Cheerful collaboration, mutual support, and bold flavors were are at the heart of the recent beer dinner at Laura Alberts Tasteful Options this week. A cozy crowd of beer, wine, and food enthusiasts gathered in the venue's main dining room on Mon. Sept. 20 for its first-ever dual brewery beer dinner.
The pre-dinner reception offered two of the signature styles from each brewery: Oskar Blues' pilsner-style Mama's Little Yella Pils (5.3 percent a.b.v) and Terrapin's heartier Rye Pale Ale (5.5 percent a.b.v). Laura Alberts' Karen Elsey welcomed everyone as they found their seats and settled in for the first course. Dustin Watts, a sales and marketing representative from Terrapin's headquarter's in Athens, Ga., shared the "stage" with Adam Mundy from Republic National Distribution and Oskar Blues as they described their featured beers. They even assigned random diners to stand and deliver pre-written toasts to the room, which helped break the ice a bit.
Up first was as light, citrusy starter — a colorful ceviche of shrimp and scallops with homemade tortilla strips. Terrapin's hoppy but mildly tart Monk's Revenge Belgian Double IPA — a hybrid pale ale fermented with an authentic Trappist yeast strain at 9.8 percent a.b.v. — almost overpowered the delicate, herbal flavors of the ceviche. After a few bites and sips, they complemented each other nicely.
Terrapin offered a beer with the second course as well. A beer-poached pear salad on mesclun mix came tossed in honey/balsamic vinaigrette dressing, topped with two crispy bleu cheese fritters, grape tomatoes, and candied pecans. The sweet, bready, caramel character of Terrapin's malty Double Feature (7.7 percent a.b.v.) — a light-brown, Belgian-style ale — paired well with the rich, savory flavors of the golden-brown fritters and the sweet, zesty dressing. The Double Feature is one of several in a rare beer series from Terrapin dedicated to the history and restoration of the Georgia Theatre in downtown Athens.
Oskar Blues' massive Old Double Bagger Barley Wine — an amber strong ale standing at a hefty 13.2 percent a.b.v — accompanied the main course of lightly breaded bangers and mash with braised cabbage (the preliminary menu boasted housemade bratwursts, but these fried treats filled in nicely). It wasn't the most colorful pairing of the evening (there were many shades of brown between the plate and the glass), but it was certainly the heartiest. Aged at a year, the Old Double Bagger was still a little young for the super-strong style (experts like to call these "cellar beers"). The complexity of the malt flavors will surely deepen over the next year or two.
The final course featured a rich but delicate dessert of chocolate and macadamia cheesecake with Oskar Blues' intensely roasty Ten Fidy Imperial Stout (10.5 percent a.b.v.). Served in a small port glass, the oat-infused, barrel-aged ale was jet-black and bursting with roasted coffee, cocoa, and woody aromas. The strong flavors of the stout were terrific after a bit of the light nuttiness and caramel accents of the cheesecake. The course was a favorite among many in the room.