Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brown’s beer dinner at Uncle Marty’s Adirondack Grill

The good folks at Uncle Marty’s Adirondack Grill in Averill Park have been offering a fine craft beer selection for quite a while. They’ve been taking it a step further by recently bringing in Dustin Aipperspach as their new head chef as well as hosting a series of monthly beer dinners. Last month was the “Taste of New York” beer dinner (which I hosted), and this month was an evening with Brown’s Brewing Company.

I’ve been a fan of Brown’s brewpub for many years. I’ve had pretty much everything on the menu and it’s all pretty excellent. Though I can’t say I’ve ever been to a Brown’s beer dinner until now. Since last month’s dining experience went so well, I had high hopes for this event – which did not disappoint.

Marty Balga, the owner, said everyone who attended the “Taste of New York” beer dinner really enjoyed themselves. However, the only “complaint” was that there was actually a bit too much food and beer (though, as a consumer, that’s not a bad problem to have). So they scaled back the menu to five courses and the portions seemed a little smaller and less calorific (as someone trying to lose weight, I appreciated this). Each beer was served in an 8oz-10oz pour.
Here’s what was on the menu:

Appetizer
Food: Smoked oyster and wild mushroom ragout with a Parmesan crisp
Beer: Brown’s Oatmeal Stout (5.25% ABV)

This was nothing like what I was expecting as it did not have a “fishy” taste at all. It actually reminded me of a pizza flavor as it was quite saucy with Italian-like spices and the Parmesan was like a pizza crust. Pairing it with the oatmeal stout was an interesting choice, if not a bit daring, since beers of this type tend to be associated with the main course or dessert. However, it offered an interesting contrast of sweetness and slight roasted malt bitterness that complemented the dish quite well.

brown's beer dinner 011Soup
Food: Butternut squash bisque with toasted pumpkin seeds
Beer: Brown’s Dunder & Blixem Strong Ale on cask (8.5% ABV)

The only time I ever eat squash is at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals; it’s never occurred to me that it could be prepared fancily. This bisque has the same consistency you might get from frozen squash, but obviously with a vastly superior taste. It was squashy, but not mealy or earthy, with a distinct sweetness. The texture was creamy and soft; it was almost like eating hot ice cream. The toasted pumpkin seeds added a nice contrast with their crunchiness.

As for the beer, it was another curious choice, but an appropriate one. This was my first time trying Brown’s annual Christmas beer, which is brewed in the Winter Warmer tradition with dark malts and ginger, star anise and cinnamon spices. It was sweet, but not cloying, and the spices made it reminiscent of a pumpkin beer. The fact it was on cask gave it a soft mouthfeel and extremely smooth finish which matched the bisque perfectly.

brown's beer dinner 016Salad
Food: Baby arugula with beets, pears, candied pecans, toasted goat cheese and pomegranate vinaigrette
Beer: Brown’s India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV)

The salad course took everyone by surprise last month and I’d say that was true this time around, too. Arugula is probably the best green to use in a salad, and the use of beets and pink pears was perhaps unusual, but tasty. It made for an interesting dynamic between the earthy vegetables and the tartness from the pear as well as the lightly sweet dressing and the candied pecans. The toasted goat cheese on top was the main attraction; with its rich taste and an interesting texture of being toasted on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Pairing this dish with the IPA was, yet again, an odd, but interesting choice. Brown’s IPA is more of an English-style brew with emphasis on balance rather than intense hoppy bitterness. There was a strong piney/resin flavor as well as a slight butterscotch flavor (possibly diacetyl, but it was tolerable). Next time you have a salad, try pairing it with an IPA to make the experience more interesting.

brown's beer dinner 020Entrée
Food: Smoked turkey breast with sausage chestnut stuffing and bacon-fried Brussels sprouts
Beer: Brown’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Porter (5.75% ABV)

At the onset of the night, Chef Dustin said there was a Thanksgiving theme to the food selections. This was obviously the most traditional Thanksgiving food of the evening, though it wasn’t just a Butterball cooked in the oven. The turkey was brined with bourbon and the beer itself, and was smoked all day. These flavors all came through as the turkey was tender and moist with a strong smokey astringency to it. There was also a distinct candy-like taste as well, probably from the brine. The stuffing was a perfect accompaniment as the sausage also had a smokey flavor and the sprouts tasted of bacon to create for a meaty garnish (Dustin said he loves pork and will include it in every dinner somehow).

Brown’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Porter tends to be a finicky beer; I’ve noticed major variations between batches (though I suspect it’s an issue caused by the individual barrels rather than the brew itself). Dylan Neary, Brown’s representative, said he just picked up the keg from their new brewery in Hoosick Falls and delivered it to the restaurant shortly before the dinner began. He clearly picked a winner as this brew had a huge sweet whiskey flavor. It was by far the most complimentary (and, in my opinion, best) pairing of the evening. I may pick up a bottle to try this at my own Thanksgiving dinner next week.

brown's beer dinner 025Dessert
Food: Apple Delight with hand-whipped sweet cream
Beer: Brown’s Cherry Raspberry Ale (6.5% ABV)

Dessert courses can sometimes be too indulgent at the end of a big dinner like this. But in this case, the “Apple Delight” was a nice alternative to a rich piece of pie or cake. It was essentially an apple muffin as it had a fluffy texture and yet was still plenty moist. The whipped cream and confectionery syrup drizzled across it was sweet and delicious.

Opting for the Cherry Raspberry Ale was definitely the way to go, as the beer itself tasted of real, authentic fruit. The three fruit flavors between the dessert and the beer all played nicely off each other, and the beer was at the perfect temperature as well (beers like this shouldn’t be served too cold).

brown's beer dinner 014Conclusion

All in all it was another highly satisfying dinner as well as a fun and memorable experience. Uncle Marty’s is definitely on the right track with these beer dinners as the food is gourmet, but still accessible to the non-foodie. And at only $58 (which includes tax) they’re pretty affordable as well (I’ve seen other beer dinners run as much as $80 per person – yikes!). I’ll be hosting a holiday/winter-themed beer dinner here on December 16. I hope to see you then, cheers!