City Paper's ever-expanding Nosh Mob made a ruckus in West Ashley on Monday evening (Jan. 25). Members and newcomers gathered at the bright and welcoming bar and dining rooms at Triangle Char & Bar. Chef Damian Ambs partnered with Chris Winn of New Belgium Brewing Co. (based in Fort Collins, Colo.) and Charlie and Alice Caldwell of Ovis Hill Farms (in Timmonsville, S.C.) with tasty results. Two hearty appetizers, three dinner courses, four flavorful ales ... it was well worth the impressively affordable $15 price.
This was the first official beer dinner for the Nosh Mob. It allowed Triangle to show off some of its tastiest new items, plus it gave Winn, New Belgium's S.C. Beer Ranger (fresh in town from Colorado), a chance to tell the brewery's story and describe the styles of beer offered. While some of the foodies in attendance admitted to being dedicated wine people, they enthusiastically sampled the various ales with an open mind.
Led by general manger Michael Lotz, the Triangle staff buzzed around the room, serving several samples from their newly revised menu. The evening kicked off with samples of New Belgium's signature amber ale Fat Tire, a malty, zesty, slightly sweet beer with a lot of body. Charlie Caldwell spoke with diners about the homegrown grass-fed beef (hormone and antibiotic free) at Ovis Hill as staffers delivered plates of beef 'n' beet sliders, truffle-oil fries, and Lowcountry eggrolls made with pulled pork and collards from the kitchen.
One bartender mentioned the delicate Beef Benedict featured in the first course was already one of Triangle's most popular brunch dishes. On a lightly toasted English muffin, the chef tucked a tender filet of beef under a blanket of smooth bearnaise sauce and a soft poached Keegan-Filion Farm egg. A slaw-like side salad of field greens and shredded red lettuce was tossed with a champagne vinaigrette. New Belgium's chocolate/malty character 1554 ale provided a burnt-sweet counterpart to the subtle flavors of the eggs, beef, and salad.
As the second course approached, Winn compared and contrasted the experimental methods and unusual ingredients (candy sugar, fruit, spices, etc.) used by many Belgian breweries to the traditional and structured parameters employed by neighboring German brewers. Rich, spicy, braised lamb over Adluh mill grits (from the midstate's own Miller Brothers milling company) with tender collards were a hit around the room. One of New Belgium's hoppier seasonals, the 2 Below (as in "two degrees below...") helped wash down the salty dish.
Course three — a cutesy pork belly lollipop made with pork from Keegan-Filion Farm — arrived garnished with a peppery jelly. The richness and complex textures of the previous lamb and grits overshadowed the final course a bit, as did the beer paired with it. The ultra-hoppy Ranger I.P.A. — a brand-new style of pale ale from New Belgium — made its official Charleston debut with the course. Winn carefully explained the high measurement of hop bitterness, using nerdy brewing terms like "international units of bitterness" and "alpha acid content," but no one needed convincing; the hop accent was obvious. If 2 Below had a citrusy, chalky hop character, Ranger aimed for a more grassy, floral, earthy hop aroma and flavor. It was a knock-out. And so was this event overall, thanks to the staff of Triangle, who welcomed Nosh Mobbers on a day when they are normally closed for a beer and beef-fueled night of fun.