And just like that, winter is here. Quite suddenly, I would add.
A series of cozy Sunday brunches hosted by Indeed Brewing Company, though, is reason enough to leave the house despite the negative temps. A Brewer’s Brunch recently launched with its first installment– food by Chowgirls Killer Catering and pairings by brewer Tina Spurr, plus a donut cameo.
The series gives brewers an opportunity to showcase Indeed brews, whether they are year-round, specialty releases, or even beers specially made or modified for the meal.
Based on chapter one, our expectations are high, if only for the beer itself.
The meal opened with an array of mini donuts from Rebel Donut Bar. The pairing of Espresso Stir Crazy was a bit experimental as the donut flavors were unmarked. The beer could have used more espresso, though it added bitterness to the Stir Crazy, which is a winter seasonal, made with cacao nibs, vanilla, raisins, and brown sugar. The beer paired with the maple bacon donut fairly well, but surprisingly better with chocolate banana variety. It couldn’t stand up to the espresso donut, though.
The brunch was hosted in the secondary taproom, called The Ox. It was intimate enough that the whole arrangement felt personal. DJ Father Time was adding a layer of ambiance with soul records while stately little succulents dotted the tables.
The second course was a wonderful duo: a field greens salad with pear herb vinaigrette, paired with Zwickelbier from Indeed’s Derailed Series. The beer itself is similar in style to a Kellerbier, or unfiltered pilsner, except that it is lower in bitterness and traditionally more effervescent. The term “zwickel” refers to a port on the fermenting tank used for tasting. The cereal-forward beer was a perfect counterpoint to the acidic, rich vinaigrette. The pears didn’t work on their own with the beer and should have been smaller, but the earthy finish of the greens brought a powerful grassy bitterness to the malty lager.
The crux of the meal from a pairing perspective was the bacon and sweet potato hash. Though IPAs and spicy foods are natural partners in many cases, the Let it Roll IPA was particularly powerful. The dish totally transforms the bitter beer into a moderate one, full of smooth warm vanilla, but without adding sweetness. The pairing balances the spicy heat of the hash. The only pitfall is that the texture of the hash is too uniform – crispy scallions would have been nice.
On the other hand, the sausage, onion, and mushroom frittata was a bit of a let-down. Old Friend — a perennial winter favorite made with ginger — plays off of the spices in the meat, but it can’t save the dish. As a fourth course it falls flat; the creaminess of the egg dish is cut by the beer, but this isn’t a good thing, as the texture of the eggs is lacking. Some other sloppiness was distracting — onion skins weren’t properly removed, and the white cheddar isn’t detectable.
In a showdown of tart and funky, the final course of cranberry and blue cheese puff pastry stands up to dry-hopped Heliotropic, part of the Wooden Soul series. The beer was in white wine barrels for over a year and was dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. The partnership of sour and funky doesn’t always blossom, but this is a wonderful example. The pairing is full of earthy and barnyard flavors with an amplified aroma of lemon and pine. Overall, this was a well-composed bite, but not a memorable brunch conclusion.
Brewer Tina Spurr was articulate and thoughtful. She presented on most of the courses, along with Chowgirls staff, and explained some of her thought processes. The beers themselves and the pairings were far more successful than the food itself, but the event was inviting and successful overall.
The next Brewer’s Brunch will be February 12th with brewer Jon Eager. It has not been confirmed who the food provider will be at this time, but the beer is sure to be intriguing as Jon is known for his infusions and specialty casks.