trim of figure”. The shepard’s pie was anything but small and trim of figure. It was also at this moment that many of the participating patrons, myself included, faced down the wall of creeping fullness. A beer dinner should always leave one full and sated at the end but never stuffed and overwhelmed. Hence the numerous and small proportions. A beer dinner is a tasting experience. An exploration of flavors. A celebration of burgundian nirvana. It is not an all-you-can-eat buffet of boorish mediocrity. The not-so-petite shepard’s pie threatened to ruin the enduring pleasure of our night still unfulfilled, but smart restraint and leftovers saved the day. An honest mistake, our Brooklyn Brewmaster Dinner was Town Crier’s first and as with all things new and life in general, it was a learning experience which was taken to heart.

Size aside, she was the best shepard’s pie I have enjoyed to date. The meal was originally meant to fill tummies and nourish the laborer during times of hardship and shortage. A moshpot of agricultural staples, they magically transform into a culinary sensation when prepared with tender loving care and a dash of finesse. It’s been said before and proven many times over that the most satisfying dishes are those born of the earth, necessity, and love. Much like beer herself, I do say. Speaking of beer, the Brooklyn Brown Ale is what most other brown ales wish they could be. Rich with chocolate undercurrents, toasted dark breads, and caramelized sugary delights, she was the perfect companion to our shepard’s pie. Fearing a heavy dish, I was met instead with delicate bites that exploded in my mouth with juicy meaty chunks, soft gratin tidbits, spicy scallion nibs, ooey-gooey melted cheese and a constant infusion of the ever essential Brooklyn Brown Ale. Having grown up in the agricultural industry, it tasted just like home.

Throughout the evening I continued to snap pictures while making merry with my tablemates and all others gathered about the cozy and by now darkened atmosphere of the pub. Night had finally fallen, but the festivities continued to shine bright as evidenced by the fourth course. Yes! I finally get to lavish extra special praise on my favorite dish of the evening and the one which best showcased the magic of beer and food. Enter the beer basted lamb loin lovingly wrapped in gentle phyllo with mushroom duxelle resting laid atop a bed of barley risotto and drizzled with herbed lamb au jus. The beer star of the dish was none other than Brooklyn Local 2.

A moment please…

Thank you. I needed that not because my hand is cramping from writing all this but because the memory of that dish is so vivid, so beautiful, so real we needed a moment together, just the two of us, in fond recollection.

The lamb loin was pretty in pink, moist, melty, juicy, and heavenly. The barley risotto was soft as silk and melted in the mouth. Far too often one finds their risotto undercooked, starchy, and still crunchy in the middle. Not so with the TCP barley risotto. Each little morsel was a tender delight of barley, earth, and the soulful essence of fields growing golden under the watchful eye of Mother Nature and man. Barley is a course, husky grain so this was an extra special culinary accomplishment which earned a hearty two-thumbs up from me. Each bite oozed flavors which the Brooklyn Local 2 knows very well. A bite; heaven. A quaff; beervanic revelation. The meaty caramelized juices and tender breadiness of the risotto and phyllo paired with the herbed lamb au jus melted divinely into the Local 2. With neither a discernable end nor beginning, it was flavor communion on an epic level. I will savor many a Brooklyn Local 2 in the passing weeks and years, but she will never be quite the same.

Another moment please…

Last but certainly not least was the fifth and final course. All good meals must end with a dessert of equally epic proportions, right? What better way to end the night than with a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout cheesecake with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Chantilly cream on the inside, topped with chocolate drizzles, a dusting of powdered sugar, a white chocolate twirl, mint sprig, and a sprightly raspberry. All was well in my world. The beer? Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, of course. A Christmas seasonal beer geeks the world over look forward to every winter, she is delicious fresh and also matures wonderfully with a few years under her cap. For those who fear dark beer, don’t. Embrace the darkness and the light ye shall see. The cheesecake was the cutest little half moon you’ll ever see. As I placed my fork to her surface, she opened herself freely unto me. Inside her cheesecakey outer layer awaited cream of utterly decadent desires. Smooth, silken, she made sweet chocolate and cream love to my tastebuds while her outer layer flittered about in softly whipped fun. The raspberry was saved for last, and inbetween each slow bite I savored my Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. Burnt, roasty, toasty, and percolating with black chocolates, espresso, and vanilla bean indulgence, she was wholly worthy of dining out the night with me.

My final nitpick has absolutely nothing to do with the unquestionable quality of the Black Chocolate Stout, but the arctic temperatures at which it (and Local 2) were poured. The more complex a beer is the warmer it should be tasted. I dare say the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout required no refrigeration at all and the Local 2 just a minimal chill. It is proper and rightfully appropriate for a dinner and beer of such standings. Doing so also provides the opportunity to smartly discuss the reasons why richer beers need warmer temperatures and what actually constitutes warmer temperatures for beer in our sunny state of Florida (and beyond).

That public service announcement of beery proportions done, let’s move onward shall we.

In no rush whatsoever, Roger, Jessi, Marc, I, Jason, and Sujey lounged long into the evening savoring our stout and sharing thoughts, jubilations, and memories of the evening unfolded. I say in absolute certainty that the Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Dinner at Town Crier Pub in Tradition of Stuart is so far the best beer dinner I have had the privileged pleasure of attending. Magnifique. Timeless. Boundless. As I slowly savored my stout while coaxing her up to cellar temperature, there was nowhere else I wanted to be other than right where I was. Life is especially worth living for moments like these, friends like these, burgundian pleasures like these. Welcome and Thank You.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)


  1. Thank you so much Kristyn for the "J"ust "W"onderful comments! I really had a wonderful time as well! The Beer Master Dinners will of course continue in May and we look forward to your return!!!! Brilliant and Smashing Success are the words to describe the Town Crier Pub and I am so grateful to be a part of it! JW Salveson

  2. my pleasure as always ^_^ i'll hopefully be down sooner than later. have a few pics to drop off and some more food to simply savor. xoxo.

  3. This being my first 'beer dinner' Town Crier Pub has set the standards mile high. Kristyn you have perfectly described the evening and I enjoyed reliving it through your article. Thanks for keeping me informed and in the loop.

  4. no worries and my pleasure. as you can probably guess April was a bust for events at TCP. lots of other stuff going on. be on the lookout for the goodness to continue in May though :)