by Eric Doksa
Plenty of Charleston eateries have been experimenting with craft beer dinners — from pizzerias to high end steak houses — creating quite a trend, and while we can't write about them all, every now and then we experience a brewgasmic dinner that's worth mentioning.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Westbrook Beer dinner at Sesame Burgers and Beer in Mt. Pleasant. I was intrigued by the event as the Sesame Facebook page mentioned they'd be serving beers that had never been released.
The first course was a beautiful plate of goat cheese with lavender-scented honey, apple-baked pecans, smoked sea salt, and slices of toasted whole grain baguette, garnished with micro arugula and accompanied by the highly anticipated Apple Brandy Barrel-Aged Tripel (10 percent ABV, X, X). General Manager Paul Bracewell introduced the dish to the crowd, letting us know that he whipped the goat cheese in-house with goat milk from Jeremiah Farms on Johns Island. The cheese was light and fluffy with a subtle tanginess that really melded well with the honey sweet pecans. The beer was impressive too.
Aged in apple brandy bandy barrels for three months, this tripel comes in at 10 percent ABV. The nose of beer was that of sour apple with hints of brandy — not too boozy. The first sip revealed subtle flavors of apple, peach, and mango, followed by a burst of brandy and a lingering Belgian yeast at the end. The complex brew sweetened as it warmed up, complementing the goat cheese nicely. This set the tone for the rest of the meal.
Chef Robert Cassi stepped away from the kitchen a few times to explain each of the courses to us. Being a burger joint, I expected to see a burger on the menu and saw just that. Robert dry-aged ribeye and brisket from Niman Ranch in-house before grinding the meat to make very flavorful 5-ounce patties. The juicy beef was topped with housemade American-style cheese, smoked tomato catsup, and an addicting bacon dijonnaise (think liquid B.L.T.). The burger was quite impressive, though the small bun they brought in was a bit too bready. The house bun would work just fine. The burger was paired with Westbrook's new fall creation, Maerzenbier (6 percent ABV, X, X), a stellar Oktoberfest brew.
A trio of tuna nigiri with varying olive oils paired with the Citrus Ninja Exchange Double IPA (9 percent ABV, 88, 89) came out next. The use of aborio rice made for mushy mix under the tuna, but the fish and olive oils were quite nice. Citrus Ninja is a top-notch, hop-heavy beer bursting with citrus flavor, though it overpowered the tuna, so I enjoyed it after I cleared my plate.
A favorite of the night was the orange-glazed duck breast with a side of pearl couscous and a tiny pot of hibiscus peach tea broth. The duck, cooked a perfect medium-rare, was fantastic by itself and the couscous was brought to life with a small purple dose of peach tea broth — a truly magnificent dish paired with the Single Hop Amarillo Rye Pale Ale (5.5 percent ABV, X, X).
Morgan and Edward Westbrook were on hand to talk about the beers and share stories about their travels. Morgan confessed her love for pale ales and that she owes her husband for making the Amarillo Rye Pale Ale for her, noting, "My husband is super sweet, and he is hot." That got a nice laugh, as did the story she told our table about the time Ed had to shave his face with one of her Venus razors. I can't make this stuff up.
Dessert? Make your own root beer float with candied ginger ice cream, housemade root beer essence, and Perrier paired with Vanilla Dubbel Tree (7.5 percent ABV, 79, 82) — a creative, fun way to end a great evening.
Kudos to Sesame and Westbrook for a job well done.