Written by: Lauryn Bodden
Each month, Cook Hall teams up with a regional brewery to create a menu pairing of intense flavors that highlight the buzz-worthy notes of select beers. The dinner encourages community members to come together like an intimate gathering of friends and learn about the craft behind some of the best brews in town. For the month of April, Cook Hall joined forces with Saint Arnold Brewery to create a menu pairing of five courses that appealed to individuals of all palates and cravings.
Upon arrival, guests were greeted with the Weedwacker, a Bavarian Hefeweizen. This light beer has notes of spicy clove and banana esters that come from different yeasts. Saint Arnold’s only unfiltered year-round yeast, Weedwacker embodies a pale malt barley with a dash of malted wheat. Accompanied by a frisee salad with pickled peaches, this course was a light start to our indulgent meal.
Next, came the Elissa IPA, an authentic version of traditional Indian Pale Ale. The huge hop additions in the kettle give the beer a bitterness that is then dry-hopped in the fermenter to create a floral, hoppy nose. The maltiness comes from British Maris Otter malt. The citrusy flavor of the brew goes perfectly with any seafood, which made its pairing of Grilled Swordfish and Orange Vinaigrette an obvious choice.
Course three included the Icon Brown Porter with Kalbi Beef Short Rib Tacos. The Brown Porter is a dark, medium bodied ale with rich chocolate malt notes and an aroma mix of chocolate, nuttiness, and coffee. The tacos were a hit across the restaurant, as many platters were wiped clean before the course presentation was even done. Add a dash of Cook Hall’s special hot sauce and this meaty treat washed down easy with the Brown Porter.
At this point, individuals began unbuttoning their top buttons, shifting in their seats, and doing whatever possible to make room for the two remaining courses…amateurs.
My stomach waited the entire night and was fully prepared for the moment the Rack of Lamb and Divine Reserve #13 graced our table. This Belgium brew has a relatively simple malt bill with caramel and chocolate malts. A large amount of Belgian Extra Dark Candi Syrup is added during fermentation, which gives it a dark fruit-like flavor and boosted alcohol level (WIN!). All tableside manners were tossed at this point as I traded off between going at the lamb like a chicken wing and guzzling down the rich Divine Reserve.
Lamb is hard to beat in my book, but the grand finale was no letdown. Each guest received a plate of Warm Sticky Date Toffee Pudding with Coconut Sorbet and the Bishop Barrel #5, Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale. The Bishop Barrel begins as the Divine Reserve No. 4, gold medal winner at the 2008 World Beer Cup in Strong Scotch Ale category, which include tasting notes of caramel, toffee, dried figs and cocoa. Aged in a bourbon barrel, the base mixes with flavors of vanilla, cinnamon and a touch of pipe tobacco to create a rich creaminess. Directions for this course are as follow: take a heaping scoop of sorbet with equal parts of toffee pudding, shovel in your mouth, and immediately guzzle gulps of the Bishop Barrel. The result is perfection.
Bennette Frugé of the Saint Arnold’s brew crew led us through the tale of each selected beer and menu pairing. Known to many as Flappy for his ever-flapping lips and ability to talk for hours about his love of beer, Bennette lived up to his nickname. Between jokes and jeers with the crowd, Bennette highlighted many interesting facts for beer connoisseurs and newbies alike. My favorite fact may just be that if he could be an animal, he would be a pterodactyl.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company, located in Houston, is Texas’ oldest craft brewery (and is reportedly haunted). Founded by Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol, the first keg was shipped on June 9, 1994. Brock, a longtime home brewer, always considered opening a brewery as far back as college, but didn’t go through with the idea until seven years after graduating. Enlisting Kevin, the two chose Houston because it was the largest city in the country without a microbrewery. The small crew brews, filters, kegs, bottles, sells, and drinks each beer to ensure the best quality. Brews are distributed and enjoyed throughout Texas, Louisiana and Colorado.
Cook Hall’s next beer dinner features Harpoon Brewery on May 23 for $55 a seat (and a certain drink blogger whose name rhymes with boozy will be in attendance). Grab your friends or go alone; either way you will take part in good food, good brews, and good company.
To make a reservation for the Harpoon Brewery dinner, call (214)397-4111.
To view the Harpoon Dinner Menu, please click here.