Event Recap | Savannah River Brewing’s Fall Beer Dinner
Savannah River Brewing Co. hosted Augusta, Georgia’s first beer dinner at a brewery – at least, since prohibition. Other beer dinners have been hosted in the area by other Georgia breweries, but this one was unique. Set apart from the others by its location, significance and success. Sold out to maximum seating, this event would be like no other event the brewery had put on, yet.
The idea for the Fall Beer Dinner came about one evening during a conversation at the brewery between Ashlie Arsenault, taproom manager at Savannah River Brewing Co., and Chef Kyle McCloud, owner of Mack’s Street Eats. The two tossed around the idea of teaming up to host an event that would bring the community together and expand the brewery’s fan base. It wasn’t long before Arsenault and Chef Kyle were making their idea a reality. Chef Kyle worked with Arsenault and Adam Fulmer, head brewer at Savannah River Brewing Co. to create a menu and pairing for the evening. Over the next two months, things came together and a date was set for November 8, 2017.
Guests of the dinner were hosted in Savannah River Brewing Co.’s 3,000 sqft taproom, usually filled with families and friends playing corn-hole or giant Jenga while enjoying one of their many brews on tap. The room was glittered with white lights accentuating a night of excitement and delectable dishes. Each table, hand wrapped and dressed with individual care, was set for each guest beforehand and decorated with custom-made centerpieces that highlighted the theme of the Fall Beer Dinner.
A menu featuring fall season inspired dishes with a southern accent was laid out for guests one course at a time through the evening. The first four courses were paired with flagship brews with the exception of their Dynamite brown ale. As each course was brought out, Chef Kyle and Graydon Brown, former brewmaster at Savannah River Brewing Co., explained to guests the idea behind the pairing as well as the intricacies of the beers and plates themselves. It was evident how excited the two were in describing their creations.
Cajun BBQ Shrimp on a Goat Cheese Grit Cake paired with Savannah River IPA
While this dish hit the tabletops around the room, Chef Kyle explained it was his intention to start “the evening’s symphony” not unlike Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. That it did, in spades. The spice of the cajun bbq was not dissuaded by the cheesy grit cake but provoked by the IPA. In a sense of reciprocity, the cajun strengthened the bitterness of the IPA – I could feel the IBUs rise after each bite of shrimp. The two, seemingly, boxed it out in the ring until none was left. The shrimp were bold and intensely flavorful contrasting the mild and underwhelming flavor of the grit cakes. There was not much mention of the goat cheese in the grit cakes, likely due to the cajun rub and IPA overpowering the taste buds.
Roasted Beet, Pear, and Arugula Salad with Maple Vinaigrette paired with No Jacket Required Pilsner
One of my favorites of the evening, this salad was absolutely splendid and extremely well paired with the Pilsner. The cool, sweet, soft flavor of the chilled beets and raw pears covered in a maple vinaigrette rescued my palate from the previous course. The slight bitterness of the arugula did well to balance out the dish and nearly mirrored the No Jacket Required. This beer’s mostly sweet malt backbone with a hint of dryness native to the style and slight bitterness translated by a crisp feeling on the tongue was transformed into a salad right before my eyes. The only complaint about this dish was there just wasn’t enough for seconds!
Roasted Squash Bisque paired with Witty Belgian Witbier
My true favorite of the evening, this dish was hard to finish alongside the beer. Not because it wasn’t paired well, but because it was too delicious to stop eating long enough for a sip or two. Cooked using acorn and butternut squash and seasoned with garam masala, this bisque encourages a cold evening in, curled up on the couch with a blanket and a glass of Witty Belgian Witbier to wash this fantasy down with. The Witty Belgian is, surprisingly, one of the breweries less popular beers. I cannot see why, myself, and was quite pleased I had so much left over after scarfing down my bisque. I sat enjoying each sip of coriander and orange peel while waiting for my next course.
Sausage Stuffed Pork Loin and Roasted Carrots with an Apple Cider Reduction paired with Westobou Amber Ale
This course was, by far, the most complex of all the courses served that evening. Pairing this elaborate dish with such a classic traditional beer style was interesting. The hops in Westobou Amber emphasized the seasonings in the sausage stuffed pork loin, while the apple cider reduction played the role of the malt base that tames the hop bitterness in the amber style beer. However, it is worth noting that Savannah River Brewing Co.’s American style amber ale leans more toward an American pale ale in flavor and aroma. Westobou features a common citrus-pine hoppiness with less of the caramel and toasted malt that normally balance out an amber ale. As for the pairing, it went together splendidly.
Maple Bourbon Bread Pudding paired with Wired Dynamite Brown Ale with Cacao Nibs
The final course was the most anticipated of the evening. Partly due to the name and partly due to the yet to be advertised beer being paired with the dessert. Outside of the actual event organizers, PorchDrinking.com was the only one to know what was to be paired with that evening’s dessert. Even Chef Kyle was blindly planning his dessert to be paired alongside what he only knew would be some variant of the Dynamite brown ale. Featured in the event’s preview, we shared what this beer’s visionary, Adam Fulmer, had hoped to accomplish – “[I] expect the cacao to add to the bitterness and accentuate the coffee beans with big chocolate notes”. The beer couldn’t have turned out any better! Taking the Dynamite brown ale base and adding Nicaraguan Selva coffee beans (something Fulmer has proven to be exceptionally skilled at) he then added cacao nibs, personally roasted by Fulmer, himself, to the secondary. The result was a bold, rich, smooth brown ale that tipped the scales between brown ale and porter. It was bold with decadent espresso and cream flavor with roasted chocolate that tamed the bitterness. Taking a backseat only to the opulence of this beer was the maple bourbon bread pudding. Much lighter than I had anticipated, it was light on the booze with a firm body and cream topping. I believe it would have been too much to pair the two together had it been the richer, boozy bread pudding that I had expected. Instead, the bread pudding was the foam atop my chocolate espresso brown ale creating a figurative cappuccino.
Savannah River Brewing has every intention of repeating the success of the Fall Beer Dinner. Steve Ellison, founder and president of Savannah River Brewing Co., assured me they will host another beer dinner at the brewery this winter. Arsenault commented that it would likely occur middle to late January 2018. She was already, eagerly, contemplating the next menu to pair with the brewery’s beers. As for me and the rest of Augusta, we will just have to keep an eye on Savannah River’s Facebook page for more events to hold us over until the Savannah River Winter Beer Dinner.