The second Green Truck Pub Beer-Paired Farm-to-Table Feast featured the Allagash Brewing Company out of Portland, Maine. I've probably met one and ONLY one individual who likes drinking and doesn't like Allagash so we were pretty excited to tell everyone to SAVE THE DATE. With 5 beers lined up on the taps, I was sad to be working. Yet I enjoyed the night by proxy as I saw our regulars and some new faces savor the genius of my boss(es).
9 Farms, 5 Beers, 4 courses, 1 Brewery...
Let me tell you about it.
I was surprised to learn that Allagash brews Belgian-style beers exclusively. The brewery also has a single batch open brew policy for employees, so their homebrews have a fighting chance at making it to market.
All the brewing is done with 100% wind energy, like Oregon's Full Sail Brewing Co.
It was a one-man operation for many years so the founder shares his success with a beer tribute series. Each tribute beer sale contributes $1/bottle (and the equivalent for each keg) to a deserving group, organization or fund. The philanthropic libation featured at this event is a tribute to responsible agricultural practices and informed consumption, which is MY passion, my dear HH.
The Beer Dinner was orchestrated to incorporate fare from 9 different farms local-ish to Savannah. It's strange how much work it took to plan it and even more weird that our food comes from so many different places.
This dinner, and the restaurant in general, prove that food is better when it's from your own backyard or at least somewhere somewhat close to it.
Beer can travel, but hey, it was designed to travel. And humans are designed to work together so this story is just as much as a celebration of the farmers as of the event. There they are - at least, some of them.
WILKOMMEN(ok that's all the languages I know without looking them up)
The first thing you do when you have a dinner guest is say "hey". The second thing you do is get them a drink. So, we always have a reception beer. The night started off with Allagash Blonde - a keg exclusive. No bottles for Ninj to trade off, or, hoard. The reception was a nice, light and crisp 7.1% ABV so we weren't messing around with our guests. Start drinking, um, responsibly!
Next came the cheese course paired with the 9% ABV Allagash Tripel. Because there's a lot of sugar in the beer it pairs nicely with the honey that glued this course together. The Tripel's flavor holds up nicely with the pungency of the Blue Stilton artisanal cheese selected from Flat Creek Lodge in Sylvania, GA. Our cheesemaker dwells 1.75 hours northwest of Savannah on grounds that also serve as a hunting resort. Fresh quail, anyone? JUST KIDDING. No quail at this beer dinner.
We served our blue (or, *bleu) with pecans from Clark & Sons Organics in Portal GA, a family operation about 1 hour NW of Savannah that converted conventional operations to organic.
For the glue, a smear of in-house infused Readees Bees honey - and it just so happens that Read himself lives right next door to the location where my friends let me throw my wedding reception on Wilmington Island. The strength of the Tripel cut right through the pungency of the bleu and the sweetness of the honey which was offset by the slow heat of its jalapeno infusion. Wait, did someone just say infusion? My budding herbalist heart jumped at the chance to tell you that we served the cheese course with a multi-seed organic cracker from Brighter Day Natural Foods.
SHOOP, SOUP THIS SLOOP...
Butternut squash reaches its pinnacle in the soup we paired with the Allagash Black, a dry stout without a lot of sweetness. It's really the dryness of the 7.5% ABV beer that makes the pairing genius.
The Allagash Black came from one of the single batch employee homebrews I mentioned earlier. Any beer enthusiast will tell you that pairing food with beer is really smarter than pairing food with wine because the effervescence of those tiny bubbles makes your taste buds come alive as they enlighten the palate.
The soup had perfect hints of pepper and ginger. It was topped with southern heritage lamb sausage from the folks at Revival Foods/LJ Woods Farm (also in Sylvania) for the omnivores and those preferring more veggies got shitake mushrooms from a.m.FOG farms in Afton, VA - the "a.m." stands for Afton Mountain. Oh, and we topped the soupwith fresh ground nutmeg - perhaps one of the greatest gifts this grand earth has given to us.
READY FOR A BURGER?
Well, then, you better be ready to suck the marrow dry.
Yup, that's right. THE MARROW. You know, the living stuff tucked in the middle of the bones that keeps them alive, that keeps the bones from drying out and breaking apart and...healthy. In the 7+ years of foodservice I've clocked in this lifetime I've never seen so much simultaneous shock/disgust/delight succession expressed in the same way on people's faces when they saw the in-bone treat meant to be scooped out with a demitasse spoon then shlopped onto the burger brioche like mayonnaise (which is pronounced, MAY-NAZE in the South - with equal emphasis on both syllables).
The marrow is so healthy that Kristin, the exuberant daughter of Hunter Cattle Co. founders (Brooklet, GA source of all the grass fed beef we serve up in our burgers) calls her mama for the marrow anytime her husband or her babies are sick. Talk to her if you ever get a chance. If I were in charge of handing out soapboxes to the world she would DEFINITELY get one.
The veg* option got a tofu/walnut-based veggie patty made in-house. I would try to recreate this miracle if it weren't this multi-layer process with about 25 steps and as many ingredients. They also got, in lieu of the marrow, a homemade roasted garlic and local Meyer lemon aioli.
Both the carn* and veg* entrees got:
- Arugula from Walker Organic Farms, a 125 acre third-generation family farm about 1.25 hours north (and slightly) west of Savannah in Sylvania, GA
- 14-month aged cheddar from Flat Creek Lodge. The cheese is the longest aging cheese they make, and if you are wondering what to serve with the hoppiest beer you can find: the answer, the sharpest cheddar you can find.
- Homemade root veggie chip medley of beets from Clark & Sons and Sweet Potatoes from Joseph Fields Farms on Johns Island near Charleston, SC.
The beer we served with the dinner course was Allagash Hugh Malone, a 7.8% ABV IPA that trends more toward the fruity than earthy side of my personal sliding IPA scale. As part of the tribute series, $1 from each brew goes to the deserving Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). The ingredients for the beer were entirely sourced in Maine, and it's only recently that Northeast growers have started producing the barley and hops needed for Allagash to make a single-state sourced beer. Last year they came close, with ingredients from ME and Mass. only.
Allagash White is hands down the most popular beer I have ever EVER sold. Suck it 'Merican Beers' owned by offshore mega-conglomerate super-bowl-ad-buying-brainwashers. It's a 5% ABV crowd pleaser and the rep. was surprised to see the beer paired last, as the easy answer is to pair it with salad. Allagash White is a good palate-cleansing, meal-ending beer which could almost serve as dessert itself. Yet, Kelly from Foxy Loxy, who makes the exclusive goat cheese brownie that we usually serve, made us such a treat.
While it WOULD be easy to do a dark, roasty beer with chocolate, Josh flipped that concept on its head and served a lemon mouse using local Readees Bees honey and Meyer Lemons from Hampton Island Farm (which is located about 35 minutes south of Savannah). The mouse was placed inside an almond toile (pronounced, TWILL) with candied tangerine and lemon peel slices on top. I didn't get a chance to snap a photo of this one so you'll just have to use your imagination...