Link back to Day 4 ----- Link forward to Day 6
the Background Another beautiful weather day (PBW participants can't be too disappointed in the weather thusfar...though we've got some hiccups coming our way after the near-perfect last few days) was in store for Philly Beer Week revelers yesterday.
After Monday night in the suburbs and a preview taste of Armand Debelder's beers from Drie Fonteinen, I was completely ready to hop the train as soon as possible Tuesday afternoon to get into the City. A Lambic Dinner featuring Boon, Cantillon, and Drie Fonteinen (Frank Boon, Jean Van Roy, and Debelder, respectively) had been sold out almost as soon as it was scheduled last month. If it wasn't for a call from New Jersey-based beer writer, Mark Haynie, I likely wouldn't have had the privilege of attending this dinner. Though, I am disappointed to announce that a handful of seats did appear to go unfilled.
What will eat at me even more, I'm sure, (even more than their wonderfully sour beers in my stomach!) is missing the Lambic Summit tonight at the Museum at Penn. Hosted by Dan Shelton, and a steal at $50/person (why are tickets still available?!), this promises on paper to be a night to remember and likely one of PBW 2010's highlights. But, I have
But, a taste at Teresa's Next Door on Monday and now an out-and-out slam dunk of a dinner at Monk's last night, maybe I should ask if I can be satisfied with "just that." :)
What to Do First things first, though. After jumping off the train at Suburban Station, I knew that I had some time to make at a brief appearance at one or two other events along my walk to Monk's. After a look at the iPhone app, tweets, and FB statuses, Good Dog and Misconduct made the cut. Nodding Head was going to be part of the plan (Mike Fava's text message alerting me to something about homebrew, mole, agave, lemongrass, piñatas, and tacos had me quite curious), but with it ending around 6pm, I figured I was better served to try and catch Yuseff Cherney of Ballast Point.
stop #1 at Good Dog Bar I guess you could say that I sorta caught him...as in, caught him walking down the street leaving Good Dog after completing his 3pm-5pm stint. No matter, it gave me a chance to easily slide into the bar (which was transitioning between his event and happy hour) and order up a Sculpin Triple-Dry-Hopped IPA from the firkin. Just seconds behind me entering the bar was Collin Flatt (he now of Ladder 15 consulting) with his constant partner-in-crime Kristen. With the hop blastmaster that is the Sculpin Triple-Hopped and Collin's equally palate-blasting Sour Wench, we decided to share and get the benefits of both. Not a bad idea since I could stomach (literally and figuratively) the Sculpin more than the raspberry-laden Sour Wench, but wouldn't have wanted a whole glass of either.
stop #2 at Misconduct Tavern So now I became a group of three and we decided Misconduct Tavern, just about 62 steps around the corner, would be our next stop. Figured it was to be a night of sours, so we went from Ballast Point and its Sour Wench at Good Dog to Ithaca's Brute on tap at Misconduct.
No sooner did we make our way to a table and the next to join our wandering party walked in the door: Jay Brooks, not 24 hours from arriving in from Washington, D.C. where he was attending the (third annual?) Savor festival. Jay was making his way to the Monk's Lambic Dinner as well and stopped for a quick one from Ithaca's lineup of (mostly) bottles and a Brute on tap. Brute, Le Bleu, 10, Old Habit, and AlphaAlpha were served up on their own or in a sampler flight.
A few sips into our glasses of Brute and we had yet another companion join our growing caravan of Monk's-bound lambic groupies: Sean McGettigan. Yes, the Sean of the recently-opened Station Taproom in Downingtown, PA. This guy, let me tell you, deserves a beer and night off if I've ever met one. Sean and his business partner Mark have been working almost non-stop for the past year trying to get their dream down to solid earth. I was surprised, but happy, to see him out on the town.
Monk's, Belgians, and Lambics await We got all the introductions out of the way, finished our beers, and then decided it was time to head over to Monk's a little early to see what we could still catch on tap from their mid-afternoon visit from Patrick Rue of southern California's The Bruery. Melange (a 17% yowza!) and Tradewinds did just the trick.
The crowd was already beginning to build at Monk's when we arrived around 6:30pm (maybe the earliest I've ever arrived for one of their dinners), a real who's-who of industry insiders and usual Monk's Beer Dinner suspects.
