Saturday, August 22, 2015

Beer Dinners: Love Them or Hate Them?

When I first started enjoying craft beer in the early 1990s, beer dinners did not exist, at least not in my area. As craft beer skyrocketed in the first beer revolution, beer dinners became more popular. They are a way to showcase a brewery and a bar/restaurant that stocks that particular brand. As the number of beer dinners increased, the creativity of chefs did too. Now, you can almost find a beer dinner on any given day if you look hard enough. So, do you love them or hate them?

Personally, I love them. I have been to great beer dinners, good beer dinners, and mediocre beer dinners. I loved them all. What's not to love? You are drinking, usually, good beer, and even if the pairings or the food are not up to your standards or tastes, you are drinking good beer. Yes, I said that twice.

Very recently I attended a beer dinner at one of my local favorite watering holes, Chops and Hops, in Watkinsville, GA. The restaurant chose a theme, Georgia grown, to show off breweries and food products made, grown, and raised in our state. The picture above shows the excellent cheese plate paired with two beers, Second Self's Xmas in July and Orpheus' Peace.War.Truth. Lie. The flavors of both of the beers could not have been more different, yet they both paired well with the cheese. All of the above were made in Georgia.

This was a great idea because we have so many new breweries popping up, and many at the beer dinner had not had any of the beers. Other breweries showcased were Southbound and Eventide with food products coming from places like Morgan County Cheeseworks, Greendale Farm, Piedmont Provisions, and many others.

Detractors of beer dinners cite cost, saturation of the market, and crazy pairings as to why they do not like them. Which, I agree, can be a bit intimidating, but one of our local chef/Owners, Richard Miley, who runs Catch 22 on Epps Bridge Road in Oconee County has taken to making smaller more affordable dinners which have great beer and food. I am attending a Stone brewing dinner there next week, and you don't have to attend every dinner. I believe that if you look hard enough, you will find a dinner that fits your budget and tastes. As a non-mammal eater, chefs have been great about doing substitutions as long as you let them know far enough in advance. Do not expect them to make substitutions if you buy your ticket that night or even the night before. These things take preparation and planning. The picture below was my amazing chicken substitution for the lamb dish served with Second Self's Red Hop Rye and Eventide's Nitro Stout which, by the way rocked the flavors!

With all things, my opinion is if you don't like something, don't do it, but don't give up on beer dinners if you have had one bad experience. I love meeting the beer reps and brewers and seeing what the chefs are going to do. Go in with an open mind and palate. I would be interested in hearing about your experiences and your opinions on the subject. You can follow BeerWenchGA on Twitter and like Facebook. Let me know how feel! In the meantime, remember to eat well and drink good beer.

Beer Wench GA, John from Second Self, and Ashton Smith
at the Chops and Hops Georgia Grown beer dinner.