On the week before their first anniversary celebration, local microbrewery Westbrook Brewing Co.'s Edward and Morgan Westbrook ventured downtown on Wednesday evening (Dec. 14) for a special event at the newly opened Macintosh. The Westbrook ales on the menu included several limited-edition selections from their ever-changing Special Collection.
Chef Jeremiah Bacon and his kitchen team prepared hors d'oeuvres and four courses as part of their first-ever beer pairings. Jamey Whetstone, CEO of Whetstone Wine Cellars (in Napa, California) was on hand to help present some of the wine barrel-aged ales. Whetsone and the Westbrook's chatted with diners over glasses of Westbrook's light and citrusy White Thai ale. Servers offered spicy fried pulled-pork balls during the meet-and-greet.
A sizeable crowd of wine and beer fans settled into in the back of the elegant dining room for the first course of cornmeal fried clams from Capers Island. Lightly seasoned and perfectly fried, the clams arrived in large bowls over a delicate red cabbage slaw and a creamy mustard sauce. The hoppy Westbrook IPA paired very nicely with the mild, briny flavor of the clams, and it especially went well with the mustard.
The second course featured a triple-shot of Tripel ales (Belgian-style, golden-colored strong ales). Normally, the Westbrook Tripel is slightly sweet (from additional candy sugar), and mildly spicy with a complex blend of malt flavors. Three barrel-aged versions of the Tripel were paired with grilled wild-caught cobia, winter vegetables, and a bacon butter sauce. Each of the beers was aged in an oak wine barrel for eight months. The Tripel aged in Whetsone Bella Vigna Pinot Noir barrels (French oak) was most delicate version in the flight of ales — perfume-y and pleasantly musky with mild oak and citrus flavors and aromas. The Tripel aged in Rombauer single-vineyard Cabernet (French and American oak) barrels had a more pronounced wine aroma and dry, fruity finish. The Tiger Mountain Malbec Tripel (aged in American oak) boasted a dark beery/cherry character and a sweeter finish.
Two of the biggest Westbrook ales accompanied the final courses. A barrel-aged version of Westbrook's dark, high-gravity Quad — a full-bodied, malty rendition of a strong Trappist ale — matched surprisingly well the glazed pork tenderloin. Served over greens with small fingerling potatoes and an apple cider gastrique, the pork was sweet and tender. The caramelized and roasty flavors of the dish complemented the dark malt and burnt sugar flavors of the beer.
One of Westbrook's new specialty ales, a smoked imperial stout called Smokin' Guns came with a spicy slice of gingerbread cake. Strong, woody, and smoky, the ale was brewed with a hefty dose of cherry wood-smoked malt. It almost overpowered the light cinnamon and ginger flavors of the dessert, but the assertive coffee and toffee character of Smokin' Guns blended well. It was strong finish to a big dinner.
Chef Bacon hosted dozens of terrific beer dinners in recent years during his time at Carolina's. Hopefully, he and his team will partner with local and regional brewers like the Westbrooks again soon.