Monastic ales and Lowcountry flavors 

Strong Belgian beers from Affligem Brewery and rich coastal fare

The kitchen and service team at the Old Village Post House and Maverick Southern Kitchens handle wine and Southern cuisine like champs. While they only occasionally host beer dinners, they presented an elegant and informative beer pairing on the evening of Wed. Sept. 29 with their usual confidence and grace.

Maverick's Wine and Beverage Director Patrick Emerson paired four strong ales from Belgium's Affligem Brewery — one of several traditional monastic breweries in the province of Flemish Brabant — with three tasty appetizers and three main courses created by Executive Chef Frank Lee and Chef de Cuisine Jim Walker.

Located on Pitt Street in the historic Old Village neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant, the beautifully restored Post House is always warm and welcoming. The dining room on the second floor looked especially handsome as the diners gathered for the hors d'oeuvre reception at 6:30 p.m.

Servers made their way through the room with trays of delicate shrimp salad on deviled eggs, crispy fried oysters with a zesty green goddess dressing, and Lowcountry croque monsieur (hot, ham-and-cheese wedges with creamy fontina). The staff greeted each dinner with a large wine glass of the pale, bready, medium-bodied Affligem Blond ale (6.8 percent a.b.v.).

Patrick Emerson, the wine and beverage director for Maverick Southern Kitchens, introduces the first course — a brothy treat called Shellfish Extravaganza (clams, mussels, lobster, cubed turnips — topped with crispy scallop cake in an open clam shell). It was paired with the pale-amber, deceptively drinkable Affligem Tripel ale (9.8 percent a.b.v.). The shellfish dish struck a balance between the briny flavors of the broth (which was infused with white wine and Tripel) and the more delicately sweet flavors of meat and turnips. The soft carbonation and biscuity malt flavors of the Triple cleansed the palate nicely. The ale had a slight alcoholic bite that warmed up in the finish. The pairing was one of the favorites of the night among many diners.

Between courses, Emerson and beer rep Liz Volz spoke at length about the fascinating history of the Affligem (dating back to the 11 century), the Flemish Benedictine monks who've lived and brewed there, and flavors of the featured beers on the evening's menu.

They had a little bit of trouble with the second course, a larger-than-expected portion of roasted duck breast with pork/shitake risotto and a dried cherry reduction. It was a beautiful plate and the flavors were right on target — earthy, peppery, herbal, and rich — but the texture of the duck was a bit tough (some were slightly rare and undercooked). From table to table, Emerson very politely inquired about the doneness of the duck (at the meal's end, both main chefs admitted they surprised by the size of the duck breast pieces, and hustled to sear and roast them properly). The malty, copper-colored Affligem Dubbel ale (6.8 percent a.b.v.) offered a rich, caramel sweetness that complemented the complex flavors of the cherry reduction sauce and the thyme-accented carrots and broccoli stems on the side.

If the main course suffered a minor glitch, the dessert course could not have been improved. The Fallen Angel pecan cake — a dome-shaped variation on angel food cake — arrived topped with warm caramel, vanilla ice cream, and a chalice of Affligem Noël (9 percent a.b.v.), a classic Belgian strong ale seasoned with a bit of holiday flavor. The burnt sugar/roasted malt/woody/nutty flavors of the dish overlapped pleasantly with the hints of clove, raisin, gingerbread, and pumpernickel note in the well-conditioned beer, providing a terrific harbinger of the cuisine à la bier in the approaching winter and holiday season.

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