As expected, we got started just a little over 30 minutes late. Lost in the hoopla of the visiting brewers from Belgium was Brian Morin (beerbistro in Toronto, ON) in the kitchen. He'd overseen the menu for last year's Cantillon dinner and was back again to work with not only Cantillon's beer, but Drie Fonteinen's and Boon's as well. Not a bad gig for sure.
I realize I'm giving you guys a lot of daily content during PBW, so a full course-by-course rundown will not be included here. To sum things up nicely (you don't think I can do it, now do you?!), I simply need to recommend that if you have an open mind to the wide spectrum of what beer is and want to find beer and food pairings like you've likely never had before (and won't be surprised by a little sour--or sometimes a lot--in your beer), then you'll really want to check out a lambic-style dinner like this at some point.
a Little about Lambics If you're new to lambics, here's a very quick and very high-level tutorial. Lambic is a style of beer that results from spontaneous fermentation with specific "wild" yeasts under the open atmosphere, as opposed to fermentation that takes place under controlled and sanitized conditions. A gueuze is then a category of lambic beer, where multiple vintages of lambic are blended together. The addition of fruit and its natural sugars to the fermentation can make a kriek (cherries), framboise (raspberries), péché (peaches), or cassis (currants). Lambic production is an old style with deep Belgian roots, though American-based brewers are succeeding like never before in the world of both replicating old styles as well as creating new derivations of their own.
A nice gueuze can go so well with vinaigrette-dressed salads, soups, and certain light meats. Thinking of kriek can get you thinking about fruit-based compotes and accompaniments on meat dishes all the way to chocolate and fruit-laden desserts. Not only should drinking lambics help redefine how a newcomer to lambics thinks about beer, but also their approach to beer and food pairings.
Lambic and Food Pairings at Monk's At the risk of blasting you with too much more information from the dinner (which I promised not to do, did I not?), what can I leave you with? As usual, I saved a little from each beer as I went through the dinner to try a bit of mix/match experimentation with other courses than they were prescriptively intended.
The best, in my palate's opinion? Drie Fonteinen's Schaerbeekse with the strawberry shortcake dessert (two different types of sweet). Boon's Oude Gueuze with both the Crab Panna Cotta and the White Asparagus salad (oh, and the quail egg and white truffle vinaigrette....yes!). And, the Drie Fonteinen Doesjel with the Fish & Chips (with a unique twist using grilled salmon and garlic chips over top of braised leeks..the depth of the Doesjel held up well to the dominant flavors of the food). Cantillon's Classic Gueuze and the cave-aged cheese was another really nice (unscripted) pairing.
(see the pictures over at Picasa for full menu descriptions paired with mediocre low light photography)
all Good Things must eventually end, or at least pause With the closing of the dinner, it was obvious that other events across town were letting out, because a trickle of folks like Tomme Arthur and Curt Decker and assorted beer seekers started coming through the door around 10pm. Round Two at Monk's was about to begin. A bunch of people sounded like they might be headed over to Varga to partake in some late night antics with the cool kids of Captain Lawrence, Flying Fish, and Southampton. (That's one that I kinda wish I'd been able to stick around for.)
With an early morning schedule today, I opted to pretty quickly pay the bill and head off to 30th Street Station. Amtrak's new late night schedule has actually pushed back the last westbound train by 14 minutes (to 10:59pm). I thought I might actually need the extra 14 minutes after this dinner, but alas that was not to be.
And, now for the grand finale...get this. I've been sometimes tagged as the Bridgewater's guy in the past and am very quick to offer that it is the country's best train station beer bar (for the food, too). Last night? I did, of course, stop in with my extra minutes to kill before the departing train. But, I stopped in to see what was doing with the night's earlier Lancaster Brewing promotion. And, then?----I left...yes, my beer quotient for the night had been filled. Even between the Lancaster and the Schlenkerla on tap, nothing would likely measure up after this A+ dinner experience at Monk's Café.
Onward to Day 6.
p.s. because I also occasionally check in on Twitter (yes, actually, I really do!), I notice that tickets are still available as well for tonight's vintage Dogfish/Lost Abbey event at Nodding Head. Sam, Tomme, 10 vintage beers, live music. Really? I mean, will dinner really be better at your house? :-p