Had the pleasure of enjoying a Lagunitas beer dinner at the invite of Cru Kitchen and Bar last week. The restaurant, 25 E. Delaware in Chicago, is served by chef Alex Shalev and beverage manager Benjamin Augustine.
Our readers already know a little bit about Lagunitas Brewing Co., of California (and coming soon to a Windy City near us). A handful of sales and marketing folks from the Chicago Lagunitas operations were on hand to talk about the beers and the parings with Shalev and Augustine.
Lovely time was had by all 25 or so participants, and keep your ears open, because Augustine says he plans to do many more of these dinners with beer and wine vendors.
Complete menu is below, and I believe it was executed without any subs. All of these parings were very good—super-tender, nicely sweet short rib went really well with the Maximus. Learned a new piece of trivia here too–the recipe for MAX is a simple 30% step-up in malt and hops from the brewery’s standard IPA; no fiddling with the ingredients of the grain bill or hop schedule.
But I digress—getting back to the dinner, the dessert course was the homerun here, in my opinion. As the wait staff brought it out I was deep in conversation with a fellow diner and an aroma came to me that made me think the Lagunitas guys were mashing in—the first stage of brewing, which elicits wonderful bakery smells. The little chocolate cakes were warm all over and gooey inside, and I think that beer caramel sauce must have been giving off the mash-like nose candy.
The contrast of the tart/funky passion fruit sorbet with the deep chocolate was just delightful. I love a good stout as much as anybody, but when it comes to coffee stouts, well…. so many of them taste like a decent stout polluted with truckstop coffee. Not so for the Lag Cap Stout. Just a hint of coffee mingling with (rather than overstepping) the roasty goodness of a solid stout. It danced with all the complex flavors and almond crunch of the dessert SO nicely, making for an outstanding pairing. I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.
Lagunitas Brewery Update: Having for some time been a real live newspaper reporter, I had to ask for some news. The latest report on the progress for the south-side brewery is that (cautious optimism applied) the tap room may be serving beer by August. The actual big-ass brewhouse and packaging lines might get fired up by November, IF ALL GOES WELL.
BEER DINNER May 30, Cru Kitchen and Bar
Assorted Rillettes (passed)
Baguette and candied lemon mustard
Salmon and Kampachi Carpaccio
Peas, mushrooms, roe and ginger
Beer Braised Short Rib
Yukon gold potato, rhubarb chutney and spicy greens
Soft Center Chocolate Cake
Almonds, passion fruit and beer caramel
Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout