Sweet, savory, and in the spirit at Ted's Butcherblock 

Notes from Ted's 'Tis the Seasonal Craft Beer Dinner

Another sold-out crowd packed the dining room at Ted's Butcherblock on Thursday evening (Dec. 8) for the four-course 'Tis the Seasonal Craft Beer Dinner, the restaurant's final craft beer dinner of the year. Chef Eva Keilty and her kitchen team worked with Charleston Beer Exchange's Scott Shor to create a winter-friendly, holiday-flavored feast. Four tasty ales accompanied the meal.

In his introductory remarks, Shor emphasized the range of beers and the freshness of the seasonal ales and the local ingredients in the dishes on the menu. "It's the best of all worlds," he said, referring to the hoppy and malty beers on the roster.

The dinner kicked off with a hearty, savory appetizer of smoked pulled pork and polenta fritters, deep fried and topped with a soft-boiled eggs and a delicately smoked maple glaze. They drizzled the dish with an aged gouda and stout mornay with pecans and paired it all with Great Divide's elegantly grassy Fresh Hop Ale (6.1 percent a.b.v.), a seasonal "hop harvest" amber ale brewed with highly aromatic, just-harvested hop cones. On its own, this course was like an exotic brunch.

Up next was a bowl of housemade ricotta and sage dumplings with a tiny-cut pastrami hash, roasted spaghetti squash, and sweet and sour pumpkin butter. A touch of lemon zest, nutmeg, and a few roasted pumpkin seeds enhanced the sweet and savory flavors. Rich and tangy, it paired nicely with the Bell's winter seasonal Brewery Christmas Ale (5.5 percent a.b.v.), a mild and malty dark ale with a toasty, grainy, toffee-ish flavor.

One of the richest dishes of the evening was the multi-layered duck confit pot pie — a crusty hut of caramelized baby carrots, bright-green truffle butter peas, rosemary roasted root vegetables, and tender duck meat. Keilty used a cornmeal-butter flour for the crust (including leaf-shaped crust accents), and placed the pie on a creamy butternut squash puree with a drizzle of duck fat hollandaise/demi glace. Great Divide's bold, dark winter seasonal Hibernation Ale (8.2 percent a.b.v.) blended easily with the sweet, buttery flavors of the dish (a roastier or more hoppy ale might have paired with contrast).

Some patrons were almost too full for the dessert course — a triple-shot dish comprised of a cylindrical brioche cheesecake bread pudding with thyme-bourbon caramel alongside a row of chocolatey cranberry/oat granola and a housemade butter-pecan-eggnog gelato topped with tangerine crema. Southern Tier's popular fall seasonal Pumking (8.6 percent a.b.v.), an amber-orange ale with a bold blend of pumpkin pie spice in the aroma and flavor, somehow complemented the creamy sweetness of the dish. It was a delicately balanced pairing that concluded the event on a wonderful note.

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